Thursday, September 28, 2006

More from the Rear Mount

Last training before the tournament ... no gi ... Mamazinho showed us a nice move from the mount. Actually, it's a counter to when the guy on the bottom gives you his back as he tries to turn and escape.

The idea is to let him give you his back if he is going to make that mistake. Stand up a little bit to let him roll and then drop down, jamming both hooks in.

Pick a side. Reach under the armpit and grab the wrist.

Pull the wrist in towards his body, and do a shoulder roll toward that side.

As you roll, the guy should be especially susceptible to the mata leao/rear naked choke. With your free hand, reach around and set the choke around the neck.

Let go of the wrist and lock the choke with that hand/arm.

Rear Mount and Tommy’s Clock Choke Variation

160.7 …Dressed no shoes

Thursday morning and I’m right on target. Subtracting a few pounds for the clothes, that puts me at somewhere between 159 and 157. I’ll probably have some black beans for lunch, but those should be the last carbs of the day today. There’s still some question about whether the weigh-in will be Friday night or Saturday morning. Obviously, I’d prefer the former so that I can have a somewhat normal Friday night. But I’ll deal either way.

This is why I said that I’d like to drop to a walking around weight of about 150-155, and then just eat conscientiously, but otherwise normally. I hate restricting my water intake the most, and if I could get down to 150-155, that would make some of the pre weigh-in water restriction more or less unnecessary.

Nothing fancy last night in class. Mamazinho took it relatively light on us given the tournament Saturday—though I think there were only three of us (Tommy, Griff and myself) out of the ten-odd people who showed up. I did some specific mount/escape mount work with Vinny the Blue. I could barely get my knees to the ground when I was on top, and he reversed me pretty handily each time (I got a little better toward the end.) Like me, he seems to prefer the upa to the elbow escape from mount. I then worked some specific rear mount/escape rear mount with Tommy, as well as specific side control and half guard. Tommy’s pretty good at combining the upa and elbow escape to get back to full guard or to knees. I had a typically hard time keeping him under control.

One thing I did try to do was focus on the upper body game when trying to establish and keep rear mount. After class, Chris (the purple belt from my “Risk of Ruin” evening) and I talked about how he emphasized the over/under grip more than the hooks, because the over/under will keep the guy from turning into you and you can always fight to replace the hooks—or to use your legs even without hooks to control the guy’s lower body.

Starting next week, I want to put an emphasis on taking the back. Chris also showed me some of the arm drag types of things he likes to do—an idea that echoes Tommy’s frequent use of the arm drag to set up different attacks. The great thing about the arm drag is that is crosses over pretty seamlessly from gi to no gi. Like taking the back, it’s a nice skill to have.

One thing to be wary of going forward. While I did a better job of extending the outside leg during my triangle escape against Tommy, Tommy has adjusted by moving to take my back. I think I can avoid that, but I need to think about how to tweak the triangle escape to avoid that situation. For one, I know I need to keep the pressure on the down/pinned leg and to work to pass—not just to avoid getting choked. Otherwise I give him too much time to adjust his position. I also need to be more aware of what the other guy is doing, instead of just being focused on the choking leg.

Tommy’s the only one I’ve rolled with who has made this adjustment, so there’s no reason for me to start freaking out. But now that I know that there is that vulnerability, it is something I should make sure I work to fix.

Another Tommy note: He showed us a variation on the clock choke that looks pretty fancy but is really pretty straightforward and really brings the choking pressure. You start out in the clock choke position. You want to bring your inside leg up and lay your ankle on the wrist of the choking arm. It doesn’t have to be pretty—flexibility helps, but the important thing is to get the leg in place. Your inside leg will be “butterflied” with your knee on his back and your ankle on your wrist/lower forearm. Reach over with the other hand and grab the guy’s leg on the far side. Then roll/hop over the guy’s shoulder while pulling with the choke arm and keeping the leg in place. The choke can come quickly. Trying the move with Griff, he tapped before I made it to the mat on the other side.

Not a lot of direct takeaway from Wednesday night's class for the tournament. I still am feeling strangely fatigued early on in class. I've been pretty consistent with my 3 p.m. meal, so I know it's not a fuel issue. There's a possibility that I'm fighting off the flu that Rebecca had a few weeks ago. Ironically, I've had the feeling that I "peaked" about two weeks ago when I was catching people left and right with that keylock from cross-side. I haven't been able to hit it since.

If I did "peak", then that "peak" would coincide with when Rebecca was feeling very sluggish and achy the week going into the Saturday before the last UFC (the 16th). Mamazinho reminded me to take it easy Thursday and Friday; I've got to go to class Thursday night just to keep my riddum (as GSP would say). But there's no reason to blow myself out. Then again, even if I do work hard Thursday night, I should have plenty of recovery time before Saturday morning.

I think I've figured out my goal for Saturday: a submission victory--or, failing that, an overwhelming double-digit win on points. I've won matches on points (2-0 twice, 5-0, 3-2), and I've lost by submission (two armbars and a triangle). But I haven't won a match by submission yet. Whatever else happens, that's what I want to accomplish on Saturday. And if I can't win, at least I want to lose on points, not by submission. I've got to remember that my submission losses have come from not being aggressive enough in passing the guard. If worse comes to worse, establish that rock-solid posture (having Tommy in my guard and seeing him hit that posture was instructive ...) and get set for the next pass attempt.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Coming Down the Mountain ..."

I’ve got plenty of stuff to do, but I haven’t posted since my Waterloo Moment of last week. Suffice to say that Thursday went better—nothing groundbreaking, just a good solid practice. It was no gi, so some of the specific things I’d wanted to work out weren’t going to happen. I did drills with Jim, then specific work with Shaka if I remember correctly. I actually didn’t do half-bad with Shaka in terms of escaping side control. Mostly I managed to roll him over once or twice a la my fight at the Yesler tournament this spring. Not the textbook escape, but an escape worth being able to do.

Last night I worked drills with Michelle the brown belt. Clock choke attack and defense, and a lot of rear mount attack and rear mount defense from a variety of positions. I certainly didn’t mind this work—my rear mount game is still pretty miserable. I think we finished off with specific guard attack/guard pass work. I’ve been working two passes of late: the handcuff pass and the body underhook, both of which work pretty well together.

Free sparred with Tommy, then Bruce and Joe. Tommy was hard to handle, as always, but one mistake I’m making is in my triangle choke defense and escape. Once I get ahold of the choking leg with both hands, I’ve had the tendency to stay crouched down and to try and “walk” the leg open. That might work with guys my size or skill-level, but against Tommy-caliber guys and up, that won’t be nearly enough.

What I need to do is to push down on the choking leg, pinning it to the mat, while simultaneously pushing my body into the other guy. I’m trying to create space to bring a knee through, so I can’t stay crouched down like I have been doing. Even—or especially—if the guy tries to pull your head toward him, that will only help the escape by making it easier to wedge your body between his body and that choking leg.

I knew something was missing after I’d managed to work the escape a few times without doing it properly. Getting stuck a few times lately when rolling with higher belts like Tommy and that purple belt from my “Risk of Ruin” evening was a big-tip off. Mamazinho was yelling at me last night, trying to get me to complete the escape, but I was lost. I’ve got two more sessions—Wednesday and Thursday—to try and get that right before the tournament. Tommy sounded confident that the escape will work—he’d made some adjustments to defeat it that somebody who hadn’t dealt with that escape often might not. So I’ll take his word for it.

Rolling with Bruce and, to a lesser degree Joe, showed some weaknesses in my top game—particularly when guys are effective at turning on their sides. This is where I’ve got a couple of options I should work on. One is the S-mount that Saulo talks about. The others are the brabo/d’arce choke options. A last option is the Kron choke, the winding guillotine. If there’s a common denominator, then it appears that denominator is the choke as a way of dealing with the guy who has turned on his side.

I tried that keylock with my hand behind the head on Joe once or twice, but there really was no leverage whatsoever. I half-remember Waterman trying to submit Overeem that way in a Pride event awhile back. H20 couldn’t get it either until he moved his arms back into the traditional keylock position. There may be a way of entering the proper positioning if I catch the wrist from behind the head—it seems like a nice way to sneak up on the submission. But I don’t think I can get the finish unless my arms are in front.

That’s it for now. My weight is okay for Tuesday. Wednesday morning will be the big test. I’d love to get down around 155 by Thursday night, and then glide into the weigh-in Friday evening. I think I’m around 158-159 right now. A few tentative butterflies have already found some space in my gut, but nothing too traumatic. I just want to represent well and let the chips fall where they may.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Risk of Ruin

There's a concept in speculation--whether you are trading options or playing poker--called "risk of ruin". It's basically a mathematical formula that determines how likely you are to go broke given a certain amount of starting capital (or bankroll, for gamblers) and a certain risk level. The bottom line of risk of ruin analysis is that if you want to speculate, you better have enough of a cushion to be able to take the inevitable losses before you start winning with any regularity. In other words, if you go to the horsetrack with $100 and decide to gamble big all day long, your risk of ruin is pretty damn high. On the other hand, if you hit the casino with $1,000 and play nickel slots, then there's a pretty good chance you'll leave the building with something other than your clenched fists in your pockets. You might not get rich. You might not make a dime. But you probably won't be ruined.

So if somebody had told me on the drive over to training tonight, that I'd spend ten minutes doing specific drills with a 185 pound purple belt, another five or six minutes in free sparring with that same purple belt, and then asked me how I think I'd do "working on my top game" in preparation for next week's tournament, well, you wouldn't need to be a math whiz to calculate my risk of ruin for the evening.

I'm not going to dwell on it. I've had lousy training sessions before and I'll have plenty more before I'm finally carried off the mat kicking, screaming and bleeding. And, as Rebecca reminded me when I got home, I don't need to carry a negative attitude into a tournament less than two weeks from now that I desperately want to win first place at. But my lousy performance tonight is more than a little hard to choke down, and I'm pretty sure my voice cracked more than once before I figured I better get the hell out of the academy before I embarassed myself.

There are a lot of specific things to mention. Tommy as usual had some constructive and positive things to say--some of which he's tried to tell me before. But I don't have the presence to get into it right now. There's an argument that Mamazinho is putting me with tough guys because he thinks I'm good enough to not be matched up with, well, not so tough guys. Sort of like how he got on my case a little bit after my last tournament loss: if he didn't give a damn, then he wouldn't have bothered getting upset.

But if I'm not going to start punching holes in walls, I'm not going to waste time making lemonade out of lemons, either. It was what it was. A week of good training, a couple of submission victories on the 30th and, except for this post, tonight won't even be a memory.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Two Weeks 'Til

Two weeks out from the tournament ... last night, Monday, was a C+ performance in training. I gassed a lot quicker than I'd thought I would while sparring with Clint, who is an especially important guy for me to roll with insofar as he is a quality blue belt in my weight class. He caught me with an omoplata after a scramble. I'd managed to reverse out of his side control into my side control, but my side control game is still too prehistoric to catch advanced belts.

Rolling with Tommy during the specific drill that had us starting from side control was certainly testament to that. He got out of my side control repeatedly and I think I might have managed one escape to knees when he was on top, but that would have been it. I need to remember Ray's dictum in terms of getting out of side control, that I've boiled down to: THROAT, SWIM, WALK, FLAT, PULL, BOOM! Just for practice/preparation sake, I need to find myself in side control tomorrow night at least a few times to try and get this escape ingrained in body memory.

A little more active from the top Monday night, but still not where I want to be. If I'm not getting a submission, then I need to rack up the points. I liked my movement back and forth from side control to north/south--though I did a lousy job of working either of Mamazinho's armbar or kimura from north/south. For some reason I completely neglected the south-facing side control, which would have helped a lot against Mike the white belt, who is pretty good at replacing the guard.

I mentioned Mamazinho's armbar and kimura from north/south. One key to remember is that you want to put your knee deep in the side of the arm you are attacking. In a way, it is similar to what you are trying to do when attacking the arm from the guard. By wedging your leg in there, you trap the arm and make it easier to isolate and exploit. I need to remember that.

That reminds me of something else I've been thinking: after the tournament on the 30th, I think I'm going to exclusively practice armbars from the guard--it has truly become my worst technique. But that's what I thought about the triangle choke also ...

And THAT reminds me of something else. I was trying to work the arm wrap choke against Clint. I got farther along this time, but still couldn't pull it off. I want to keep working that as one of my key techniques from the guard. But I also need to open things up with the Tommy's Spider Guard Triangle/Omoplata combo. I haven't been playing much open guard, at all. I may not wind up with somebody in my guard on the 30th or not. But I don't want to be paralyzed if it happens. I've got plenty of things to do from the guard--and that open guard triangle/omoplata is one of them.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Response from Ryan Hall

How about that? I posted a comment at the blog of Lloyd Irvin purple belt, Ryan Hall and, as he's done with many other commenters, he answered back.

Nothing earth-shattering to report, but it was good of him to respond and his comments to get at something I've suspected about developing your skills and talents to the maximum.

Here's what I wrote:
Excellent work on the latest video. Keep ‘em coming as fast as you can put them up. I find it incredibly helpful as I study BJJ (about 14 months now) to listen to you describe what you are trying to do in the moment. I’ve done okay in local tournaments (4-3 with one first place finish in four events), but my biggest problem is “getting lost” in the middle of a match. Listening to you narrate your matches helps show me how to “think through” what I want to do when I’m competing. I even modelled a gameplan after one of the sample ones of yours that Master Lloyd provided in a e-mail.

Here’s my question. Your gameplan seems long and very detailed. It is possible–especially at my level–to use a much smaller, more truncated gameplan focusing on a few techniques and still be effective?

Keep up the great work. You’ve got a fan in Seattle.

And here's Ryan's response:
Thanks for posting, and I’m glad that you’re finding the blog helpful.

In terms of using a more truncated gameplan successfully, I would say with 100% confidence that it will work for you. The gameplan that was initially sent out via the e-mail list was not my first crack at a gameplan, and that one is nowhere near as detailed as my current one. Each incarnation of your gameplan will be increasingly detailed and specific. That said, nothing starts out complex, and even a basic outline of how you will structure your training and competition is extremely useful. One thing to keep in mind is that, even once your gameplan becomes more flesched out, you don’t need 15 techniques from every position. You need only a couple that you can successfully use on almost anyone. It doesn’t matter if I think you only have a loop choke from your open guard as long as you can set it up in a variety of ways and you catch me with it anyway. Mariano Rivera (Yankees closer, and greatest postseaon closer in baseball history) has two pitches, and everyone knows about them. Hit them if you can.

If you can develp a true “A-game” that can be used on anyone, you will be immediately successful in competition. You will always have a goal from each position and situation (even if that goal is only to get back to a position from which you can begin to launch your “A-game” offense again), and you will not be prone to freezing in pressure situation. If you can triangle black belts as a blue belt, you can triangle anyone that you might match up against. Everyone except the very best will have to be so paranoid about your #1 attacks, that all of your follow-ups will come more easily.

Hope that helps. Thanks again for posting.

A lot of that was my suspicion. If you develop a technique or two (a submission technique) and become very, very good at it, then that allows you to hang with others whose all-around game might be much better. Not only that, but it also allows you to have a gameplan to rely on, while working on other areas of your game that (a) aren't as strong and (b) aren't what your opponent is looking for. In Ryan's case, his triangle choke attack keeps him in just about every match he's going to be in, even if he ends up winning the fight with another submission (i.e., the heel hook in his last open weight match as a blue belt.)

Since I'm such a big Ryan Hall fan and an even bigger fan of Lloyd Irvin's "project" to show us how Ryan Hall progresses, I want to post his note on his blog that talks about his recent earning of his purple belt. I like reading this kind of thing from time to time. So this will have it here at the ready the next time I'm in a mood for inspiration.

Ryan Hall Comments on Getting the Purple Belt

Saturday, September 16, 2006

B.J. Penn and Northwest FightScene

Here's a nice write-up on a B.J. Penn grappling seminar held in Oregon back in July. Two of the techniques, which are shown pretty well in this write-up, are especially interesting to me: the guard pass--or more accurately the opening of the guard before the pass, and a way of going from stacking to take-the-back.

There's a nice twist on the standing guard pass that BJ uses. Not only does he use the L-stance (north leg parallel to body, south leg perpendicular) pretty much as Saulo emphasizes. But also he keeps the north leg tight against the guy's hip, driving his knee down and into the thigh on the one side as he turns toward the opposite leg's knee.

It's like a stand and twist movement, pushing down against that knee on the one side and twisting against the leg on the other side. B.J. put his down hand (north side hand) on the bottom guy's throat, which is something I'm not so comfortable with even though I've seen more and more jiu jitsu guys using the throat to hold the guy's upper body down (i.e., Jacare's second fight in the 2005 ADCC).

In any event, I want to try that stand and twist, as opposed to the "walking around" motion that Saulo talks about. The solution is probably a hybrid of the two. But in addition to the Knee Drop and the Wrist Cuff, this would be a nice "opening the guard" technique to have at my disposal.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Planning for Wednesday Night

I had a pretty good training session on Monday. My work from on top is getting more consistent. There are still a couple of specific things I want to tighten up, though.

Passing the guard: A little better here. There are really two steps: opening the guard and then actually passing the guard. I haven’t been working the Saulo pass like I should. But I have done better with the Knee drop pass. In fact I managed to open Joe’s guard using it—though it took a little bit of extending my knee and pushing back to finally pop the latch. The Knee drop is a big no-gi pass, so I’m liking the fact that I was able to get it to work with the gi. Tonight I should put more emphasis on the Gracie Barra and Cesar Gracie standing passes.

In terms of passing the knees, shortly after working the Knee drop on Joe I managed to hit Bravo’s Staple Gun pass to get to side control. That was pretty amazing insofar as I’d never practiced that one, or even looked at it much in the book. It also involves that backstep that Rodrigo loves, but that I don’t see a lot of guys using. Bravo talks about alternating between the Staple Gun and the Underpass—the Underpass being that one pass I remember Leo Viera working against someone (Rob Di Censo?) with a very good butterfly type guard with sick hip flexibility.

Tommy showed us a few other passes, some of them with definite Cindy influences (“the Cindy Hop”), and some of them reminiscent of what Mamazinho taught us recently in terms of stepping between the knees and underhooking the far arm, and some that reminded me of the pass that Rodrigo showed us awhile back where you step to the outside of the leg near the hip and sort of backstep to the north, winding up in south-facing/Twister side control type position.

Tommy’s were all standing passes, compared to Bravo’s Underpass and Staple Gun. Ideally, I’ll get all of these down. For now, I want to focus on the Underpass and the Staple Gun.

From the bottom: Two main issues here: escaping rear mount and sweeping from the half guard.

As much as I like the Saulo escape from rear mount, I want to work the more standard, Mamazinho version for the next few sessions. Let’s remember the basics:

Escaping rear mount
1. Defend the neck and follow the fingers: Use the choke side arm to defend the neck
2. Put your head on the mat: Shift your body and put your head (and shoulders if possible) on the mat AWAY from the choke.
3. Block the far leg and elbow escape back in: Use the far hand to block or grab the guys’ far leg so he won’t roll over and take the mount. Take the inside arm—the one that was defending the neck—and drop that elbow to the mat as you turn into the guy, rolling him over into side control.

The other thing I want to work on is sweeping from the half guard. In addition to the two that Mamazinho showed us a little while back, one where you replace the full guard and one where you take the back, I’ve got three from Bravo: Old School, Plan B and Twist Back. What is most important right now is that I get my half guard set up properly. The trick is to have your inside leg straight down the middle between the guy’s legs. The outside leg wraps over the guy’s outside leg.

To actually close the half guard, you hook the foot of the outside leg under the calf of the inside leg.

There are other things I should work on tonight, of course. My work from the guard has gotten a little weaker, and I haven’t hit the Shaka sweep in several classes. I also haven’t been working Tommy’s Spider Triangle/Omoplata like I should. I should probably start more sparring sessions by pulling guard, trying to get the sweep or submission, and then working my top game if I don’t get the sub from the bottom. Last class, I took down all three guys with throws from the knees. That doesn’t replicate anything that’s likely to happen in a tournament, so I shouldn’t get accustomed to doing this too often.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Keylock Nation Meets the Staple Gun

A good night on the mat: laps, several sets of 50 crunches, four sets of 25 pushups and line throws for warmup. Then some work against the turtle defense. Mamazinho showed us a shoulder roll to transition the guy from turtle to rear-mounted that requires reaching under both arms and getting a tight grip on the collars. That, and watching your head when you go into the roll.

He also showed us the basic wrestler’s sit-out for when you are in the turtle defense and the guy on top has you around the waist. You want to grab the wrist to trap the arm on one side and, on that same side, post a leg out. Grab the pants by the knee on the other side. Now, sit out by shooting your pants-grab-side leg between your posted leg and the guy. As you do this, keep your head tucked tight against his body as you shoot under and around to move to the back.

We did a lot of specific work. I worked with Joe in the drills and Clint in the specific sparring. One minute mount, one minute side control, one minute half-guard, one minute rear mount, one minute passing the guard—I was pretty whipped after twelve minutes of that.

Sparring went pretty well. I rolled with Clint first and actually caught him in a keylock, which is obviously my best submission hold at this point. I was in the best position for the arm-wrap choke that I’d ever been in against Clint also, but wasn’t able to close the deal. I think the problem was that I didn’t push off on the arm-wrap side hip to get a better angle for the choke with the other hand.

I rolled with a new white belt (relatively new, at least). He had a few pounds on me, but that was about it. I caught him in a keylock also, and he tapped as I was trying to put him in a katagatame twice. I need to remember to go to guard against guys like this and work my bottom game, especially sweeps and arm-wrap combinations.

Last I rolled with Joe. I couldn’t catch him in anything. But I did do a pretty good guard pass, Eddie Bravo’s “staple gun,” that involves underhooking one leg and pinning the other (preferably to the mat, but stuffing it in a butterfly hook is okay). Basically, you want to pin the guy’s pass side leg with your non-pass side leg (or just jam it) and move your pass side to the outside a bit. Then, backstep with your non-pass side leg while keeping the other leg underhooked to prevent him from turning into you and blocking the pass.

I was surprised that I got it. Very few folks use the backstep consistently—it is one of Rodrigo’s favorite ways to get around a guy’s defenses. I want to try and integrate it more into what I do. Bravo talks about going back and forth between the underpass and the staple gun. I might try that combo for the next few weeks and see if it sticks.

After class, Tommy showed us a couple of moves. He’s got a Cindy-style guard pass where he just hops over the guy’s knees and then turns around and drops into side control. It’s a little risky because for a moment you’re back is turned to the guy. But the hop over is often surprising enough that you can make the move work. Tommy’s big on improve. I’m less comfortable with that and feel like I need to have more of my game mapped out. But that could just be a matter of familiarity with the various positions in jiu jitsu. Rickson is big on improv also (“you must allow yourself to be at a zero point … connected with the variations”).

More importantly, though, Tommy reminded me/us of those "passing the knees" moves that Rodrigo was showing us months and months ago. There's the variation where you step around the knees and put your knee down on the stomach and drop into south-facing side control. And there's the variation where you step in between the knees, underhook against the non-pass side arm and bring the between-the-knees knee across the pass side knee. I need to bring these guard pass variations into the mix, also.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Humble Pie

Last night’s time on the mats in a lot of ways mirrored yesterday’s experience in the market. I lost money on bullish bets across the board, slow-moving big caps like Budweiser, speculative nonsense like Sun Microsystems and a field bet on the Nasdaq 100.

They were timely exits. I owned September calls, which meant that my positions in those three beasts had to reach a certain point by next Friday or I’d lose it all. Budweiser got whacked first and hardest, and after a few minutes of anxiety I decided to do the right thing and dump the position. Sun Micro looked like it was moving too vertically so that one had to go also. And the Nasdaq position hit a mandatory exit point, so bye bye QQQQ.

So I did the right thing, but lost money. Trading is like that much of the time.

I spent most of my time last night with higher belts about my size: Shaka with Greco takedown drills, later “king of the guard” with Tommy, Alex the Purple and Clint. Though I did okay in the general takedown work, I couldn’t do anything against Shaka when we started with double underhooks. He pretty much took me down at will—a good reminder not to let somebody get double underhooks.

“King of the Guard” was another exercise in humility. I don’t think I was ever in Clint’s guard. But I worked a few times against Tommy and Alex, mostly trying to work the wrist pin pass that worked on Clint back on Tuesday night. No dice. Tommy showed me a guard pass that is similar to the Saulo no-gi guard pass only where Saulo pinches his knees in to pop the guard open, Tommy uses his elbows to push out. I wonder how those two would work as a combo. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tommy work that pass again—I feel as if there is a detail I’m missing. But it was working for him last night.

Sparring was with Shaka, then Tommy, then Mike (the tall Asian white belt). As I said to Griff later, I’m still getting schooled by the guy’s who are supposed to school me. Shaka was typically hard to deal with and caught me in a couple of different submissions. Tommy was little different, catching me in body triangles twice I think and making me work hard to avoid some triangles. My time with Mike was a change of pace in that regard as I was able to work two keylocks against him in about six minutes.

There are two techniques I want to get some clarification on, both of which are ones that Mamazinho showed us. Tommy pointed out the idea of underhooking the far arm during a guard pass, which is what reminded me of the pass that Mamazinho showed us. There was also a way of dealing with the knees that I remember Mamazinho showing Lindsey weeks ago. I remember the general points, but know that I’m leaving out some crucial details.

Three training sessions in a row … it will be nice to get a break and digest some of what we’ve worked on and I’m trying to work through. Next week I’ll get back to two gi nights and one no-gi and try to get my “tournament” game a little tighter. I’m still convinced that the difference between placing and not placing will be my ability to pass the guard. That’s been the case in all seven tournament matches I’ve had over the past year. I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all cake after that. But I pass the guard—or even maintain a solid base and posture in the guard—and two of my three losses become wins.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Running on Empty

I almost feel as if some of the gains I’ve made in the past few weeks were undone last night. It was Wednesday, so we were back in the gi I love so much. And maybe it was because we’d just done no gi the night before, maybe it was because I’m not taking in enough carbs to keep me fueled until 7 or 8 at night, but I felt like I gassed way too hard and way too quickly last night.

Mamazinho showed us a couple of variations out dealing with the turtle position. First, he showed us how to move from facing the turtle to taking the back. This is a standard move where you reach across the turtle’s back with your opposite hand while doing a backstep with the leg on the other side. For example, you would reach over his back with your right hand and do the backstep with your left leg. You want to control the inside elbow as you backstep and then slide your inside knee between his arm and his body for superior control. With that far hand, reach under and control the wrist.

From this position, Mamazinho showed us the infamous clock choke. You reach under the neck and get a good choking grip. Then walk forward around and toward the head with your outside leg. From here, you want to step through with your inside leg while putting all your weight on the turtle’s inside shoulder. Pull up to get the choke—though most of the work will come from your weight bearing down on the shoulder.

Last there was a counter to the clock choke. Mamazinho reminded us to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER turn away from a choke—ALWAYS look to turn into it somehow. In this counter, the turtle grabs the choking arm/hand with his outside hand. Then you (as the turtle) want to sit in with your inside leg while snaking your inside arm preferably around the waist—though I was only able to get my arm around the top guy’s inside leg. Then, turning into the top guy, roll him over your hips, turning your inside shoulder up first.

I was able to do it fairly well in drills. But when Mamazinho had us do it as a specific sparring drill, I was more of a mixed bag. I was able to hit it against the tall Asian white belt I’ve been sparring with a lot lately, but not once against Tommy.

From there we went into some more specific sparring: side control, mount and take the back. Like I said, maybe there were a hundred reasons why I just didn’t have the juice last night, but by the time we got to the take the back work, I was spent.

As for sparring, I still managed to get three rolls in. That’s pretty much my standard—I don’t want to go too many sessions where I don’t get at least that many “free rolls”. I rolled with that new guy that Rebecca met, then with Tommy and then with Stephan. As you can see the night didn’t get any easier. I managed to get a forearm choke on the new guy, a white belt who’s probably a little heavier than I am but not much. But by the time I got to Tommy I was starting to fade.

What’s worse about fading like that is that while my body is tired, it is my ability to think clearly that is really what gets hit. I feel like I have to stop and crank up my brain like an old Model T just to get it in gear and plotting what my next move should be. One example was that Tommy was working his spider guard at one point. I know that it is easiest to deal with the spider guard when you stand up and extend the guy’s guard. But I didn’t do it. On the other hand, there are still things that I am godawful at, like escaping from the mount with anything other than an upa. I see so many guys being able to elbow escape out of the mount—even white belts like Adam were pretty good at that. But I feel completely hapless trying to elbow escape out of the mount. This is a major area of weakness, because once guys figure out that the upa is my only escape from the mount, it will be that much easier for them to defend themselves against it. Maybe I’ll see if I can get somebody to work on that before class—just the basic movement. There’s also always the Abaya stuff on Google Video.

A couple of points from last night’s rolling in general.

If you get a triangle on a guy and he stands up stacking you, then don’t allow him to back you up on your neck. Go for either the double heel push sweep, the elbow overhead sweep or even release the triangle and go for a seated double leg takedown. Whatever you do, don’t just be there upside down trying to secure the triangle at all costs. Ideally, you should give up the triangle BEFORE the guy realizes that he doesn’t have to keep fighting it because it is gone.

If you don’t want to take the back, then you’ve got to secure the clock choke position. A guy giving you his back is either giving you four points or the submission. If you don’t want the points, at least take the submission.

Having a good triangle choke escape is good, very good. But not getting caught in the triangle is even better.

Don’t leave your arms dangling around when you are on top. A lot of guys might miss it, but both Rodrigo and Stephan have managed to tap me with keylocks from the bottom in half guard. Neither of those submissions “had” to happen.

When guys are standing against your Marcelo guard, consider shooting between their legs into X-guard or all the way into taking the back. They should be put on the defensive, instead of being able to stand there and plot their next move.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Armbar Counter to Can Opener

During the king of the guard drill, I managed to pass the guard of a guy who'd already had a sesion or two on the bottom. The first guy I get is this huge new guy who's been coming pretty regular over the past few weeks. It will be interesting to see how good he gets if he sticks around.

Anyway, he enters my guard and immediately throws a can opener on me. I decide to try and defend it rather than tell him that can openers are not a technique he should be practicing for a variety of reasons. Probably not so smart because this guy might outweight me by seventy or more pounds.

Anyway, Rodrigo tells him to drop the can-opener and we continue for a little while. I'm not going to bother trying to sweep him, I managed to scramble to my feet and away he goes.

The next guy was a new guy who was pretty tough. He eventually managed to pass my guard after I'd tried a lot of different sweep attempts. I was mostly going for "knee pick" sweeps, and couldn't get enough momentum to take him over. I've really got to think about my grips and hooks with no gi. I like the fact that I tried to be aggressive from the guard with sweeps and then attacking with the triangle when I get the opportunity. I threw a triangle on that new guy after awhile, but wasn't able to finish the job.

My big mistake was in not going immediately to the choke side knee to get the angle, and then zoom in on the head. My whole triangle defense (which worked twice tonight) is based on putting the choking leg on the mat. By hooking the choke side knee, you make it a lot harder for the defender to put your choking leg on the mat. You've got the angle on him.

I've got a half suspicion that getting the angle is more important for guys with relatively short legs than it is for guys with relatively long legs. If you can get your legs around the guy fairly easily, then that creates a certain amount of leverage--or potential leverage. But if your ankles are tight against the guy's back as you are attacking with a triangle, then your legs have little leverage. On their own, it's leg strength against the guy's capacity to posture up.

So hook that choke side leg. Look down your knee as if you were a sniper.

This was supposed to be a post about a counter to the can opener. Here's the counter. Courtesy of Lockflow. I don't imagine I'll get a lot of practice using it. But it's nice to know.

Now, back to searching for no gi ways to open the guard ...

First and Thirty ...

First training day of the “30 Days” before Copa 8 Northwest on September 30th is tonight. It’s a Tuesday, so I’m going to assume that we’re still doing no-gi on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I wouldn’t be surprised if this changes in the fall. But for now, I’ll wear my no-gi gear and bring my gi gear just in case.

If it is no-gi tonight, then I’ll want to work on my half-guard sweeps and reversals from the bottom. From the top, I really want to concentrate on the northside crawl and southside swing crossbody armlocks from side control. I think I’ve been holding back for fear of losing the arm as I move around the head. But I need more attacks for when the guy straightens out his arm to defend against kimuras and keylocks. With the gi, I can very easily work my choke series (cross collar, winding and baseball) when the far arm is extended away. Without the gi, those same chokes are harder to get—if they can be gotten at all. In either case, those two variations on the crossbody armlock are things I should definitely work on—especially on no-gi days.

If we’re going gi tonight, then it will be chokes, more chokes and nothing but the chokes.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Triangle Escape

Credit where credit is due ... the triangle choke counter that I picked up from Gracie Barra black belt Marcelo Pereira in the September 2006 issue of Ultimate Grappling has been working like an ancient Chinese secret. Between Wednesday and Thursday nights, I think I was caught in six triangles and used Pereira's escape to get out of five of them. Lance the Blue caught me Thursday night with the sixth one, after I'd managed to escape at least one of his triangle attacks that night.

Most importantly, it gives me something specific to do when I'm in a given situation. There's that haze that enters when you're in an unfamiliar situation, and you are scrambling your brain trying to find the file folder where a particular escape, reversal, sweeep, etc. was stored. By knowing that triangle choke attack = Pereira escape, I can better train myself to move automatically.

It will also help me with my own triangle attack. Given the escape that I've been using, it seems to me critical that the guy attacking with the triangle get perpendicular to the other guy as quickly as possible. The easiest way to do this is to underhook the leg that's on the same side as the choking leg. I've written before that when you are in the proper perpendicular position, you want to be looking at your choking knee the same way you'd look down the barrel of a rifle.

I don't want to make a habit out of escaping from triangle chokes, but this escape has been working very, very well in a pretty short period of time. I'm also still having a hard time transitioning from the escape to the guard pass that Pereira shows. Something to work on during the next "30" ...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Brabo Choke with Gi

I want to consider working this choke from the top into my "30 days" preparation for the September 30th event. Things could go differently, but in all of my past four tournaments, I have been on top. The problem has been finishing fights from the top. I've been doing much better in recent trainings at getting submissions from the top, mostly keylocks. I need to be persistent and keep attacking. Changing positions and continuing to attack.

Brabo Choke with Gi