Tuesday, January 30, 2007

ADCC, the Half Guard and Me

No, this is not an impromptu game of "which one of these doesn't belong with the others." Actually, it's just a set of observations about the half guard I made over the weekend while watching both the Leo Viera division (under 65 kilos) and the Jacare division (77-87 kilos) at the 2005 Abu Dhabi Combat Club tournament.

I've been working the half guard with some faithfulness over the past several months--too long, on some ways, for me not to hav more to show from the effort. But this is the road of the self-taught insofar as much of what I'm trying to build by way of a half guard game from the bottom is coming straight out of Eddie Bravo's Jiu Jitsu Unleashed (as opposed to a lot about passing the half guard, which both Mamazinho and Rodrigo have focused on over the months).

What's happened is that my interest in the half guard has dove-tailed with some interesting things I've been reading about the Marcelinho guard (mostly from Aesopian's excellent reporting) and butterfly guard (Stephan Kesting mostly, from Grapple Arts. I'm thinking that thinking about the half guard and the Marcelinho/butterfly guard together might help me build a bottom game that I can rely on.

First, here's a link to Kesting's superb Butterfly Guard/X-Guard Q&A ...

Watching ADCC over the weekend, I was struck how one fighter (who ended up losing, actually, on points) managed to pull half guard repeatedly, and then reposition each time it looked like his standing opponent would get out of range. (Interestingly, Michelle/Wags has been drilling us in a way of moving on the ground to "chase down" a standing opponent.) Anyway, what was interesting about the fitht (which I think was the Robert Sulski v. Bento Ribeiro match) was how Ribeiro moved on the ground with his half guard attack.

Ribeiro showed how pulling half guard requires active legs, not just the inside leg that you want to shoot between the other guy's legs, but also the outside leg that you want to swing over and trap the guy's leg. This leg will also likely be a "trailing" leg if the guy is trying to get away from you.

In other words, say you're pulling half guard and the guy moves to your right. If you've tried to shoot your right leg through, then you need to roll on your side so that you are still facing the guy. You also need to use your left leg to hook over his trailing leg (his right leg if he's moving to your right/his left to try and pass). As long as that leg is draping over the trailing leg, then you've effectively got a half guard. An open half guard, to be sure, and you don't want to "sit there forever", as Saulo puts it. But that is enough to slow the guy down so that you can get your other leg in place.

STAY ON YOUR SIDE. If you are on your right side and he moves to your left, as if to move behind you, then roll over your left shoulder and switch the leg attack (i.e., stab with the left leg and trap the trailing leg with your right.)

Or something like that.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Monday of Missed Moments

It could have been worse, but last night's class left more than a few things to be desired.

I came into training last night with two particular goals: work the GTS and present a more capable half-guard came. I failed pretty miserably on both counts.

With regard to the GTS, I need to remember that posture is key and that if I don't have posture, I'm not going to be able even get the pass started. I tried the GTS against Clint, who is back after a month of infrequent training, and he broke me down immediately. I didn't try again.

Clint also hopped over my half-guard like it was a picket fence. When I tried the half guard against one of the new white belts (Kyle?), he managed to both stretch me out and put his head on the outside, making it harder for me to come up to my side.

Kyle's move specifically is one that I need to think about. My suspicion is that I could have tried a twist from half-guard, but I hesitated and he managed to get his leg back to brace himself if I tried to take him the other way.

That only goes to underscore Rickson's point: In fights there comes a moment without fail, when an opponent makes a mistake. That moment cannot be missed.

So I'm missing moments. Clint also caught me in a triangle ... so it was like old times in that regard. I rolled with three guys, Clint, Mike and Kyle, who were really good at replacing the guard. I swear one of the most frustrating things on the planet Earth is passing the guard and then getting put back in the guard seconds later.

I got scratched on the neck somehow tonight and, what's worse, another shot to my left eye. It is slowly coming back toward normal, but I really can't take too many more shots like that. For the life of me, I can't figure out how I keep getting popped like that. I don't think my right eye has even been brushed. But damn if I'm not taking it in the left every other week to one degree or another.

What a tradeoff! I've never had a popped elbow or knee. But I've got a bum left cornea that just doesn't seem like it is going anywhere ...

There's a temptation to turn this into a bitch post, and that's not going to do anybody any good. I'm hoping for a more positive practice on Wednesday, which is likely to be the last gi training before the event on Saturday. I'll get a session in on Thursday. It is schedule to be no gi, but you never know what Mamazinho will do given the tournament that weekend ...

Today I get one solid meal for sure, breakfast. I'm still undecided about lunch ... maybe a little protein and some salad. I weighed in at 162.4 at the academy last night after training. That's not bad; I'm three and a half pounds over. With any luck (and more than a little discipline), I should be under 160 by the end of Wednesday's practice. That's about two and a half pounds in two days. Very doable.

Ah ... what can you say? Jiu jitsu ain't no crystal stair. It was nice to roll with Clint again, even if it had a bit of a "Monday morning ... here we go again" feeling to it. His triangle is just money; nobody catches me with anything as consistently as he catches me with that triangle.

Standing Guard Pass: The GTS

I’ve been looking back through the archives of side control to try and recall more about the first guard pass I ever learned--and the one that Rodrigo has been shouting at me from the sidelines for more than a year now. I was trying to think of a name for it, in the same way that I’ve got the Saulo ground pass, the Cesar standing pass, the PTMU (a version of the Cesar standing pass), and now the Sperry ground pass. I had wanted to call it the “Rodrigo”, but that’s too many syllables and doesn’t flow like I want it to. I could use his last name and call it the “Lopes.” But that’s doesn’t quite work for me, either.

So I think I’ve got one: GTS, as in the GTS standing pass, as in “grab the sleeve”—because that’s the defining difference.

The GTS pass is very similar to the Cesar pass. The difference is that the Cesar pass has you grab the lapels with both hands, one higher up on the chest, the other lower down on the stomach (or even grabbing the belt or the pants high up on the inner thigh), while the GTS pass has you control the collars with one hand and grab the sleeve with the other.

The nice thing about the GTS pass is that it deals with one of the biggest problems I have about standing guard passes. As soon as I stand up, the guy on the bottom usually underhooks my lower leg and begins to attack my base. With the GTS pass, you’ve got control of one arm that would otherwise attack your legs. When you step back with the opposite leg and begin to push down on the knee on that other side, you take your other leg out of reach. It really makes for an awkward sweep effort—and you’re busying passing his guard all the while.

So, here’s the GTS, step by step:

Fight for the collars with both hands.
When you’ve got the collars, transfer them to one hand (right).
Chase down the guy’s right sleeve with your other hand (left).

(Note: if you can’t catch the sleeve, then transition to the Cesar or PTMU passes.)

Now, you’ve got the collars and the sleeve. Step up with the leg on the sleeve side.
Step up with the other leg, but keep it back with the foot facing out (perpendicular).
Push down on the knee as you to step back, circling backward as with the Saulo pass.

From here, either:
1. Drop the outside knee. Hook the head and backstep with the inside leg. Control the far side leg at the knee to keep him from rolling over on top of you.
2. Drop the inside knee. Swing your outside leg around and move into side control or look for an opportunity to go right into knee on belly.

Tournament Week

Worked up a new, three-stage training regimen/periodization schedule last night. Basically, as long as I train jiu jitsu on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, then I’ll do cardio Monday and Thursday mornings, resistance on Tuesday and Saturday mornings and take Wednesday morning and all day Friday and Sunday off. The way it works out is, starting Monday morning, I go three sessions (morning, evening, morning), then get two sessions off (evening, morning), then three more sessions on (evening, morning, evening), then two sessions off (morning, evening).

Hopefully that should be a nice combination of work and rest. I got to bed at 10:30 p.m. last night and felt really pretty good getting up this morning. That extra hour (i.e., hitting the sack at 10:30 p.m. instead of 11:30 p.m.) might make a world of difference. I got up and did what might be the new Beaster cardio routine (i.e., two miles instead of one and a half) and burned a nice 300/75+ calorie split in a little over half an hour.

Monday weigh-in was not great: 166.9 (dressed, no shoes). I’d like that to be 160.9 (dressed, no shoes) by Friday. That’s six pounds in a week. Perfectly doable. My Sunday diet was not as clean as it could have been; actually it was relatively typical. I did a decent amount of yardwork, which probably helped some. But the 10 p.m. sandwich probably wasn’t necessary. I’ve still got this terrible habit of eating late on Sunday nights …

I’ll be doing a modified Sponge diet this week. It’s a little on the extreme side, but I want to make sure that the pounds start coming off as soon as possible.

Monday: Regular breakfast, regular lunch, regular dinner
Tuesday: Regular breakfast, Isopure lunch, Isopure dinner
Wednesday: Regular breakfast, Isopure lunch, Isopure dinner
Thursday: Isopure breakfast, Isopure lunch, Isopure dinner
Friday: Same as Thursday but with water and Gatorade restriction

Monday through Thursday should involve pretty heavy water drinking, iced green tea and Gatorade. The “Isopure” meals will consist of 10 ounces of Isopure clear (20 g protein), an ounce of cheese (7 g protein) and a green salad with anchovies or veggies, depending on what is available.

I’ve got a basic gameplan for the event on Saturday. But the main idea of the gameplan is to stick with the gameplan, win or lose. I’m increasingly convinced that fights are won by superior gameplans as much as they are by superior skills, and given that I’m not likely to run into too many people against whom I’ve got superior skills now that I’m no longer a white belt, I want to put a premium on coming up with a solid gameplan and sticking with it when the match starts.

I’ve got an idea of how I want to take things from the start, from standup. And some ideas about what I want to do on the ground. I’ll take Tommy’s advice and be somewhat discrete about posting my plans in advance. But there aren’t too many secrets to what I’m about on the mat: get the takedown, get dominant position, and get the submission.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Elemental Particles

Tonight, there were a few times when I did the right thing. Believe me, there were plenty of times when I did the wrong thing. And an uncomfortable amount of times when I didn't do much of anything at all. But those flashes of half-way decent jiu jitsu were something I want to bear a little witness to.

My mount escape is still solid. It puts me into guard, which is another adventure in and of itself. But I'm happy that my basic escape continues to work ...

I'm starting to get how to attack the spider guard, dipping the hand under the spider leg or, if that doesn't work, using the opposite leg to attack that leg. I'm also getting my foot free when it is grabbed from the guard, the small kick and circle ...

It's not so hard to stand against the guard. My guard passing wasn't very good, at all, tonight. But I finally got myself to stand every (other) time I was in the guard, closed or open. What was nice was that the only time I was swept was by Maggie, who's got very, very sharp technique. And even then I actually felt like I had something to do--compared to when I'm trying to fend off the guard while on the ground.

So, a few things to build on. It was nice to stand in the guard and realize that the world would not come to an end--even if I did get swept and wound up in a scramble. And a few things clicked nicely against the spider guard.

In other news, I am getting submitted by armbars from the top almost exclusively these days. Andrew and Chris were both getting them against me pretty regular, and tonight Maggie joined the club. I know two escapes with the gi, so if I'm going to get caught in them, I might as well practice the escapes.

I still feel fatigued more than I should. My diet was close to perfect today (I've backed off the yogurt and mixed nuts at 10:30 and 1:30, and just had the iced green tea ...) and I still felt like I was dragging through my specific drills and first few sparring sessions (a visiting white belt named Colin and James).

I think that I'm just sparring with bigger guys more regularly, and I'm trying to combat their strength with mine. I need to spend more time specifically applying technique against that strength instead of fighting it and wearing myself out. I do think that I'm not back to "November form"; that will probably take another few weeks.

All of this sparring with bigger guys will necessitate improving my guard AND my submissions. I can't fool around with these guys. If our skills are comparable, then I'm just going to get worn out. I need to focus on opportunities to finish.

Maybe it's a blessing in disguise. Eddie Bravo makes the point that being good on the bottom makes you more willing to take risks from the top. Makes sense to me. We'll see how things look come April.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Grub

I may or may not be a finely tuned machine when it comes to jiu jitsu. But I am definitely a finely tuned machine when it comes to my diet: if I don't get the right grade of fuel at the right time, then I'm going to pay for it at the earliest opportunity.

My cardio was terrible tonight. There are probably a number of factors, including some lingering soreness in my hips and upper quads from Thursday's no gi class. But while recovery was not too bad, I just didn't have the physical ability to move the way I wanted to move. I could tell even in the warm-up when we were running around in circles . By the time we were sparring, it couldn't have been more apparent.

For now, though, I'm blaming the grub. Not enough carbs for training. I had Asian flank steak and baby spinach/baby green salad for lunch, and had meant to include a half potato. For dinner (3 p.m.--my pre-training meal), I'd planned to carb-load with chicken fried rice, more salad and a 40 of Gatorade. Instead I ended up with some eggrolls from Lee's (my favorte eggrolls in town, I'll confess) and the Gatorade.

At this point, when I'm technically still in recovery-from-holidays-etc. mode, that's really not going to work. So I'm going to have to make sure I get that half-potato at lunch, and the fried rice at dinner. I'm a little preoccupied with the fact that I'm a few pounds over 160 this late in the week. Maybe there was something subconscious at work; I know I don't want to spend next week killing myself to make sure I'm under 159.

But restricting the carbs that much is making for some subpar training. A few days of LSD (long, slow distance) on the treadmill, at least two out of the Friday/Saturday/Sunday set, and careful monitoring of what I eat over the weekend, should help me get deeper under 160.

So let's stick to the menu--especially on training days. It's cheaper and tastier than anything on California Avenue, anyway.

Training Days:

9:00 a.m.: salmon, 1/2 bagel with cream cheese, melon/fruit juice
10:30 a.m.: iced green tea, 1/2 berry yogurt, mixed nuts
12:00 p.m.: meat, salad, potato/pasta
1:30 p.m.: iced green tea, 1/2 berry yogurt, mixed nuts
3:00 p.m.: fried rice, salad with anchovies, 40 oz Gatorade

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Saulo Does the Shaka Sweep


Scissor Sweep Variation

The keys are the knee and the cross sleeve (sweep side) grip.

Standing Against the Guard

Reading a thread at Jiu Jitsu Talk on "your favorite way to open the closed guard" got me thinking about this worst aspect of my game.

Most of these folks post at Jiu Jitsu Gear Forum also, so I'm not surprised at the number of good ideas. But in addition to the Sperry pass, which seems like a good technique to go to if my posture is completely shot (as it was in my first fight at Copa NW 8), I most appreciated the tips and reminders about standing against the guard: closed or open, gi or no gi.

Delicious Bass
establish posture and stand, the reason I think people have problems with standing techniques is that they don't control the distance with good posture before they stand. also it is important that you stand with your feet (at least one foot) forward past the hips of your opponent, remember you will be using your knees to monitor your opponents hips to defend against sweeps and armlocks.

... a good tip that helped me was at the moment I go to stand I was getting broken down. because to stand i kind of had to lean forward. Probably a simple thing but i wasn't doing it. Shawn told me to stand on my knees first. go directly vertical by just standing on your knees. then do what DB said ...

The Jeff
If someone has a great closed guard, has long legs, or is really strong you will not open their legs without baiting them or standing.

Roy says he stands to open the guard whenever he is serious about the match.

On Being Blue, Part Two

I forgot that I had this picture of me getting my blue belt from Mamazinho and Rodrigo back in December. They didn't have a belt for me at the time, which is partly why I'm wearing a white belt in this picture.

Posted about a month later. But better than never.

(photo credit: Jesse of BJJ Madongo.com)

Training Days

My left quad, right where it connects to the groin muscles, is killing me. I’ve got a little limp, but where it really gets me is when I try to lift my left leg up—as when doing leg lifts or butterfly sweeps. For better or worse, I don’t do too much of either when rolling, so the short-term impact—beyond a little discomfort—is likely to be minimal.

The relevance of all that is the fact that the next Copa Northwest—Copa 9, to be specific—is scheduled for February 3rd. As in the Saturday after next.

I won’t pretend that I wouldn’t love a month of normalcy, a month where no dogs are dying, no power outage is taking place, no mini ice age, no cruise to Mexico, no imploding bathroom floor, no flu, no collapsing fence, no flowers left anonymously in the front yard … But you go to war with the month you’ve got. And it looks like I’ll only get a few weeks of regular training before stepping back on to the mat as a competitor.

More thoughts on this later in another post. Right now I’ve got a little catching up to do with the instruction from Rodrigo’s Thursday night no gi class and Mamazinho’s gi class last night. As much as I like writing about gameplanning and jiu jitsu in general, I don’t want the blog to get too far away from one of its original purposes: to chronicle the instruction I get at Gracie Barra Seattle.


Rodrigo had us working on some interesting things. First up was a balance drill where one guy held your leg, first at the ankle and then at the knee. First the guy walked you backward down the mat, forcing you to hop backwards and maintain your balance. Then, rather than turning around, you do the same thing back up the mat, forcing you to hop forwards. A good drill—though I can’t help but wonder if this is where things started to go downhill for my quadriceps.

We moved on to techniques. The first one was an escape from the leg trap. Say that somebody has shot in for a single leg, or an ankle pick and they’ve got your leg—more or less in the same way that we just drilled. How do you escape?

It depends on where their head is. If their head is on the inside, then you want to do the following:
--turn and drop down driving your knee to the mat
--as you do this you are turning and facing in the opposite direction
--push the head and posture back, putting your weight on his shoulder as you drop down
--kick your leg forward to break the grip

If the guy’s head is on the outside, then instead of turning away, you want to turn into him
--reach down with your inside arm between his two arms trapping your leg
--reach down between the guy’s legs
--reach around with your outside arm and lock your hands
--work your body around toward his back or for the takedown
We also worked a half guard pass. It is one that Rodrigo showed us before, but one that I haven’t used nearly enough (then again, it is usually me on the bottom in half-guard …).

The half-guard pass is designed to free the knee. You hook the head with your inside arm. Then backstep over his body (it is a little bit of a backwards leap). As you backstep, keeping walking your body backwards toward his head. This more than anything else will do the hard work of freeing your knee. As Saulo would say “don’t poosh the guy”. You don’t want to push on the guy’s knee so much as you want to leverage the knee to help you walk your body backwards toward the head. Again Saulo: “We move our bodies.”

From where swing back into a mount position. You might still have your lower leg trapped, but it will be risky for the guy to focus on maintaining that quarter-guard (don’t I know it!)

The next two techniques Rodrigo showed us were similar to moves that Marcelo Garcia uses quite a lot. The first is what I called the “knee sweep.” The second is the “X-guard” or what Rodrigo called the “cross guard” sweep.

The knee sweep is used when a guy tries to stand up against your butterfly or sitting guard. You are in butterfly or sitting guard with your back on the mat (a no-no, but it happens). The guy is on both knees looking to stand up and pass.

You are trying to control the wrists (remember Marcelo’s point “they try to pass with their hands”). When the knee goes up, grab the ankle with the hand on that side, and flare your leg on that side with your shin in the crook of the guy’s knee. Your other hand should be attacking or controlling the opposite wrist.

Pull on the ankle and push out with the knee. One detail that Rodrigo pointed out was tha the knee should be pointing out at 45 degrees, not straight up.

You can also push with the outside hand on the guy’s wrist. It is a sort of pull-push when it works well. Scissor your legs in the sitting-guard-to-standing style (Mike remembered that this was the same movement that Rodrigo used to drill a lot. I need to incorporate it more into my warming up, again.)

The cross guard sweep goes like this. You start from a similar position as the knee sweep. But this sweep comes into play when the guy stands up. You put the first knee in as above (or you might already have it in place). You swing over to the “free” or outside leg and underhook that so that the crook of the guy’s knee is on your shoulder.

At the same time you take your other leg and make the cross. You hook in front of the thigh—high up, almost at the groin—but your knee should be behind the guy.

Extend your legs to break the guy’s posture. To finish the sweep, you want to come up on your inside knee and hand. It is better to follow through and stand up—that will make for a more effective sweep. But the sweep can be done from the ground if you want to remain on your knees.

That’s it for the instruction. I rolled with Rodrigo for about ten minutes. I’m doing a better job in general of using the sitting guard and fighting off the hands. I still get gripped, but I’m surprised at how with just a little more effort, I can make it frustrating enough for a lot of folks—especially blue belts like myself and lower.

After class my hips were killing me. I remember reading a post somewhere on some message board that said when you start jiu jitsu, your arms hurt all the time. But once you start to figure out what you’re doing, it is your hips that hurt. Maybe it’s a good omen, after all.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Pimp My Half-Guard

I won’t pretend that my half guard game is Eddie Bravo like. But I like to believe that I can at least use it to slow down the attack of higher belts. As I wrote a little while back, I still have some basic mechanics that I need to improve on, like coming up on the inside knee for tackles and getting the proper foot/leg positioning for twists …

But all that said, I didn’t expect to see my half-guard game get blown up the way it was last night.

Smallish class, as normal of late … We did some intense throwing drills (in part to keep warm in that warehouse, I’m sure) and then went straight into four-on-one sparring. I ended up rolling with Jesse the Purple, Maggie, a big white belt just starting whose name I can’t remember (Cliff? Kyle?), and Mario, who is making his comeback. Both Jesse and Maggie blew through my half-guard lockdown almost as if it wasn’t there. One thing I noticed that both of them did well was twist their hips and move their bodies to “unscrew” their trapped leg from my lockdown.

Believe it or not, but there are higher belts that struggle (relatively speaking) to get out of a tight lockdown. This also leads me to a story that might help me figure out what to do with guys (and gals) who know just how to counter the lockdown.

I was rolling with Chris Cerna. He asked Mamazinho what he thought the best way to beat the lockdown was. Mamazinho said that the trick was to stretch the guy out, flatten him out, to take away his leverage and make it easier to pass. Neither Jesse nor Maggie needed to do this to get past my half-guard last night. But thinking of Mamazinho’s advice gives me the idea that when somebody is twisting to get out of my lockdown, I need to bunch up (I should be trying to get small anyway …) tighter around that trapped leg and look to sweep from there.

I still need to think and train this out. But I’m thinking that they should be vulnerable to a sweep on the side of the trapped leg (i.e., a twist attack). A tackle might work on somebody smaller. But driving them toward the opposite leg seems like a waste of energy. Maybe if I can catch them with Old School that might not be the case, but I’ve had no luck catching anyone with that sweep.

Another thing I might try from here is to take-the-back. This might also set up a tackle insofar as if the guy turns away from me (inside shoulder in, outside shoulder back) to avoid the rear mount, that will make it easier for them to be swept with a tackle.

All for now. Off to class.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

First “Second Day of Training” in a Month

Tonight will be the first time in a month that I’ve trained more than once in a given week. Weather (and health) willing, I’ll be able to get back on track this week with training on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday (no gi).

Word has it that the 3rd Pacific Northwest Jiu Jitsu Championships were underwhelming. I’ll try and get a better review tonight, and I’ve asked around the message boards. But nothing is coming back. The location (Edgewood?) couldn’t have helped. And the weather wasn’t a plus. Mike (Two Stripe) told me that there weren’t any white belts. One of our white belts had to wait for hours before he finally learned there was no fight for him. Eventually he got his money back.

Tonight in training, my goals are the same as before: from the top, side control to knee on belly, and from knee on belly work Mamzinho’s “Three from the Knee.” From the bottom I want to work both the half-guard and Marcelinho/butterfly guard. From the half, let’s work on coming up on the inside knee for the tackles and getting the correct foot/leg position for the twists. Old School and Twist Back are the two sweeps I need to get down.

Also from the bottom I want to work on trying to break posture from the closed guard using Bravo’s Hug ‘n’ Drop. Eventually, there will be some rubber guard in there. But for now, let’s just try to consistently break posture.

I was trapped in Mike Two Stripe’s guard for far too long Monday night. It’s like rolling with an octopus with him; his guard replacement is really, really good. Though dealing with closed guards will become less and less an issue as I work with higher belts, I still need to get better at unlocking the hooks and pinning a leg to the mat. A few ideas: when I pin a leg down, if I can’t get my knee over instantly, then I need to stiff-arm that leg to the mat. If my arm is straight, then it will be that much more difficult for the guy to lift is leg than if I keep my arm bent—even bent a little.

Another idea: stand up. Never, never, never try to beat a guy’s guard on the ground. It can be done. But it is much easier to avoid traps if you stand up and THEN come back down.

Mike is too big to pick up, so no PTMU for him. What I need to do instead is get Cesar hand position, then stand up and put my feet perpendicular to each other for balance. Then back the back leg back while pushing (or, better, stiff arming) the leg on that side downward.

Drop the inside knee and pass around, OR drop the outside knee, wrap the head and backstep into side control.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

White Belt Problems

I'm learning that there are two things that you spend a lot of time thinking about if you are a white belt, or if you are rolling with a lot of white belts. Things that stop becoming as much of an issue as you roll with more experienced fighters.

The closed guard is one. As a white belt, I spent most of my time trying to figure out ways to unlock the hooks of the closed guard. This was largely because a lot of white belts don't want to open their guards because they feel like they'll just get passed. This leads to the Guard Lock of Death, where the guy just keeps his hooks locked around your back at all costs.

The other one for me has been the forearm across the throat. There's a place for this, I suppose. But the majority of the time that I've had to deal with it has been with white belts, often larger white belts who managed to get a dominant position like the mount.

Rodrigo showed me a nice, americana counter to that forearm--a counter I blanked out on last night during a sparring session. First, always look to the elbow. That's something I picked up from Matt Serra during an Ultimate Fighter episode. Second, secure the elbow and the wrist. You might be able to upa out of it if you've been mounted--but remember to trap the leg on that side, also.

Whether or not you upa first, the next move should happen pretty quickly. Slide the hand that was securing the elbow over his forearm and then under his wrist to grip your wrist in the americana position.

Throw the americana to the outside sharply, keeping the right angle of the bent arm intact. Be ready to ease off because if the guy doesn't roll over to take the pressure off, then the submission will be immediate. Rodrigo caught me with this move so quickly I didn't even realize what had happened.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Back at It ... (On the real, tho ...)

I’d hoped to return to regular training last week. I was at class Monday night on the eighth. But the Arctic blast we got mid-week last week drove me away from training Wednesday night (I was on my way when I realized that the roads just weren’t safe for driving) and Thursday night. Then there was the tournament on Saturday, the BJJ Spokane (“3rd Pacific Northwest Championships”) at Edgemont JHS in Edgewood—wherever that is/was. I thought we were heading out of town last weekend, but that fell through so I ended up staying in town, but missing the tournament.

I hadn’t planned on competing insofar as I’ve had about four practices in as many weeks and that’s no way to go into my first intermediate level (i.e., blue belt) tournament. Unfortunately, BJJ Spokane never posted the results of the LAST tournament they held (the “2nd Pacific Northwest Championships”), so I don’t know how many of our folks competed or how well they did. Hopefully, I can get a report tonight.

Next tournament from these guys (BJJ Spokane-Machado) is scheduled for April 14th—allegedly at the Tacoma Dome. I want to see how this last tournament was run before committing to their next one. I had a terrible time at the 2nd event (showed up at 9 a.m. didn’t fight until 3 p.m.). So I want to make sure they’ve got their organizational act together before committing another weekend morning and afternoon to their cause.

I say all that to say this: I’m back on the mat tonight, hoping for the first full week of training in a month (December 11, 13 and 14 was the last full week of training). I want to work on guard passing, sweeping from the guard and escapes in general. From the top, my “3 from the knee” remains the submission series I want to focus on.

I actually found myself trying to work some knee on belly a week ago when I showed up on Monday. I need to get more confident with this position, posturing up and going for the chokes and armbar. I still have a “side control” mentality about knee on belly that keeps me too close to be able to do any work.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bye, Bye Bravo

Sadly, it turns out that the video clips of Eddie Bravo doing the rubber guard and Jiu Claw were from a product sold by BudoVideos who has, unfortunately, invoked their copyright protections to have the videos removed.

I hope you got a chance to check them out. I’ll probably do a summary of some of the main points about the rubber guard—maybe in bullet point fashion or something—before the end of the week.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Eddie Bravo Rubber Guard Basics

Three great videos featuring Bravo and Dean Lister. Some interesting insights into the rubber guard game of B.J. Penn, as well. That, and Eddie's explanation of how Mark Coleman beats Fedor--really!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Almighty Aesopian: The Marcelinho Guard

Aesopian's Totally Awesome Journal is simply that: the best jiu jitsu blog in the known universe. I've mentioned Aesopian before, and am delinquent in putting a link on the main page. But his blogwork is most deserving. Hail the mighty mighty Aesopian!

The latest cause for celebration is this breakdownof my favorite guard, the Marcelinho guard as practiced by the greatest pound for pound jiu jitsu competitor around, Marcelo Garcia.

I've been bumbling about for the past few months with an improvised Marcelinho guard stitched together with my most basic impressions of Marcelo Garcia's game. This breakdown (for whom much credit goes to jiu jitsu colleague "Leo" as to Aesopian for some of the hardcore analysis work) is a godsend for those of us looking to add aspects of Marcelo's guard game into ours.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Best BJJ in MMA

One of my favorite discussion topics is: which fighter has the best jiu jitsu in mixed martial arts?

Eddie Bravo (love him or hate him) has a great preface to his book, Jiu Jitsu Unleashed. While he is mostly talking about his own evolution as a jiu jitero, he is also talking about the evolution of jiu jitsu in mixed martial arts. Sure, Bravo is known as a fairly aggressive anti-gi guy (gi agnostic is probably more accurate and more fair), but many of his concerns as a jiu jitero are those that many of us (read: me) struggle with.

How do you break somebody's posture and keep it broken? How can small guys with short legs utilize the closed guard? How can you become comfortable about going for broke with submissions when you are afraid your game from the bottom is not up to par?

One of Bravo's best observations is the struggle that many jiu jiteros have with the "explosiveness" of wrestlers. While Bravo talks about his rubber guard, for example, as a solution in no gi to the absence of the collar and sleeve as grips, for me the rubber guard is a fantastic tool against wrestlers' "explosiveness" as well as larger fighters with good posture in the closed guard.

Anyway, I say all that to say this: Pride lightweight contender Shinya Aoki has done a better job of using the rubber guard in mixed martial arts than anybody I've ever seen. Moreover, as the highlight below points out, Aoki has a solid non-rubber guard game, as well as a very good game from the top (including takedowns). From what I've read, Aoki has a lot of judo experience, but has been focusing on jiu jitsu more of late. I believe he trains under the legendary Japanese fighter Yuki Nakai, who battled the bigger Rickson Gracie more than a decade ago (a fight that is chronicled in the documentary, Choke.)

So, does Aoki have the best BJJ in MMA? I gave Matt Hughes a lot of credit for being the reigning submission king of the UFC. For a while, nobody in the UFC was submitting their opponents with more regularity than Hughes. Over his 40-5 career, 56% of his finishes (and Hughes finished 32 of his opponents) came by submission.

But jiu jitsu isn't just submissions. It's about a philosophy of succeeding in conflict. Submissions notwithstanding, fighters like Hughes (and Sean Sherk, another wrestler who has submitted a number of opponents) are not submitting opponents from the bottom with any regularity--if at all. And while I hate the notion that jiu jitsu = fighting from the bottom, the ability to successfully defeat an opponent from a "disadvantageous" position like the bottom is one hallmark of the art.

Which brings me back to Aoki. I don't know if he's got the best jiu jitsu in MMA right now. But he's got a lot of grapplers thinking about it. I've started to wonder if there aren't two really successful approaches to the guard in mixed martial arts: a closed guard game that favors the taller, more long-limbed fighters, and a rubber guard game that requires exceptional (but not necessarily genetically exclusive) hip flexibility. Along with BJ Penn, who often works for omoplatas and gogoplatas from the guard, Aoki seems to fall in that latter category.

And as somebody with a body type that is almost perfectly midway between BJ's and Shinya's (and Bravo's, for that matter), I won't pretend that the rubber guard--and what I'd need to achieve it--hasn't gotten my attention.

But enough about me ... Enjoy.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

"During fights, there comes a moment without fail when an opponent makes a mistake. That moment can not be missed. If they both miss the chance, it will be a long fight, and as a result one or the other will sooner or later not be able to fight any longer. It is by no means a fight to be praised. A great fighter is required to never miss a chance."
--Rickson Gracie