Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bocek and the Bayev Bite

Still no power, but I'm thinking kindly enough about humanity to at least not want to forget this nifty little move called the Bayev Bite. It seems like something that might go well with my ever-present Americana attack ...

The move comes from Elliott Bayev, who trains under Canadian phenom, Mark Bocek.

What's nice is that the "bite" is a submission in and of itself (a bicep crank), as well as being a set-up for the armdrag (if the guy tries to twist his arm out), as well as a set-up for a basic, hook 'n' lift butterfly guard sweep.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tapped Out

The power in my neighborhood in West Seattle has been out since Thursday and is still out. I've got plenty of thoughts about that situation, Seattle City Light and a host of related topics. But this is neither the time nor the place.

With any luck, we'll have power on Wednesday. If that's the case, then I'll have a post following Wednesday night's training and everything else I've been stewing and ruminating about for the past week.

Yours in chilly darkness,


Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Hook Sweep

I found myself with a few guys standing up in my guard last night during sparring sessions. There are a couple of sweeps that I’ve tried from this position—namely, the omoplata sweep and Mamazinho’s push sweep. And I need to incorporate Mamazinho’s pull sweep more to account for those instances in which the guy on top is leaning far forward—which has often been the case. With this pull sweep, I need to remember to control the elbows before lifting the guy up with my feet on his hips

Another variation off of Mamazinho’s push sweep is the hook sweep. I was watching a Google Video of Rener and Ryron Gracie showing how this sweep is done. The key detail is, first, you want the guy’s weight to be back—not leaning too far over you. What you do is put a foot in the hip and the other foot hooking behind the knee on the other side. Once you are in that position, reach down on the same side as the foot-in-hip and grab the guy’s ankle on that side.

Push against the hip. Pull on the ankle. Pull with the hook.

Note: Rener and Ryron also make an interesting point about side control. They say that you don’t want to be on your knees, which I suspect is responsible for both getting your hips too high in the air AND for not putting the full weight on the guy. Since I spend a lot of time in side control when on top, that’s something worth remembering the next time I’m trying to keep a guy down.

Big Time Butterfly Guard

Watching Jeff Joslin work the butterfly guard against former all-American wrestler Josh Koscheck last night on Ultimate Fight Night was pretty impressive. Even though Koscheck came away with the decision win, Joslin’s jiu jitsu was fun to watch. And his work in keeping Koscheck off balance with textbook butterfly guard play was a big part of that entertainment.

So I peeked at the Abhaya videos on Google Video to get some tips and details about the butterfly guard from Abhaya purple belt Rowan Cunningham. He does a really good job of breaking moves down into basic steps—and having him on video doesn’t exactly hurt, either.

First, you only need your feet hooked under the guy’s thighs to start. In fact, you don’t want to be any deeper than that. Cindy pointed out one time a few weeks back when we were working together that you want your hook to be as close to the knee as possible to get the best leverage when you lift and roll.

Second, keep your hips back. A lot of guys make the mistake of getting their hips too close to the other guy. That makes it easy for the other guy to push them down on their backs. From there, the butterfly guard is much easier to pass and sweeps from the bottom are that much harder to pull off.

One tip is that your head should be over your knees or slightly behind them. If your head is closer to the guy than your knees are—when you start—then you are probably too close.

Third is hand position. You want to get a nice deep underhook with one arm. With the other arm—and this is a nice detail I don’t recall too many people highlighting—you want to stuff it in between you. It is sort of like the arm stuff move with the arm stuff triangle. So grab the wrist or the sleeve by the cuff and stuff that arm!

You’ll want to go into the sweep almost immediately afterwards. Don’t expect the guy’s arm to “stay stuffed”. He’ll try to bring it back out and, when he realizes that you are trying to roll to that side, use that arm to post or defend. So “stuff ‘n’ go” is probably the way to think of it. You can stop and jockey for position with the underhook. But the stuff, sweep and hook have to be pretty 1-2-3.

So, fourth, you want to roll over onto the “stuff-side” shoulder. Stephen Kesting at GrappleArts.com makes a good point that you can go to your side or over your shoulder to do this sweep—just don’t go straight back.

Fifth, you want to lift up with the hook on the opposite side of the sweep. Remember Cindy’s point: your hook should be as close to the knee as possible.

Sixth and last, roll the guy over and move into side control.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Live at the Improv

Another small class ... things seem to be tapering off going into the winter holidays. I got there a little late. But there were six of us once the warmups were done. Big Mike (now Mike the blue), Jim, Mike Two Stripe, Casey and a new white belt I think I've seen once or twice before. Because of the small size of the class (and, I suspect, the UFC's Ultimate Fight Night on Spike at 8 p.m.) we went straight into specific training and then sparring.

Mount. Back control. Side control. Half-guard. Closed guard ...

I definitely felt the difference between my aerobic and anaerobic conditioning tonight. My aerobics are fine: I've got a nice low pulse, recover quickly ... the problem is that my anaerobic conditioning is not up to speed. Among other things, that means more DB complex type training and less LSD (long slow distance) training.

I think I got five rolls in: Casey twice, Mike Two Stripe, the new white belt, and Jim. I liked how I used the running man escape, and managed to turn into the turtle, if not to the knees, a few times. I still feel lost in the closed guard, especially when it comes to breaking posture.

One way of attacking posture that I haven't tried is to combine pull/push attacks, like an arm drag or collar tie followed by a crossover sweep or butterfly tackle. I'm still interested in the BJ guard, but I'm realizing that I'll need to increase my hamstring flexibility in order to make that work for me.

My attacks feel very limited. I've got the keylock. But my chokes are consistently ineffectual from most positions. And I can't remember the last time I really went after an armbar ...

Another issue that came up tonight, though only for awhile, was my guard passing. I'm slipping on that and need to get my discipline back on track. My half-guard was better in part tonight, mostly because I got a good feel for the lockdown. But there are two main flaws with my Bravo-styled half-guard game. One, I'm coming up on the inside elbow for tackle sweeps, but I'm not coming up on that inside knee. Mike Two Stripe did a very good job of pulling my inside arm out from under me when we were rolling, demolishing my base.

The other problem is with the twists. I'm not positioning my inside leg properly, hooking the guy's outside knee. I need to study that a lot, because I think there are twist sweep opportunities from the half-guard that I am completely missing.

I want to work on these spots because, for better or worse, I think my game from the bottom is going to be based on Bravo's half-guard. We'll see what happens. But I don't have a ton of confidence operating out of the traditional closed guard. Come the January tournament, if I'm on the bottom then I want to have a "go-to" position. And increasingly it looks like the half-guard is it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Block that Kimura!

It's been a while since I've gotten caught by a kimura while in somebody's closed guard. So let's consider this post a little preventive medicine for the next, inevitable time it happens.

I asked the Wise Masses at the jiujitsugear forum what they thought about defending the kimura attack from inside the closed guard. There were, typically, a number of good responses. The best, maybe, came from the "Vanilla Gorilla", Rick MacCauley, an Abu Dhabi Combat Club veteran:
If he had a kimura on my right arm I would stand with my right leg and grab the inside of my thigh with the arm getting kimura'd.

While doing this, I would be controlling his hip with my left hand by holding his belt and pushing down. If it was no gi, (I would control his hip by) just pushing down like I was posturing.

Key #1 to this escape is keeping your elbow into your side while grabbing the inside of your thigh.

Key #2 is that your hand not getting kimura'd has to keep his hip controlled, flattened and square to your body if possible so he can't generate power with his hips. This also prevents him from swiveling for other submissions (i.e., hopping a triangle or going for a "belly-down" armbar).
Like I said, it's been a while since I've really had to fight off a kimura. Even then, most of the kimuras I've been attacked with have come from guys who've gotten dominant position on me (i.e., side control or north/south).

Still I want to start thinking of escapes insofar as being able to know your basic escapes is a big part of being a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu as far as I'm concerned. Additionally, I'd like to start working the kimura into my set of attacks from closed guard (especially the "Werdum Series", that includes the judo armlock, crossover sweep, pendulum sweep and the kimura).

Monday, December 11, 2006

Straight Jacket

Another website that will definitely be listed here at side control, is Aesopian's website, Aesopian.com.

Aesopian does a lot of good things with his website: his photographs of techniques are impeccable, as is the fact that he understands the great questions of our Time (i.e., breaking down Marcelo Garcia's back control game). It's worth it checking in every few days just to see what he's up to.

One thing in particular caught my eye the other day. It was a simple description of hand position as taught by a grappling school here in the Pacific northwest (Oregon, I think), Straight Blast Gym.
To clarify, “straight jacket” refers to a posture SBG teaches for being under side control. Your arm nearest to them is laid across your chest with your hand resting on your opposite shoulder. Your other arm lays across your stomach with your hand on your hip. Like a straight jacket. This prevents them from making chest on chest contact or getting a underhook on the far arm, which makes getting the underhook on them easier while escaping.
It sounds like something I might want to practice when doing elbow escapes.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I'm starting to give up on defeating the triangles. Admittedly, I've been caught by guys like Clint and Tommy who've got good triangle choke attacks, fast and accurate. But I'm starting to lose the will to fight them properly. So a post on the subject is in order.

I wrote about Mamazinho's triangle escape. There's a nice escape that I'd started to use, the one from Gracie Barra San Diego. But it really wasn't working for me. Tommy, for one, quickly figured out that if you do the escape incorrectly (or incompletely, as was probably my case), you can get your back taken. That escape also keeps me in the self-imposed trap of wanting to pass the guard on the ground, which is something else I really need to get over.

So Mamazinho's escape is nice additionally because it is a standing escape. And it may be an eternal irony that though jiu jitsu is "ground" fighting, a lot of what is holding me back is a stubborn refusal to stand up.

There are some key details in Mamazinho's triangle escape: forcing the hip down with the free hand, and throwing the "cross" with the collar on the side you pass toward with the goal of smashing your way out ... But one of the things I think is haunting me is the spectre of getting armlocked as the bottom guy transitions out of the triangle.

The armbar comes from the leg on the side you are passing/smashing. The guy on the bottom is going to try and put that leg on the other side of your head with the choking leg.

So if I'm paranoid about that armlock transition, that's the most likely direction. Forewarned is forearmed. Besides, the counter to the armbar is stacking, so as long as I am smashing as I pass and not remaining high, I'll be in the best position to defend the armbar if the bottom guy does manage to attack with it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday Mamazinho: S-mount

Monday night's lesson was focused around the S-mount. I've seen it before in Saulo's DVD instructionals. So it was great to get to have Mamazinho show us in person just what the key details were.

We worked the armbar from S-mount, then a winding choke from S-mount, then practiced switching from an armbar attack on one side to an armbar attack on the other.

One thing I like about Mamazinho's teaching method that I'm just starting to appreciate is how he works three different moves from a basic position. A lot of times, it is one attack from on top and one escape, or two sweeps and a counter to the sweeps. But it is a nice "packet of knowledge" that you can remember (or you can remember ... some days I'm remembering better than others ...). For instance, I've taken to thinking of Mamazinho's knee on belly attacks (the armbar, the choke and the baseball north/south choke) as the "Three from the Knee" ...

One detail I want to note was that when you pushed the arm across the body before scooting around toward the head, you wanted to use your body to help keep that arm out of the way. Otherwise, when you go to post your outside arm to help the scoot, there won't be anything to keep the guy turned over on his side--that same arm was busy trying to poosh the guy's arm, instead of letting your body do the work.

I've also got to avoid rushing. Drilling the techniques Monday night I jammed my big toe harder than I would have liked to. I actually think the tape had slipped, which might have accounted for everything uncomfortable. But it had me hobbling a little bit. It was the switching armbar, going from Bravo's spider web on one side to another web on the other, that seemed to be the only move that was affected, which makes me believe that the problem is going too fast.

I ballooned up to 165 over the weekend which made a typical Monday practice a little poorer than usual on my part. There was blessedly minimal running in the warm up. And I managed to get a couple of rolls in with good guys like Tommy, Jeff, Clint and Chris (now the Brown), as well as some good specific stuff ...

I've been thinking about some different ways to be more aggressive from the Marcelo guard, especially when dealing with guys whose posture I have to work extra hard to break. Right now my goal is to tighten up the half-guard and start to have a more coherent guard attack (submissions and sweeps) game between now and the next tournament: my first as a blue belt.

Scissors Sweep from Abhaya

Google is genius in many things. But You Tube has definitely got them beat when it comes to posting video clips to your blog.

Scissors Sweep from Abhaya

There are two details here that I've been missing when I've tried scissors sweeps. The first is to give yourself room on the hip/elbow escape. The Abhaya guy calls it the "snake move" or something like that. The point is that you don't want to be so close that you can't pull the guy toward you as part of the sweep.

The other detail is to sit up on the outside elbow before you scissor the sweep. I hadn't heard that before, so I wonder if it is an optional aspect of the sweep. One interesting thing is that if you don't give yourself enough room on the escape, you'll never be able to sit up on that outside elbow.

Notes: Look for the S-mount armbar/choke combo immediately after a successful scissors sweep. Remember also that the scissors sweep is part of my armbar/cross choke/scissor sweep series that I've included in the gameplan.


"Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun."

Pink Floyd, "Time," from Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

Asked why Rickson Gracie was such a great jiu jitero, someone—maybe patriarch Helio—replied, "his timing is impeccable."

When I first heard that, I thought surely there must be more to it than that. Some supernatural sense of balance, some encyclopedic knowledge of leverage and the physics of the body … that was the stuff of greatness. But “timing”? Just “timing”?

The more I train, the more I see how key timing is. Too often in jiu jitus I feel as if I need to do a certain move with great speed, or with a burst of explosiveness. While I don’t want to say that speed and explosiveness can’t be virtues on the mat, the more a person learns about jiu jitsu, the less important these qualities become in and of themselves. Instead, they are replaced by an awareness that all one needs to do is be “one step ahead.” And if you are on the right path—performing techniques with the proper form and balance—then that “one step ahead” is more than enough to control and submit your opponent.

Timing is one of the the things that hampered my performance on the mat last night. Sure, there were technical mistakes (some of which were noted in the “Erratta 2.0” post from yesterday), and I will continue to make those. But one thing that I’m very bad at is waiting too long, and letting the moment for an escape or a submission attempt or to improve position pass. As I think of it, I feel like letting myself off the “laziness” hook, a little bit. It is still an issue, but often I’m just caught waiting, thinking (probably too much, as Tommy reminds me) about what I want to do and then, unfortunately, freezing up when the moment to move arrives.

Two or three times last night I got mounted because I was on the bottom in side control and was trying to bait the mount move so that I could trap the trailing leg and slip into half guard. I didn’t get it once. Again, there was a technical issue involved—I forgot that you’ve got to turn into the trailing leg, to attack it in a sense, rather than waiting for the leg to just fall into your lap. But also my timing was off. By the time the guy on top had moved, I was too late.

For me, I suspect that my problem with timing is also a problem with doubt. A part of me still doesn’t really believe that I can pull off certain moves—even basic ones. Add even a little temporary fatigue to that situation and you’ve got a recipe for underperformance. In life, he who hesitates is lost. In jiu jitsu, he who hesitates gets submitted (or, at least, mounted, as was the case with me last night).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Head and Shoulders: Perspective from Side Control

Sometime between Cramer's Mad Money and Deutsch's vastly inferior but recently much improved, The Big Idea, it occurred to me that when you are applying pressure to the face with the shoulder from the mount, you want to post on the same side that the guy is looking toward.

In other words, if you are using your left shoulder to push the guy's face to your right, then that's the side you want to be wary of him taking you by way of escape. He could turn into you. But if you've got good shoulder pressure, then that's not going to be something you're going to have to worry about not being able to defend.

Errata 2.0

Rolling with Clint tonight, I got caught in a triangle choke. It certainly wasn't the first time--not by a long shot. But I forgot a key element (or two) when I was trying to escape.

I went for Mamazinho's standing escape. My big mistake was in grabbing the wrong collar. I grabbed the far collar and then tried to somehow pull it back towards me across Clint's neck. What I want to do instead is to grab the near collar, the collar closest to the side I'm trying to "pass" or escape on and thrust it across the throat. I think I described it as throwing a left or right cross over the chin.

Another mistake--of somewhat lesser importance, but ...--was in not controlling the hips. What I should have done with my free hand (in tonight's case, my left hand) was to pull down on the pants and try to push his hips back to the mat. If I'm doing everything else correctly, then that move will only make things easier.

Also rolled with Tommy. He's still getting his wind back from his time away, but rolling with him is still like climbing into an industrial strength washing machine. He was working some upside down guard tonight and I wanted to try that move BJ Penn does where you stack the guy and take his back. But I couldn't figure out the angle.

Anyway, Tommy caught me some hundred times in about seven or eight minutes. But one key mistake I made that he pointed out had to do with taking the back of a guy in the turtle. I had been doing the reach under to try and control the wrist. But I got sloppy when I couldn't control it. Leaving my hand and arm floating around under there left me open to one of Tommy's wristlocks, which he slapped on me with typical speed. What he pointed out to me afterward is that I should grab the jacket lapel on the far side if I can't get the wrist and pull it in tight. If your hand is against his body, he said, then there isn't the same amount of space that will leave you vulnerable to a wrist lock or other attack.

I'm not doing so well with my half-guard game. It is sort of stalling out. I'm doing a better job of getting small, but I need to get out of there: either with a sweep or a take-the-back. There are a couple of things that are holding me back: a laziness factor, a muscle fatigue factor and a doubt factor ... all of which I need to work on or I'm going to miss opportunities to improve my game at the pace I'd like.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Roger Gracie's MMA Debut

The opponent: Mixed martial arts heavyweight veteran, Ron Waterman.

Gracie Barra Seattle: Belt Promotions

Griff a.k.a. "Towtruck" tells the tale of December 2, 2006.

Gracie Barra Seattle: Belt Promotions