Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Worth a Thousand Words

Staring at jiu jitsu pictures for me is a lot like the chess "problems" that appear in the comics sections of newspapers. I just like to look and try and tell myself everything I should be able to do from a given position: escape, sweep, submit, pass ...
This photograph of John Simon, an Australian black belt, is my current jiu jitsu "thought problem" for that amalgam of butterfly, Marcelinho, sitting guards that I've collectively referred to as my "Lotus guard."

From here, on offense, I like the Stuff Sweep, Poosh the Guy and the basic collar choke for which no clever name has yet been assigned ... Simon's "lazy passes", on the other side, are also worth working on--especially insofar as they resemble some of the stuff Rodrigo showed us awhile back about passing the butterfly guard.

How's Your Portuguese?

For a few months, I had a jiu jitsu "crush" on the game of Fabricio Werdum. It struck me after watching an ADCC match between him and Matt Lindland--a match I've posted about before. Maybe it was the sweet armbar from rear mount finish, or the windmill sweep attacks, or that crazy judo armlock he kept trying to throw on Lindland straight out of the closed guard. Hell, maybe it was the Tabla music playing in the background. But for a while, I was trying to see as much Werdum in action as I could.
I'm over that. (now I'm obsessed with Robert Drysdale's game ...). But I'm still keeping tabs on Werdum. Here's a recent interview with Fabricio taken from Tatame magazine. It's in Portuguese, and I was surprised at how much of it I can still read. Speaking and understanding spoken Portuguese remains another thing, altogether. But it is nice to know that I haven't lost everything I spent a few years back in the late 1980s trying to put together.

Monday, February 26, 2007

"Ah Been Down Since I Began to Crawl ..."

It’s hard to describe the feeling of missing still yet another day of work because of still yet another eye injury—the fourth in five months—though the song, “Born Under a Bad Sign” seemed to be a fitting piece of the soundtrack ... Or at least it did on Thursday as was laying in bed in the dark with my eyes closed to promote maximum (and speedy) healing—a trick I’ve unfortunately figured out due to more practice than I’d prefer--as the codeine worked its way through my nervous system.

At this point, I’m not sure exactly what I need to be doing to keep this from happening. The doctor thinks a major problem is dehydration. Because the eyes are, apparently, the last part of the body to be hydrated (consider the pecking order that includes kidneys, liver and so on), my failure to remain adequately hydrated means that my eyes will be especially susceptible to injury. This includes even the abuse our corneas take during REM sleep. Combine that with the dry air of heaters during this winter season (it’s worth nothing that my eye problems began when the heaters came on in October) and you get what I’ve got.
An accidental scratch precipitated this most recent episode, which is both depressing and not-so-depressing. “Not-so-depressing” because this may mean that everything else I’m doing: the eye drops, the eye ointment, the fish oil pills, the water … is working. “Depressing” because it just does to show that you can’t ward off everything, and even if the eye is adequately hydrated, a freak occurrence can still pop up and set things back.

As such, I’m taking three classes off (Thursday, tonight, and Wednesday) out of my usual rotation, which will put me back on the mat Thursday night. I’d argue that my eye is back to about 90% right now—after a setback Saturday likely caused by spending too much time at work under the fluorescents on Friday. Part of the time I’m taking is for healing, to be sure. But part of it is plainly psychological. I just need some time to pass so that I don’t feel as if every time I step on the mat, something unpleasant and painful is going to happen to my eye.

It may be superstitious, but four separate incidents in five months is almost enough to make me break out the chicken blood and start dancing around like Lisa Bonet in Angel Heart to keep this madness from happening again. So instead, I’ll wait until Thursday.

Aside from the eye injury from last Wednesday, it wasn’t the greatest training session for me. I’m still trying to get my wind back from the winter holidays, and after the eye thing, I was rolling pretty defensively for the rest of the night (the injury happened within the first ten minutes of class). That made me a little touchy, and some of what happened and what was said in and during subsequent rolls got on my nerves so much that I actually had a dream Friday night in which Rodrigo was trying to reel me in from some rage or other. It’s been said that a high school senior is older in many ways than a college freshman, and I think something similar can be said about first year blue belts. And Wednesday, in a variety of unfortunate ways, I got that sensation in spades.

In any event, everything that happens is an opportunity to know something you didn’t know before (whether you wanted to know or not). So I’ll consider both the good and the ill of last week well-filed away for further reference.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

We Are All Eddie Bravo Now

Nick Diaz submits PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi with a gogoplata. (Photo courtesy of

First Responders

Rolling with Tommy again last Tuesday was a reminder of my susceptibility to the triangle choke. I even got caught in one Wednesday night against Peter. In both instances, I thrashed around a lot. But because I didn't really have a plan, I ended up tapping both times.

Defense in jiu jitsu, it seems to me, is fundamentally about first response. If you make the right first decision to stack against an armbar from the guard, to posture against a triangle choke, then I'd bet you're halfway home to escaping and more than halfway home to at least not being submitted "right now." I like to think of the necessary series of moves to escape a bad position. But what seems increasingly important is to make the right first move--if only to give yourself a few seconds to process a more complete escape.

Against the triangle choke, this means pulling from the basic rules ("posturing") and the basic escapes (Mamazinho's "C.C. Grinder" and Pereira's "Midget Slam") the key "first response" that makes them work. Right now, that first response, seems to be to come up on the knee ("Knee Up") on the same side as the trapped arm in the triangle choke.

I've written before about watching OTM's 101 Submission Series and noticing that nobody who was shown tapping to a triangle choke so much as tried to come up on the trapped side knee. It was amazing to notice that. Plenty tried to come up on the other knee but that never worked. The problems with going Knee Up on the choke side are enormous. For one, the guy on the bottom can underhook that Knee Up to get an even better angle for the choke. It's really the self-defeating equivalent of trying to stand out of an armbar from the guard.

Even if the guy on the bottom doesn't take advantage of a Knee Up on the choke side, the second problem is that the physics of the defense are wrong in terms of leaving you vulnerable to both a sweep and further choking. With regard to the sweep, I'm reminded of the point Cesar Gracie makes in the "passing the guard" portion of his instructional DVD. You want to make sure that your base is covered. With one arm trapped in a triangle choke, you are vulnerable to being swept in the direction of that trapped arm. Going Knee Up on the choke side doesn't nothing to change that. Even worse, it exposes that leg to an underhook that can lead very easily to a sweep or further choking (see previous paragraph).

With regard to "further choking", the problem is that a Knee Up on the choke side actually makes the choke worse. Instead of the choke simply being between pressure on your arm against your neck on one side, and the guy's leg against your neck on the other--which obviously is bad enough--the choke is amplified by the squeezing effect the Knee Up on the choking side has on your upper body. And the more you push off with the Knee Up on that side, the more you push yourself into the choke that your arm is complicit in on the other side.

In contrast, going Knee Up on the trapped side actually helps relieve the pressure of your arm against your neck by helping push your shoulder forward (which moves your upper arm forward). When you consider how we're always told when doing the triangle choke to get as little "shoulder" into the choke as possible, you can see why going Knee Up on the trapped side helps.

Going Knee Up on the trapped side also provides you with the strongest possible base from which to regain posture. I've had well-meaning teammates shout "posture!" to me from the sidelines on more than one occasion. But what I've needed was to understand the actual mechanics of regaining posture, the action, not just the goal. Against the triangle choke, getting the Knee Up on the trapped side is the action--or at least the first one.

With the Knee Up on the trapped side, it is easy to see how you can shift into either the C.C. Grinder or Midget Slam escapes. With the C.C. Grinder, that Knee Up on the trapped side will be the knee that you drive into the bottom guy's chest as you grind counter-clockwise, the trapped hand bringing the gi collar across the throat like a slow-motion hook to the jaw. With the Midget Slam, that Knee Up on the trapped side gives you the leverage so that after you've got your hands on the knee of the choking leg, you can twist down and hard, pinning that leg on the mat.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Hilo Guard

These days, I've got a name for everything: Rodeo, Super Freak, Watch Dog, King Crimson ... Sure, in some ways, it's a page out of the Eddie Bravo playbook to come up with crazy names for different positions and situations. But there's a mnemonic aspect that I've already started to appreciate. Finding myself in a situation and thinking "okay, he's standing in my closed guard. Underhook him at the ankles and push my hips out and then, if I get the sweep, remember to bring my legs inside his and grab his ankle and use a shin sweep to get to the top" is one thing ...

Being able to say "Super Freak to The Fugitive" is another.

So we'll see how that goes. At any rate, the "hilo guard" is the newest addition to my little jiu jitsu nomenclature. Basically, all the hilo guard is about is putting both feet on the hips when in the otherwise "closed" guard.

Stephan made an interesting point the other night--a point I've heard more than once from other higher belts. For a lot of advanced jiu jitsu guys, the point isn't so much "closed guard" versus "open guard". It's just "guard." You want to have some measure of control over the hips and some measure of control over the hands/upper body. But you can get that control based on locking your legs around a guy's waist, or putting a foot in the hip, or putting in one or double butterfly hooks or, as in the case of the "hilo guard", both feet in the hips.

It's a good example of what I wrote in an e-mail to Rebecca earlier today: jiu jitsu isn't a set of techniques, some sack of clever movements. It's a philosophy of engagement. And understanding what the purpose of the guard is, is probably more important in the long run than knowing a specific set of techniques from the guard.

So I'm thinking about this "hilo guard" as a way of helping me do something that my guard game has seriously lacked: control over the hips. I've gotten better about fighting for the grips, especially the collar and the sleeve. But my legwork remains lacking. I'm thinking that maybe "pre-heating" my legwork from the guard by putting both feet in the hips from time to time, will help me focus on using my legs more to create space and control the guy on top.

Dennis and the Double Leg

I have a hard time with the sort of double leg shoot that Dennis Kang, a top middleweight MMA fighter, does in the screen captures below with perfection. Specifically, I'm wondering if I have to drop the lead shooting knee completely to the mat, or is the deep lunge enough.

I remember watching Cindy practice this takedown in laps around the mat months ago. I think I've got a pretty good shoot, and can change levels pretty well. But dropping to the knee in this particular move remains a problem for me. Working a little bit with the deep lunge, I think I can get deep enough--and explode upward strong and fast enough--for this move to be effective without the knee drop. But we'll have to see as I try it in training.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Guard Replacement Move

A few weeks back, Maggie was trying to explain a guard replacement shoulder roll she thought I could have pulled off during one of our training sessions. She wasn't exactly sure how to describe it, but I was pretty sure of what she meant. I think these stills from Ryan Hall's most recent first-place winning performance at Grapplers Quest do a decent job of highlighting how that guard replacement move works.

See the whole fight here.

One key: the move is based on using your top leg as the pivot or post. That leg will essentially remain in place. Get small in your half guard (or passed guard, before your opponent gets to side control). Dip your up shoulder to the mat and curl inward. With your lower leg, you do a sort of backstep roll in the direction the guy is trying to pass toward.

A Shoulder Lock from Marcelo

Marcelo's instruction is here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Return of the Son of the Far Side Armbar

Here's some more on that far side armbar. These are stills from a match between Marc Laimon and Chris Brennan. Laimon outweights Brennan by some 25 pounds, but the finish to this fight is somewhat similar to the finish between Brennan and Marcelo Garcia in ADCC 2005.

Laimon's setup here seems like it comes after trying to catch Brennan in a kimura or something and Brennan bucked out of it. I could be wrong, but that's what the entry looks like to me.

See the armbar in action here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Two Browns and a Blue

Last night’s training was a hoot and a half. Four of us were there: Stephan, Michelle/Wags, Chris and myself. Monday and Wednesday classes, I’ve discovered, are really at 6:30 p.m. not 6 p.m., which gives people a little more time to arrive from work or wherever. It also means that I don’t need to try and leave early from the office on those afternoons, which means I’ll still be able to rack up the comp time to split for home on Fridays an hour early.

Anyway, only Stephan, Chris and myself did the class, which was really just an intensive training session. We worked on specifics: mount, side control, half guard, rear mount and passing the guard. Everybody went with everybody for two minutes (except for passing the guard, which was three). After that, everybody sparred with everybody twice for five minutes each.

I’d take a class like that every week. I got manhandled most of the night, but it was fun trying to work my escapes and techniques on guys like Stephan and Chris (both brown belts, by the way). There’s a certain freedom I feel sometimes when rolling with higher belts. Maybe it’s the freedom to screw up and not feel bad or embarrassed about it. I know that there are times rolling with white belts—pretty much only those that outweigh me by double digits—that I slip into the “I Must Not Be Tapped” mode. I know it’s wrong and counterproductive, largely because it prevents me from taking chances and trying techniques that should be staples given my preferences and style (paging “far side armbar” … white courtesy telephone for “far side armbar” …). And as the kids say, I’m working on it. But last night was a relief in that regard, at least: the sense that I couldn’t fail whatever I did.

Focusing on what I did that I liked, I was impressed with my rear mount, mostly the harness. No, I wasn’t able to convert it into an effective choke. But it was clear that the details I’d been studying about the harness, the idea of getting over overarm deep over the shoulder AND tight against the neck, the idea of getting the handclasp no higher than the guy’s heart-level, both worked very well in terms of getting me in the right position to execute the choke. Much like my attempt to stand to pass the guard Monday, I wasn’t exactly “successful”, but I liked the fact that I’m cobbling this technique together, piece by piece.

My closed guard is still a mess. I need to go back to some old notes I used to keep on what I want to be doing from here. Part of the problem is that much (though not all) of the closed guard is about breaking posture, and I’m terrible at that. One alternative is the crossover sweep, which I have done successfully a few times in the past. The Werdum series is also something I should consider if breaking the posture is a problem—and it is.

Another major point of improvement—but one I feel pretty good about being able to work on—is my Marcelinho guard. Or, as Aesopian calls it, butt scooting. Over the course of the evening, I got better at some of the fundamentals like leaning my weight forward over my feet and fighting off the grips. But there are still some significant holes that I hope to fill over the next week.

What are those holes? Some are important but minor like Aesopian’s admonition “arms out, palms up” which I suspect helps both in breaking grips and in setting up armdrags and collar grips (for snapdowns). But the main hole is that I really don’t have an attack from Marcelinho guard. As such, I end up sitting there in great position, fighting off the other guy’s hands all day. Since I’m not really attacking, sooner or later he gets a grip of some sort and puts me on the defensive.

I’m linking to Aesopian’s “Becoming a Better Butt Scooter” post. But I also want to just note right here what some of the major attacks are. He lists armdrags to take-the-back as one of the chief ones, obviously, insofar as that is part of Marcelinho’s arsenal. But he also includes snapdowns against guys with posture or on their knees, as well as single legs in the event that they stand to pass your guard.

The other main attack is to move into a proper butterfly guard or cross guard (i.e., x-guard). I was thinking about it last night after class and realized that I rarely use butterfly hooks to lift my opponent. That’s probably because a lot of the time guys are in good posture against me, so lifting them up doesn’t seem like a great strategy. But lifting one side and kicking out the support on the other is a key way to break a guy’s base down, so I need to start really working my butterfly guard so I can get a feel for what I’m supposed to be doing.

On that score, I should probably look at Kesting’s great stuff on the butterfly guard over at GrappleArts.

All in all, one of the most intense and fun classes I’ve had all year. I get a little freaked out when classes are small and I start to fear that people will stop coming (it WAS Valentine’s Day, though). But I can’t help but enjoy the attention and appreciate the experience you get when there are just a few of you on the mat and you’re the least experienced of the bunch.

Gracie Insider: Armlock from Back Control

This move is the coup de gras of the “Werdum Series” as I’ve been calling it. Here, two of the younger Gracies show step-by-step how to apply the armlock from back control. It is an excellent option when your opponent rolls away from your RNC attack.

As the video shows, if your opponent rolls down into the choke, so that the choking elbow is down on the mat, then you are in good shape to finish off the submission. If he rolls in the other direction, there is still a decent chance at finishing him, but there is a nice alternative in the armlock.

We’ll assume that you’ve got the harness on, and are reaching under with the other arm to control the wrist.

1. He rolls away from the choke. The elbow on your choking arm is up in the air.
2. Put your choke-side foot on the hip. This is the foot on the leg that is up.
3. Take the bottom leg and cross it up across his lower chest—almost touching the guy’s opposite elbow. It is as if you were trying to put a figure-four body lock on him.
4. Let go of the wrist control and, instead, underhook that arm at the bicep/elbow with your lower arm. Bring that arm toward your chest.
5. With your upper arm, let go of the choke and bring your arm around between you and his face. Push his face away from you to create space.
6. Lift your upper leg up, over and in front of his face
7. Drop back into the armlock.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Takedowns and Le Spin apres le Sprawl

Now that I’m back on a more regular training schedule, I can devote more time (more posts) to some of the actual instruction I’m getting. I’ve found myself going back to look up details on a number of techniques over the past several days, reminding me of how valuable this blog can be if I build it correctly.

So with that, a look at Monday night’s class. Mamazinho had us work on quite a bit of standup, especially the double leg and the duck under. There were two different types of double leg that he showed us. The first is just the “crouch and shoot” variety that I like: penetration step with the lead foot while dropping low, then stepping up parallel with the other foot as you lock behind the knees/lower thighs and lift, then a step to the side with what was the lead foot as you turn and take the guy down.

The second one is the one I used to see Cindy practicing all the time as a warm-up. In this version, you are looking to get even lower to deal with an opponent with a very low posture. Here, the penetration step is a knee drop. Everything else is the same.

What makes this variation difficult for me is that I feel as if I’m going off balance when I drop down on my forward knee. The duck under—which I’ll talk about in a minute—also has you drop down on your forward knee. But the difference is that with the drop down double leg, your knee drop has to be a penetration move. In other words, you don’t drop straight down so much as you drop forward.

It will take some practice. But it seems like a great takedown if you can hit it

Last was the duck under. Again, this one involves a knee drop with the forward leg. But because you are not really making a penetration move out of it, it seems a little easier for me to pull off without feeling like I’m losing my balance.

Mamazinho sets up the duck under takedown by grabbing the sleeve and the collar. Pull up on the sleeve and drop the forward knee. As you come back up, duck under the arm of the sleeve you control and, as you turn into the guy, pull on the collar. The combination of the twisting motion (as you turn into him) and the yank on the collar makes this a hard takedown to resist. Mamazinho highlighted also the detail of picking up the guy’s near leg as you rise, turn and tug on the collar.

The duck under can also be a set up for a take-the-back move, as well as an ankle pick, it seems to me. Good stuff.

The second half of the instruction had to do with spinning out to take the back. Maybe the guy is in a turtle defensive position. Maybe he shot in, you sprawled, but he grabbed a leg (behind the knee). What you want to do is spin out toward the same side as the trapped leg. Practicing this Monday night, I got a little confused from time to time about which direction to spin. But as I think about it, I’m reminded of that move I saw in that ADCC 2005 match where the guy had his leg trapped, but managed to escape by spinning around “backwards” toward the guy’s head. He almost wound up in a knee on belly position.

So if the guy under you grabs around your right leg, you want to reach over his back with your right hand as you turn toward the left. Your trapped leg is like a post that you spin around; since he’s got it trapped, there’s no sense in trying to free it directly. So you use the fact that he is committed himself to holding on to your leg to attack his body.

I’m going to go over this before class a few times to make sure I’m thinking this through correctly. But it seems to make more sense than trying to yank your leg free by spinning in the other direction. If the guy’s lock on your leg is strong, then that simply won’t work.

You can finish at the side or at the back. Make sure that you’ve got control of the inside elbow and are checking the inside hip, also.

From there Mamazinho had us work on the clock choke. Though I’m no Wallid Ismail when it comes to the clock choke, it is the one choke I’ve had some success with (compared to the RNC or the basic cross collar choke or the winding choke or the baseball choke …). We worked on the basic set-up for the clock choke, with Mamazinho emphasizing not getting too far out in front of the guy when you are applying the choke, as well as putting your weight on the guy’s shoulder and sitting back and up. The guy I was training with (George?) a purple belt pointed out that you can also increase the torque on the choke by levering your wrist downward, as if you were tapping a stick on a surface. I want to make sure I’m remembering that one right, also. It seems like a nice detail to be mindful of.

I keep feeling that I’m forgetting a third move from this basic turtle/sprawl-to-back spin out stuff. But it’s just not coming to me. If I remember it, then I’ll note it in an update or another post.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The OG

I’ve been subscribing to Lloyd Irvin black belt, Paul Greenhill’s e-mail service from his website, Greenhill is what he calls an “OG”, which stands for “older grappler.” In a humorous, yet serious way, Greenhill’s free e-mail service provides tips and insights that can be valuable for the “over-35 grappler”, as well as smaller women grapplers, recreational grapplers and grapplers coming back from injury, particularly when dealing with what Greenhill calls “the young punk.”
No, not THAT kind of "OG"!

What is “the young punk”? Greenhill puts it this way:
To the young punks, we OGs are nothing more than moving and breathing grappling dummies that makes them feel good about themselves. The young punk always feel like a bad ass after he’s beaten up a 40+ year old man or 100lbs woman that made an honest mistake by getting on the mat with them thinking the young punk would be a good training partner. And since I’ve been watching and battling these assholes for all these years and I never seem to stop hearing stories from other OGs about being beaten up and hurt by these punks.
More than dealing with “the young punk”, Greenhill provides advice on how OGs can set reasonable expectations for their instructor, their training partners and themselves. Little that Greenhill says is earth-shattering. I suspect, like Lloyd Irvin’s work, much of what Greenhill has to say can be either divined elsewhere or figured out on one’s own. But also like Lloyd Irvin’s work, Greenhill’s website is creative, original and very much well-worth subscribing to, in my opinion. I look forward to each e-mail.

Here’s the most recent one. It focuses on conditioning, something that is important for all grapplers, but particularly important for OGs who find themselves competing against the strength, quickness and endurance of many a younger training partner, young punk or not. The previous e-mail dealt with properly warming up and included a tip about using Mineral Ice (or a generic alternative) regularly before heading out to class.

Anyway, here is advice worth remembering on the proper kind of conditioning that will help make us all better grapplers.
“Survival Secret #7B - The second tip of The Training Triangle is the physical conditioning. Like I said in the last email, sparring does NOT get you into shape. It will reveal what kind of shape you are in, but grappling champions aren't depending on sparring to get them in shape. When you're training for grappling competitions, you need a conditioning routine that focuses on high intensity intervals with short periods of rest. Because it's so easy to be lazy when you're sparring, especially when you get fatigued, you will not give maximum output with continuous movement. There are too many opportunities for you to rest. If you are resting most of the time, instead of moving and bursting, you can't get in shape that way. That's why successful grappling competitors have conditioning coaches that put them thru off-the-mat routines to push their cardio capacity to enable them to be more productive during sparring.

Another mistake that is made with conditioning is applying the wrong type of conditioning to grappling. Long-distance running will get you in shape, but won't produce the best results for grappling like short-distance sprints will. Sprints are close to replicating the physical output of grappling because it requires maximum output for a brief interval, rest, and then repeating the interval. If you do decide to do some kind of off-the-mat cardio program, it must be an interval-type training with burst and rest periods because that's how sparring sessions and grappling matches go. Grapplers burst for periods of time, then they stop to rest, burst again, rest, burst again, and repeat this process until the training period is over. You don't need to be engaging in long distance running or any type of activity where you are at one interval level for a long period of time. If you think sitting on your bicycle at the gym for twenty or thirty minutes is going to help you on the mat, it won't help as much as you think. I agree, it's better than nothing, but it's not giving you what you need to perform on the mat.

If you decide to try an off-the-mat cardio routine, you need to check with your doctor to ensure that it's ok for you to engage in an routine to augment your grappling training. Make sure that the program you are using was put together from someone who knows what they're talking about and the cardio routine was designed specifically for someone of your age group. Don't follow any cardio routines that somebody gives you over the Internet, especially from some young punk that's trying to "toughen up" the OG.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Catch Me If You Can

If there's a difference between catch wrestling and jiu jitsu, then I'm willing to bet the ability/willingness to move your ass is among the top candidates.

Jiu jitu is all about leverage. Just like judo. The maxim, position before submission, doesn't even tell the whole story. You could almost argue that in jiu jitsu, the position is the submission.

And the only way to achieve the "submission position" is to move your body. And the only way to move your body is to move your ass.

I haven't trained a day in catch wrestling. But I've got a lot of "wrestler" in my game. Sure, I've only got one year of high school wrestling under my belt. But even after a year and a half of training in jiu jitsu, the wrestler in me stands out like a red gi on a white belt.

That's no crime. There are plenty of guys with a lot of wrestling in their jiu jitsu who are nonetheless effective gi fighters. Leo Viera is the first one who comes to mind ...

But it shows up in my game in ways I don't especially like. It makes it easy for me to linger in side control instead of going for a real jiu jitsu "submission position" like knee on belly or that sort of reverse S-mount that happens right before dropping the far side armlock. It makes it easy for me to not move my hips to the side to better attack with armbars and triangles--short legs or not. And it is little surprise that after a year and a half, my best submission remains the keylock, a shoulder crank that doesn't require a lot of body position (i.e., somewhat position agnostic, you could say) in order to be effective.

That last bit about the keylock really defines catch wrestling for me, right or wrong. If I wanted to be a big meanie about it, then I'd say the spirit of catch wrestling boils down to "Just Grab Something and Twist."

But if becoming a catch wrestler is just a paving stone on my road to becoming a more complete jiu jitsu guy, then so be it.

Far Side Armbar

I’m forever finding myself in side control. One of my goals for 2007 is to change those side control situations into knee on belly situations, and from knee on belly to launch the “three from the knee” attacks that Mamazinho showed us.

But one other attack that I need to be aware of from this position—or even from side control—is the far side armbar. This is another technique that I’ve been shown many times before, but never really practiced it like I should. It is an excellent compliment to the “three from the knee.”

Here’s a quick, seven second clip of two youngsters showing off the far side armbar in a field somewhere, just as a refresher. It ain't perfect--but it's perfect enough to make the point.

There are a couple of keys. You can start from side control or knee on belly. You want to trap the far side arm with your south arm. Maybe you were going for a keylock or a kimura and the guy straightened his arm out to defend. You can reach under the guy’s arm at the elbow with your north arm, lift it up, and then get your south arm underneath if necessary. He can straighten his arm and then stick it straight up—which will only help. Or he can bend his arm and expose himself to another keylock or kimura attack. Either way works for you.

Trap the arm with your south side arm. Wrap it and bring it as close and tight to you as possible. Then open your hips up to the north side, and get ready to take a step over the guy’s head. STAY LOW AND TIGHT!

Reach out with your north hand and put it on the mat at about 10 o’clock for balance. Then, as you take the step—staying low and tight—rotate your body clockwise, turning towards the south. Hold on to that arm and pull him into you so that the armlock is tight.

Your trailing leg will be the one that pins the shoulder. It will be under his other armpit, but don’t worry about that. As Stephan pointed out the other day, as long as you’ve got the shoulder trapped, you’ve got an armlock.

Pull him toward you and squeeze the knees. Make sure the thumb is pointing up. Cautiously raise your hips against the back of his arm to get the lock and the tap.

Rei Renzo

Renzo Gracie defeats Frank Shamrock after Shamrock is disqualified for illegal knee strikes to the back of the head. For what it's worth--and it's worth a lot to me--Renzo was dominating the fight, taking Shamrock down with nice single legs finished off with inside and outside reaps. Renzo was dominant from side control, moving to knee on belly and at times looking to set up armlocks and kimuras. Frank was effective in the stand-up, landing single punches from time to time. But he could not defend Renzo's persistent takedown attack and ground dominance.
Renzo is now 3-0 in his last three fights, with wins over Pat Militech, Carlos Newton and now Frank Shamrock.

See the fight here. See some post fight commentary here.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Beat the Body Triangle!

Renner and Ryron to the rescue!

Butterfly Guard Passes

More good stuff from Aesopian.

I need to post a link to the butterfly guard passes Rodrigo was showing us a few months back ... Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ankle Pick

Courtesy of Joseph Garza and

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Beauty of the Mata Leao

I was watching a little Marcelo Garcia after getting my Berardi dumbbell complexes in this morning. One thing I’ve always said about Marcelo Garcia that I absolutely love is that not only is he a finisher, but also he finishes with the quintessential jiu jitsu finish: the meta leao or rear naked choke.

I say that it is the quintessential jiu jitsu finish because it incorporates all of the key aspects of jiu jitsu. It is effective for a smaller person against a larger adversary because you engage them where they are weakest and you are strongest (i.e., from behind). It is effective as an attack because chokes are by far the most efficient way to finish a fight. The choke out is to jiu jitsu what the ippon is to judo and the knockout is to striking arts—except for the fact that the choke is far more efficient. As Helio once said, nobody can grow muscles to protect their neck! A fighter may tolerate a broken arm from an armlock (Jacare did in his fight against Roger Gracie). A fighter may have an iron chin (such as Mark Hunt) and be incredibly difficult to knock out. But if you collapse the arteries delivering blood to the brain, there isn’t any room for discussion. Enter the sandman.

So that’s part of what’s great about Marcelo Garcia.

Here are a couple of observations that I think have been prevented me from taking better advantage of this position:

1. You must attack the neck: I make the same mistake when trying to triangle choke people. You don’t want any shoulder in your choke. The more shoulder you have in your choke, the harder it will be to get the finish.

I had a Eureka moment the other day watching Cesar Gracie explain the triangle choke as a counter to what I used to call the David Loiseau way of passing the guard—i.e., jamming the points of your elbows into the inner thighs of the guy on the bottom. Cesar has the guard guy lift the leg that will be choking the guy straight back first, THEN swinging it down almost like an axe kick against the side of the neck. You don’t bring it straight over because you’re likely to get too much shoulder. By bringing it straight back and THEN over and straight down, you are likely to get as close to the neck as possible.

Something similar is at work with the “harness” grip that Marcelo uses to get such great mata leao positioning. You want to bring that choking arm over the shoulder, but AS CLOSE TO THE NECK AS POSSIBLE. Thinking about it this morning, I was saying to myself that if you could rotate your shoulder over so that your arm could swing perfectly up and down that would be ideal. Another way of thinking about it is that the “clasp” that locks the harness should be right by the guy’s heart. The only way you can get the clasp that deep is if your over-reaching arm is close to the guy’s neck. Otherwise your arm won’t reach and the clasp will be closer to the middle of his chest—or worse.

That side of the choke will ultimately be delivered by your bicep. Not your forearm, not the crook of your elbow, but by the pressure of your bicep pushing against the artery on that side of the guy’s neck. Remember that you want to be able to reach around his neck and over the back of the guy’s OTHER shoulder and dig your fingertips into the ridge right behind his trapezium.

Do the Marcelo/Taco Bell “good to go” hand swim to get the other hand behind the neck. And as with all chokes, once in position: SQUEEZE THE ELBOWS/KNEES TOGETHER AND TOWARD YOU.

2. The other Marcelo tip is much smaller, but is worth noting. If you have flexible hips, then it is easier to put hooks in and keep them there. It is also easier to get those hooks higher up on the thighs, where they can be easier to grab, but harder to remove. Besides, any time he is using his hands to fight your hooks, you should be able to more effectively attack his neck. So let’s work those hip openers and glute stretches!

Sunday, February 04, 2007


"The more you attack
the more your opponent will make mistakes.
The more you attack, the more he will have to defend
You shouldn't be defending all the time
Anytime you defend you are losing the fight
Losing time to attack."
--Marcelo Garcia

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Notes on Copa NW 9

If I directed a documentary of Gracie Barra Seattle since Mamazinho and Rodrigo opened shop in the Tully's warehouse, it would probably start with ten minutes of nothing but that flight of red wooden stairs from the truck landing to "the room."

I could hear the muffled voices of the people already watching the competition. I actually felt my heart race a little when I got to the top of the stairs. That would be as loud as the voices would get until I would know exactly what attacks, what escapes, what submissions they were cheering about.

It couldn't have been any more intense than to make my way through the crowd toward the edge of the nearest mat and see Lindsey locked up with the guy who would eventually win the blue belt division. I've said it before that I think Lindsey is one of the most interesting of those who got their blue belts in my cohort (Griff and Jason are the other two). And the fact that he is also only a weight division above me makes it easy for me to relate to the challenges his opponents present. So, at the culmination of a week that had me preparing anxiously for and then forsaking entirely my first tournament as a blue belt, I have to admit that seeing Lindsey competing on the mat was a little like seeing myself.

The tournament was typically exciting and well-done. All gi this time, which suits me just fine. I missed Mike's fight, which sounded worth watching, and also the fights of the other white belt who for awhile was the only other regularly training white belt that was older than me. I also think I missed Dave's fight, which doesn't make sense for some reason. I ended up catching the second half of Lindsey's, and some great battles in the purple belt division between Yuki (?), Casey and a tough guy from New Breed Jiu Jitsu (I think that's the name). Good, good stuff. I could have watched them compete all day.

There were also a bunch of black belt fights--and I'm going on record right now as saying that it is a beautiful thing when all gi tournaments feature black belt matches. Props to Bartinho of BJJ Spokane for taking on all three of the black belts there. I've had mixed feelings toward him in the past; he seemed to be always after me for stalling when he was an opposing coach or referee. But today he showed me something about the spirit of competition that I hope to never forget.

The fight of the day, in my opinion, was Casey and Yuki, though I might give Yuki submission of the day for the armbar he stuck with and won with in the elimination round. That said, Brian's baseball choke win in the black belt division was especially nice, in part because I could see him setting it up when he was griping the back of the collar. I love that choke--though I think I've only gotten it once. And seeing Brian move toward it was like knowing from the sound of the ball off the bat that a home run was coming.

A great day. A lot of us weren't competing. Jeff blew up his knee, I learned. Angela didn't compete nor did Griff. Jesse was taking pictures. I'm guessing there weren't any 180+ purple belts. Andrew told me that there weren't any brown belts, at all, which had him sidelined taking videos and pictures.

I won't be back until Wednesday at the earliest. I'll put the breakdown of my latest eye injury into a different post. But the good news is that it might be a situation that I can completely control. I see Dr. Cheung on Wednesday and if she gives me a clean bill of health that the current damage has healed, then I'll be on the mat Wednesday night.

I've been pretty good about being on the treadmill, giving myself a decent workout Wednesday and Saturday mornings. I want to hit the dumbbells, also, because I think that one of the first ways that adrenaline works against you is by making you feel greater muscular fatigue than you really have. I felt tense, almost paralyzed, the first few minutes of watching Lindsey's fight--that's how hard the anxiety can hit you.

Besides, it won't do me much good to be able to roll for 45 minutes straight if I can't outperform in the first five. That, and passing the half guard were probably the two lessons for me in Copa NW 9.