Thursday, March 29, 2007

Three Things I Learned at Demon Jiu Jitsu

I spent Wednesday night over at Demon Jiu Jitsu in Tukwila, helping Cindy get ready for Abu Dhabi in May. Demon Jiu Jitsu is run by Eric Dahlberg, who is one of Mamazinho’s more recent black belts.

The academy is located in an industrial park, and from the outside reminds me of many of the karate schools you see dotted around cities. Inside, it is a pretty nice little facility with a changing room, a huge blue mat, some heavy bags, speed bags and other fight stuff scattered around. The mat was a lot more firm than the wrestling mats I’m used to over at Tully’s. But after an hour or two of rolling I don’t remember feeling much of a difference.

I also rolled with one of the young wrestlers there. I forget his name, but he was a strong athletic guy who had only been training for a little while. Cindy said he had a great takedown game, but I didn’t get to see much of it since we all started from the knees when we sparred.

Rolling with Cindy was fun. She’s always fast and aggressive and, like Tommy, damn good with a triangle choke. She has a particular set up where she sets the triangle up from mount and then either goes with the roll as you try to escape or finishes the triangle from on top. I was a little hesitant to try and use CC Grinder to escape because of my knee, so I tried the Midget Slam, which seems to be more effective when going against somebody in a gi. I didn’t manage to escape consistently with it, but it does seem like a better option than CC Grinder when rolling no gi.

But what did I learn? I learned that Crimson works, and is quickly becoming my “go-to” sweep from the closed guard, gi or no gi. I also learned that the elbow shove and leg kick portion of Dig Dug also work to get rid of one of the hooks when rear mounted. I spent a lot of time fighting off Cindy’s RNC last night, so I got plenty of time to try and work a variety of different escape attempts (emphasis on “attempts”). I liked what I was able to do with Dig Dug, even if it didn’t result in a complete escape.

Lastly, I learned the importance of getting small when on the bottom in half-guard. Eric had been watching us and coaching Cindy, interrupting once or twice to show exactly what he meant in a given situation. One time he came over and gave me a tip on the half-guard—namely, on the importance of getting as small as possible, and to go from a simple underhook to hooking your arm around their hips to help you get behind them. I’d been telling myself that I needed to focus on getting smaller when on the bottom in half-guard; it was nice to get confirmation that this was exactly what I should be doing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Double Armbar???

Could the mystery armbar attack that Fabricio Werdum uses against Matt Lindland in their ADCC match actually be a double armbar?

There are a couple of things that make me think so. One is that it is clear in the Werdum fight that Fabricio has double wrist control. It's also clear that it's not just some feint, as some over at the Sherdog Grappling Forum were suggesting. He is trying very hard to get his right leg up over Lindland's left shoulder.

What I wonder is if Werdum is trying to do a double armbar one leg at a time or not. The picture above is from a technique description over at BJJ Fighter, and the guy in that description seems to talk only about putting both legs up over the shoulders at the same time.

But this other description over at Lock Flow shows the same double armbar one leg at a time ...

The Lock Flow version makes a point of getting into the high guard before putting a leg over the shoulder, though Werdum just seems to launch his leg up as soon as he's set. Another detail is that here she pulls the arms outward to the side as she raises her hips. I read over at the Austin Jiu Jitsu website that turning your wrists inward is one way to relieve the pressure of a double armbar, so this detail of pulling the wrists outward as you apply the lock makes a lot of sense.

We'll see if I can work this into a routine. If I've got it right that Werdum is attacking with a double armbar, then it definitely looks as if the double armbar/windmill sweep is a combination worth considering.

Three Ways

Thinking about Mamazinho's lessons on Scissorhands and the new half-guard sweep that Tommy showed me Monday night, got me looking at simpler ways to understand what I'm trying to do when I'm trying to sweep.

My opponent can be induced to move forward, move backward or to remain still. In other contexts--like the half-guard--I think of the same concepts as tackles, twists and take-the-back. Mamazinho's Scissorhands suite includes the scissor sweep, which draws the opponent inside and over, Flipside, which draws the opponent outside and over, and take-the-back, which exploits the opponent's lack of movement.

Having three ways to go in any sweep gives you a lot of options. I really want to focus on this Scissorhands sweep suite as one of the three "legs" of my guard game (along with King Crimson and the Cobra guard suite). Working on the techniques Monday night they all felt very natural and easy to do. My scissors sweep still sucks eggs. But maybe in the context of the other two attacks/sweeps, I'll start to find the range and begin to hit it.

Tommy showed me a half-guard sweep last night that seemed ridiculously straightforward--so much so that I almost want to try it on somebody else to see if it really works as well as it seems before writing about it. If I can get it to work consistently, then it may be the perfect compliment to Bravo's Old School sweep.

Even though I'm not hitting Old School like I should, I do understand it and have had some success with it. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for any of the "twists". I have a hard time controlling the trapped leg and every time I go to the Twist I just end up helping the guy move into side control.

I still want to work on Bravo's twists, but Tommy's sweep is something I'm dying to try during the next few practices.

Stephan and Hank Hill

Stephan taught class on last Wednesday while Mamazinho worked with a small crop of white belts. Mostly we worked on techniques from knee-on-stomach (“Hank Hill”): an escape for the defense and a pair of chokes. I would have preferred two escapes, because I’m always getting caught in knee-on-stomach and would like as many escapes as possible. But the escape Stephan showed us is certainly a worthy one. Additionally, I tried my “running man” escape during the specific drills and Stephan pointed out a mistake that I was making that was allowing guys to take my back. So, in a way, I got two escape techniques out of class, after all.

The first escape involves a couple of basic principles. It is an elbow escape, at root. But what is important is hand positioning. For one, you never want to put a hand on the knee that is pressing into your stomach, no matter how tempting it may be. Doing otherwise will make you very vulnerable to an armlock.

Instead, you want to put one hand in the center of the stomach, grabbing the belt if possible. The other hand you want on the knee of the OTHER leg. This is a far more effective way to attack the base of a guy in knee-on-stomach than trying to push against his knee. The knee has a much lower center of gravity and has all of the guy’s weight behind it (or most of it). By pushing on the belt and the other knee, you challenge the guy’s balance much more AND, by pushing his body backward are taking some of the pressure of the knee-on-stomach off of your solar plexus.

As you begin to move him backwards a bit, you want to come up on the inside knee (sort of an elbow escape to the knee) and, while still pushing against the belt, grab the ankle of the leg you were pushing. Come up to standing, still pushing against the belt and pulling upward on the ankle.

The chokes were the same ones that Mamazinho instructed us in a few months back, chokes I’ve called “Hank Hill choke” for the basic collar choke and “Babe Ruth” for the baseball variation. Stephan had some interesting ideas about the baseball choke (actually for both chokes) that I’ll just list as rules to remember.

1. Keep your wrists straight. Remember that you want to choke with the blade of your wrist or lower forearm. Curving your wrist takes a lot of the bit out of your choke and it can be difficult to get the wrist straight once you’ve got the choke on and are applying pressure. Take your time, thread your hands into position and get a good, proper, deep grip.

2. Stephan used a sort of knee down/leg out stance when he was applying the baseball choke (“Babe Ruth”). The inside knee would be down while the outside leg would be out, making it easier to pass around toward north-south.

3. From the north-south position in Babe Ruth, Stephan got low and went chest-to-chest to increase the pressure. He kept his head to the side, looking in the direction he’d just moved from to help stay as low as possible.

4. Another, somewhat small detail. When going for the choke, don’t hesitate to grab some material as well as the collar. All you are trying to do is anchor your arms in such a position that when you bring your elbows in, the twisting action of your forearms will close a loop that will end up in a choke. So get deep, grab as much material as you can handle, keep those wrists straight and bring those elbows in tight.

More from Mamazinho: Scissorhands Suite

Monday night was a good-sized class, the biggest I’ve been to in months. They say the warm weather brings people out, which seems a little counter-intuitive to me. I’d think that the nice weather would make people more inclined to do something else other than spend an hour and a half sweating in a thick 5-pound all-cotton (i.e., perspiration-absorbing) gi on the third floor walkup warehouse room in the industrial part of town. But that would be incorrect. At least so far.

Mamazinho had us working out of what I call the Scissorhands Suite, though his emphasis was more on the scissors than the hands. He reviewed with us the basic set-up for the scissors sweep, and then showed a sweep to take the guy in the other direction and then a move to take-the-back. I’m calling the sweep “Flipside” because you kind of just flip the guy to the outside, using your leg as a lever. As usual, the “take-the-back” part of the move will be called “take-the-back.”

Start from the scissors sweep position. You’ve got the cross collar grip and the same side sleeve gripped. You’ve escaped your hips out—not too close, not too far—and brought your leg, shin-first, up in between the two of you, with your foot hooking his side. The other leg is out, ready to scissor back and undercut the guy as you pull him toward you and over into the scissors sweep.

But for some reason, the guy isn’t going toward you or over you. Maybe he manages to post with the arm you should be controlling at the sleeve. Maybe you’ve just got a bad angle. In any event, here you can switch to Flipside.

1. Reach across and get a cross grip on the sleeve instead of the same side sleeve grip. Do not let go of the collar until you get this cross sleeve grip.

2. Once you’ve got the cross grip, release the collar and reach over and behind the guy to grab his belt.

3. Pull the guy on top of you with the belt grip. At the same time, lift the leg that is between the two of you.

4. As that leg comes up, flip the guy to the outside, pulling up on the cross sleeve grip and pulling down on the belt.

5. Roll over on top into side control. Remember not to let go of the sleeve in case you’ve got an instant armbar opportunity.

The take-the-back move flows right from Flipside. Say you can’t move the guy enough to sweep him for one reason or another. Starting with the cross sleeve grip and the behind-the-back belt grip, you want to kick the far side knee out from under the guy as you pull him hard toward you by the belt. Pull on the cross sleeve grip arm also to help get the guy to duck his shoulder. Your kick leg will be the first hook for rear mount. Swing the other leg over and around as you move to take-the-back.

Pimp My Kimura!

For a top player, one of my biggest problems has been finishing kimuras. Whether from side control or top in the half-guard, I don’t think I’ve gotten a kimura submission in many, many months. This is a little frustrating because my Americana or keylock attack from just about every position remains solid, and a part of me feels that if my keylock is good, then my kimura should be at least decent. Which it is not.

I posted a Cry for Help over at the jiu jitsu gear forum, and I’m convinced that I’ll get some good responses there. But I’ve already picked up one thing that might be a problem after watching a clip of Minotauro demonstrating a “Tip of the Week” for MMA Weekly. (See the clip here).

I think the mistake I’ve been making is mostly with my underhook. In the same way that you can get too much shoulder into a triangle choke, making the choke harder to finish, I think you can also get too much shoulder—or, at least, upper arm—in the kimura, making it hard to complete the kimura grip, let along get the submission.

After watching Big Nog explain the set up for his “inverted Americana” as he calls it, I can see how he makes sure that his underhook comes just above the elbow. Another way of putting it is that you want to wrap the elbow more than you want to wrap the upper arm (to put it bluntly, you really don’t want to wrap the upper arm, at all). Not only does this bring your two hands closer together, making it easier to secure the kimura grip, but also wrapping the elbow gives you leverage against the guy’s attempts to straighten his arm.

He still might be able to straighten the arm—in which case you can switch to Nog’s inverted Americana by releasing your wrist grip with your underhook arm and grabbing the bicep of the south-most arm instead, then shooting the hand of the south-most arm back up to cup the elbow of your underhooking arm, squeezing the guy’s elbow between your arms tightly as you prepare to walk around to the head, sit out and then tilt your locked arms up and away from the head.

But this should go a long way toward helping make my kimura attack a much more credible threat.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Art of Jiu Jitsu, Part 1

A beautiful anecdote.

Errata: Cobra Guard

I could just post a link to "Go" and be done with it ...

As far as the Cobra guard is concerned, there are three things I can do: (1) exploit my opponent's willingness to move backward, (2) exploit my opponent's willingness to move forward, and (3) exploit my opponent's preference for remaining in place--or to move laterally.

In the first instance, I've got Poosh the Guy. In the second, I've got the Stuff Sweep. In the third, there's the arm drag--including the four-count variation if he attacks my ankles (reminder to self to drill the four-count variation ...).

So I've got my three situations. There are others if he stands: cross guard, single leg, low single, the Fugitive ... But those three are the basics on the ground.

What keeps them from being reactive, what makes them attacks in the Marcelinho sense of the word is the collar attack. Get a same side collar grip and start the jab. It's the same idea about grip work that the judokas focus on--the only difference is that, at least in sparring, jiu jitsu guys start on the mat while the judokas start on the feet. There was even a nice article in Ultimate Grappling magazine about grip work that I should take a second look at. The concept is the same.

The opponent can't move forward without his arm, and he can't move backward without leaving his knee exposed. The trick is to figure out where he is "willing" to go, knowing that you've got a follow-up attack for all three of the most likely situations. And the way to figure out where he is "willing" to go is to attack his base. That's what the initial collar grip--and the "jab" (cryptographically "Zab Judah" for now)--are all about.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bitching ... Moaning ...

You know you’re not feeling your best when you start the workday by firing up the Buddhist nuns on the olde media player ...

Valhalla over at BJJ Vision Quest said some things in a recent post that resonated with me more than I would have liked. The idea of being a “B-/C+” jiu jitsu “student”, a certain ambivalence toward competition … True enough, I’m nowhere near as uprooted as she is, trying to settle into a new situation in the City of Angels after more than a year of traveling and training around the country.

But as Sartre might suggest, rootedness is a state of mind as much as it is a sense of place. It’s been a strange winter and I’m hoping that the spring will bring with it a shift in the speed and sort of whirling lights and dancing shadows. I’ve not had a decent training month (i.e., three days a week for three weeks in a row or more) since December, partly due to injuries, partly due to other obligations that unfortunately could only be tended to in the evenings. But that irregular training schedule has really taken its toll. I can almost see the blue in my blue belt getting paler and paler by the week.

I was telling my wife last night that jiu jitsu achievement isn’t something to be measured daily or even weekly. Quarterly is probably as short-term as you want to go. But an off-night or two when you don’t seem to be able to get much of anything accomplished is hard to ignore if you have any ambition, at all. And while I’m not trying to turn myself into a Pan Am regular, I’m not in it just for the fancy pajamas, either.

Val talks about writing down the things she’s grateful for. As you might expect, I roll a bit differently. I’d rather focus on the problems, what it is that is so damn wrong that it’s got me humming along with the chanting nuns on a Thursday morning.

In the OG (as in “Older Grappler”) e-mails I’ve been getting from Paul Greenhill of The Wise Grappler, he makes a point about us OGs focusing on defense and sweeps. His theory is that older, slower grapplers need to “survive” first and foremost, and need to be prepared to be put in a lot of bad situations—particularly by younger, stronger and/or faster opponents. While Greenhill says his advice is fundamentally for OGs, he adds that it is almost completely applicable to smaller grapplers (check), injured grapplers, and most female grapplers.

I’ve thought about that, and have agreed with him. What I need to do is a better job of taking that advice to heart. I think some of my “coding” has helped me keep the different positions, escapes and attacks in mind—something that had been a problem over the past few months. And while I’d like to have a diverse game with all sorts of different moving parts, I need to focus more on what works for me so that I have more success—and, quite frankly, more fun—on the mat.

It’s kind of like a ballplayer suffering through an “o-fer” streak who just needs to see the damn ball go into the basket just once in order to remind himself that there isn’t a lid on the thing, and that he does know how to shoot, and score.

So what am I looking at? I need to focus on my half-guard game, particularly pulling half guard and getting up on the ledge (i.e., coming up on the inside knee). I need to attack with the Old School sweep every chance I get, and to try and understand better the mechanics of the Twist Back.

From the closed guard, it’s all about Crimson—especially since the vast majority of guys I roll with are bigger than I am and difficult for me to break down. I’d like to believe that I could work in the pendulum sweep (code pending), as well, and reviewing the Abhaya instructional on that move was nice. The pendulum seems like it would be a solid compliment to Crimson: one sweep against high posture, one sweep against middle posture. Against a very low posture, right now my best bet seems to be to transition to half guard and work the sweep from there (though I imagine the arm-stuff triangle choke wouldn’t be a bad attack in this situation).

Whatever I do, I can’t wait. Get grips and sweep, sweep, sweep. If you miss and wind up in a bad position, protect yourself immediately, take a moment to see exactly where you are and where you want to go, and then get the hell out of there. My favorite jiu jitsu quote these days is the one from Marcelo Garcia that I call “Go.” It reminds me that everything is an attack—or should be. Whether you are attempting a submission, an escape, a sweep, or a transition from one top position to another, your mentality should always be one of attacking. “You shouldn’t be defending all the time,” Marcelo says. And it’s a great point that I have yet to take into account. This, of course, doesn’t mean going off like a spazz or rolling at 110% every time you hit the mat. What it means is that you should be fundamentally concerned about what you are doing—not what you are doing IN RESPONSE to what the other guy is doing.

Randy Couture made a similar point during his tenure as a coach in the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. I think he was talking with Josh Rafferty who, quite frankly, seemed petrified about his upcoming fight. Rafferty was going on and on about his opponent’s style and skill set until Randy interrupted him, gently, by saying “You can’t worry about what he is going to do in the cage. You’ve got to focus on what you are going to do in the cage.”

Wise words from two of the best in the business.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kingdom Come

Looking for help with both the north-south position and the kimura from north-south, I found this interesting attack from Marcus Soares over at GrappleArts. It is a variation on the kimura from north-south, with a Frankenstein-type choke/neck crank option.

The first part is essential, and a good control position form which to launch attacks. When in north-south, you want an over/under. Overhook one arm (with the hand on that arm perhaps controling the hips) and underhook the other arm (with the hand probably gripping the sleeve at the elbow to control the upper body). Put your weight more on the side of the underhook.

The guy will probably be worrying about the underhooked arm, the possibility of getting armlocked or kimura'd. The danger, though, is the attack on the other arm, the overhooked arm.

Soares instruction is clear: "Start circling toward the overhooked side and trap his arm by encircling it with your own and gripping your own lapel."

The grip is sort of like a guillotine on the upper arm or shoulder over the overhooked arm. The motion to get there mimics the sort of "tucking the arm inside" that you want to do if you are in somebody's guard and they've got an armwrap on you. Rodrigo's showed me this arm tuck a few times.

Now for the body movement. Switch your base into sort of a Watch Dog position. You want to open your hips up to the underhooked arm side. Slide your near leg under the guy's head like a pillow.

Reach over with the underhook side arm and grab the guy's far collar and bring it across his neck toward you. This also helps keep the guy's head down for the next move.

Flip your other leg over the guy's head and triangle your legs. Try to get under the chin so that it is more of a choke than a crank.

Again, Soares: "Now you lie back and pull on his arm, putting severe strain on his shoulder."

I think you can also work the Frankenstein choke at the same time by pulling on the collar and straightening your legs. Slow, steady pressure should get the tap.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Monday night Mamazinho showed us more moves out of what I've been calling "SWAT Team." SWAT Team basically involves doing a "hip split" (a neologism defined by a neologism, I admit ...) around the lead leg as the base of a number of different sweeps.

One of the main ones is the one that Rodrigo showed, out of a lying back Cobra guard. The guy comes up on a knee. You do a hip split and hook that lead leg with your leg (right on right, left on left). I need to ask him what the hand/arm work is, but it's a hip split move.

There's also the Marcelo Garcia single leg, where you use the opposite side arm (opposite of the leg that is forward in the hip split) and turn into them, taking them down from behind as you stand up.

Mamazinho showed more variations. The main one has you push off the hip with the other leg, and then swing the hooking leg out and back before dropping it forward in the hip split. You want to have the grip on the far sleeve with one hand and wrap the guy's lead leg with the other (your outside arm).

Once you drop into the hip split, the outside sleeve grip and the wrap, you can do a couple of things. You can turn into the guy and tackle him backwards. You can switch hands and use your inside hand to grab the collar and roll him forward. If he steps forward--for example, when you try to push out on the hip--you can duck under and under hook that "step forward" leg, using that grip and the wrap grip to sweep him face forward.

Mamazinho also showed us a choke from the top. You use your trapped side/wrapped side hand to get a cross collar grip, and your other hand to push the head through, almost like a guillotine.

From there, grab the free side pants at the knee. You're going to do a forward roll, using the guy's hip as your target. Think of putting your forehead about six to twelve inches beyond his hip behind him. Like a lot of jiu jitsu, it's easier than it seems if you do it right.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Errata: Old School, Crimson

When trying to work the old school half guard sweep, I need to make sure I come up on the inside knee.

I've been doing a better job of coming up on the outside hip. But that's not enough leverage to be able to pull the far leg out from under the guy. It's also poor positioning in trying to "tackle" the guy over.

I was a little hesitant to put weight on my right knee. Still, I've only hit Old School once or twice. Getting on my outside hip was good. Coming up on the inside knee will make the sweep work.

There's a good reason why crimson is called the hip bump sweep. I had a little success with it a few weeks back and tried it again tonight. Close, but no cigar. The problem was that I was essentially just trying to pull the guy over. I never made hip-to-chest contact, the "bump" that puts the guy off balance. It's that loss of balance that makes it easier to then "pull the guy over."

We did a lot of guard/pass guard work tonight (in addition to some more SWAT Team stuff that I'll post later). I had a hard time keeping the closed guard tight, and if somebody pushed down on my right knee that was pretty much it for the full guard. I tried to work a little spider guard--and I'll give myself a little gold star for actually thinking to try spider guard. But the absence of a specific plan only helped it stave off the inevitable.

My lower body movement--or the lack thereof--was the issue tonight in many ways. The knee made me more reluctant than usual, but it is still a major weak spot.

On the bright side, I did like some of the work from the top I did in terms of working from Watch Dog. Nothing spectacular, at all. But it was worth feeling how effective Watch Dog was at controlling the legs after passing the guard.

Friday, March 16, 2007

B.J. Penn's "Jiu Jitsu 101"

B.J. Penn brought out the cameras to show people a little of what goes on in one of his classes. The snippet he showed at was something he called “jiu jitsu 101.” It is a sort of lock flow that has students move from mount escape to guard open to combat base to guard pass to side control.

Code for the flow would be something like: “mount escape” to Buddha to Jayhawk to Master to Watch Dog.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Buddha and the Master

I’ve got a couple of guard “openers” and guard passing strategies: Cesar, Margarida, PTMU and GTS are my main standing guard openers. Saulo is my one ground guard opener. My guard passes are Rodeo and Butler.

I want to add another ground guard opener and another guard pass. The ground guard opener is identical to the Saulo opener. The key difference is that this new ground guard opener, Buddha, has you keep both knees on the ground rather than standing out perpendicular with one leg. As with Saulo, Buddha requires you to turn COMPLETELY SIDEWAYS and let your hip “slice” through the locked hooks of the closed guard.

The new guard pass, Master, is the opposite of Butler. Where with Butler you grab the pants near the ankle and stretch the legs out as you slide around into Watch Dog (a sort of torreano move), with Master you reach under both thighs and bear hug the legs into your chest. You can go to Watch Dog from Master, also.

Both of these new additions come from watching a B.J. Penn class over at his website. Nothing new, of course, but some nice detail to remember when practicing these moves. I’ve already mentioned the key detail with Buddha. Another detail with that guard opener is to initially put your knee against the butt. True, you don’t want it “in the middle”, but you do want to cinch it in a little more so that his hips won’t shift over as you pressure to open the guard.

Key details with Master include stacking the guy as deeply as possible. Try to put his knee on his nose, as Matt Serra would say. Also, your head should be right there behind the knee, so your head should be very close to his head. With your northmost arm, reach over and across to grip the far shoulder. That will help you wedge yourself into position as you posture up and into the side control. Another tip is to use your southmost arm/hand to keep the guy’s hips up, tilting him back toward his neck where all the pressure is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Three Escapes from Scarf Hold

1. Belly roll: from the body lock, bridge hard into the guy to get your hips under his, then twist back and roll him the other way into side control.

2. Shoulder lock: from the body lock, put your inside elbow on the mat as you turn to your side very, very close and come up to your knees, then reach over with your outside arm and put that hand on the ground in front of his face. Turning your body, pull your inside hand and arm free and put it on the mat. With both palms on the mat, slowly bring your head up … if he doesn’t tap from the shoulder pressure, then just pull your head out and take the back.

3. Axe kick: from the body lock, reach up with your outside arm and push the guy’s head back toward your outside leg, then lift your leg up and over in front of his face. Pull your leg down backwards and roll the guy over.
What all three scarf hold escapes have in common is the necessity of getting your outside underhook. If he’s got the underhook on the far side, then all of the above escapes can be blocked. So the underhook on the far side (the outside) is job one when caught in the scarf hold.

Based on my very, very limited knowledge of Greco, it seems like the best way to pummel for that underhook is to grab the waist, belt or pants on the inside and tilt the guy into you, preferably higher up on your body. That should help open up space between his arm on the far side and his body. He may even need to extend that far for balance if you can pull him hard enough into you. Keep pulling him into you and looking for opportunities to slip that underhook in.

Another approach that is more jiu jitsu might be to just work to escape your hips to the outside, away from him. You aren’t trying to escape that way, just to get some space so that you can shoot that underhook in.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tips on the Mount

High mount: knees deep under armpits. A great position to attack the neck and shoulder. Posture is up and weight is "riding"--if he turns, let him move beneath you and take his back.

Low mount: if the guy manages to move your hips lower, gets his elbows in tight against his body, etc. then the low mount is another option. Keep the knees wide and lock the hooks under his legs. Put a shoulder into his face to direct him to one side, and put the arm on that side outstretched for balance. I'd imagine that it is a little easier to attack the arms from a somewhat lower mount ...

From the Abaya Academy.

Miscellaneous notes: swim arms in one at a time if the guy tries to bench press you (and you're not in position to armbar him). Swim the arms under to break the grip.

If the guy presses down on your hips, then reach down and grab the arm at the wrist and pull up sharply. As you do that, replace your leg higher up under his arm.

The Fugitive

There are a couple of different ways to hit this: from the Cobra guard, after a successful Superfreak sweep or even a double or single leg from the bottom when you don't control the legs. Here's a description of it from a class that Rodrigo taught back in late January:
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 ...
There's also an entry to the cross guard, or X-guard as Marcelo Garcia calls it, off the Fugitive here. Scroll down toward the bottom of the post to the paragraph beginning "The cross guard sweep goes like this."

Guys have been standing up out of my closed guard lately, which gives me a great opportunity to attack early with The Fugitive or late with the transition to cross guard and the cross guard sweep. I've been a little too dependent on the Superfreak and Omoplata sweeps of late--though I like the fact that I've put a priority on "Scissors" and "Crimson" (of Scissorhands and King Crimson, respectively).

Friday, March 09, 2007

Slim Shady

I'm calling Rodrigo's escape from the armbar on the bottom (see why I'm getting into the nicknames?) "Slim Shady." "Good2Go" will remain "Good2Go" until further notice.

One thing I like about Slim Shady as an escape is that the hand position mimics one recommended by Aesopian and the Straight Blast Gym folks when trapped in side control. They call it the "straightjacket".

Basically your inside arm is kept low and bent across your waist. Your outside arm is across your chest, palm out, protecting your neck. As an armbar escape, that inside arm is higher up, gripping the lapel to defend the arm. But the hand positions are similar enough (particularly compared to what I usually do), that I'm calling both positions "Slim Shady."

One of the things about the Slim Shady when caught in side control is that you can use your inside arm to help break any grip on your inside pant leg, a grip that can block your attempt to escape your hips to the outside, create space and go to knees. I'm thinking that reaching down to control the wrist, then kicking the leg away before pivoting into the drop step might be the way to make it work.

How Good 2 Go Got Even Better

Good 2 Go was my escape from the mounted armbar (as opposed to the armbar from the guard). Essentially, it involved grabbing the gi, throwing off the leg that was over the face and rolling in the direction of the arm. Talking with Tommy Thursday night we both expressed a little hesitancy with that escape, mostly because you feel as if you are abandoning your arm—-always a jiu jitsu no-no.

Rodrigo showed us another escape that night, however, one that was similar in some ways to Good 2 Go, but one that resulted in a stack rather than a roll. Maybe I’ll call the old escape “Good 2 Roll”, because I think I like Rodrigo’s version better.

With Rodrigo’s escape, you also grab the collar to protect the arm. But instead of throwing off the leg, which can be difficult in some situations, you put your outside hand under the knee (crook of the knee) of the leg that is over your face or neck. This creates a block and gives you leverage as you drop step (bridge and inside leg drop) and turn into the armbar, going into a stack position.

From there you can use the Stack ‘n’ Jack escape to free your arm and then work to pass the legs.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Pass. The Sweep. The Choke.

Mamazinho showed us three techniques Wednesday night: a half-guard pass, a counter to the kimura from the top while in half-guard, and a one-handed brabo choke from the half-guard.

In the same way that Mamazinho did for me after I lost by armbar at the second Pacific Northwest Jiu Jitsu Championships at Yesler Community College, Mamazinho focused on Jason, the crazy strong white belt, who will be competing at both the tournament this Saturday and the Pan-Ams about six weeks after that. Very classy, in my opinion--and a great help for all of us.

I worked with Bruce. The first technique was the half-guard pass. There were two key elements: shoulder pressure and using the opposite leg as a wedge. By wrapping the far arm in the guy's lapel and getting a tight grip, you can improve that shoulder, or upper body, pressure. Walk yourself backwards a little bit toward the north in order to get some space. Then bring the free leg up and through, knee first, in order to free the leg and pass into side control.

I'd been struggling for a counter to the "sit-out" half-guard pass. There were a few good hints I found here and there. All of them focused on getting a butterfly hook with the outside leg (the leg that overhooks in the lockdown), while having the inside/center leg on top of the guy's butterflied leg. It takes some leg coordination, but it seems like it is coordination worth developing insofar as that half-guard pass is very effective.

Mamazinho's version gets you to the back. I found a version in Rigan Machado's Encyclopedia, Volume One, that got you back to closed guard.

If you are defending against a kimura, then you want to grab on to something fast: your belt, gi, whatever. Change your leg position so that your outside leg is butterflied under the guy's leg and the foot of your inside leg is pressing down on that leg.

With the other arm, reach down and grab the pants by the knee. Aesopian's version has you completely duck down and underhook the knee. But Aesopian is going for a twist-back type of sweep rather than a take-the-back.

Lift up with the butterfly hook and the pants grip by the knee. As you stuff the knee back down, overhook that leg with your leg on that side and scoot out and around towards the guy's back. By committing to the kimura--or to the sit-out half-guard pass--the guy has essentially already given you his back. You just need to figure out how to get your legs out of the way. Butterflying the outside leg helps lift the guy to create space and to allow that leg to eventually become a rear mount hook on the guy's other leg. The lift also allows your center leg to come out and around to overhook that leg, giving you time to shift your body out and around that "post".

The choke was a sort of one-handed brabo choke. Whereas the brabo choke has you put your arm behind the guy's neck and back and then lift up with your northmost shoulder, Mamazinho's version had you flatten the guy out first, basically using the mat as that pressure behind the neck. He also had the arm back there, but I think it was mostly to help drive the guy flat on his back to the mat.

I think what the other arm is supposed to do is keep the head in place as you pull on the collar and press forward with your upper body to flatten them out. It's a detail I'll have to ask about Monday night. I've found myself fighting hard for brabo and d'arce chokes from the top in half guard and not being able to get the finish. I suspect it is something small, but critical, as is so often the case in jiu jitsu.

Scissorhands and its Discontents

"Scissorhands" is my jiu jitsu code for the scissor sweep/armlock combination from the guard.

Everywhere you go. people talk about how well these two attacks go together. Some great video instruction on both the scissor sweep and the armlock from the scissor sweep is available from the good folks at Abhaya Academy in Canada.

The detail I appreciate in this explanation is how the instructor gets up on an elbow right before the pull and kick manuever.

Here, the key detail is punching the leg that was used as the crossbody hook straight back behind the guy. Then swing into the armlock with the same motion we use in the armlock-from-the-guard warmup/drill.

I've been caught by a few scissor sweeps this year. I found some interesting conversation about the scissor sweep, a counter to the scissor sweep, and a counter to the counter to the scissor sweep over at one of my favorite places on the Internets: the Jiu Jitsu Gear Forum.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Granby Rolls

I posted a few stills of Ryan Hall doing a guard replacement move. After Monday night's class and warmup by Stephan, I'm now thinking that guard replacement move was a Granby Roll.

Stephan's had us do this drill in warmups before, and watching guys like Ryan Hall, Tommy, and Clint--guys who spend a lot of time in the guard--over the past several months has only underscored how important this move is.

There's picture in The Essential Guard of Rodrigo Medeiros doing what he calls the "compass drill" that looks very similar, involving a shoulder roll. But there's probably a better copy of the granby roll in this Google Video.

Turtles, Bulldogs and Tales from the Back

Mamazinho had us working on a few related techniques last night in training. The first was taking the back against a guy’s turtle, a position I’ve been calling “bulldog” from even before I started giving names to everything. It’s a basic move: he attacks your right leg from the turtle, you reach over with your right arm and hook the opposite waist/oblique, turn counter-clockwise, backstepping toward his side. Use your outside hand to check guy’s inside elbow, then move your outside knee in its place.

There were two breakdowns. Both involve reaching around and under to attack the far arm that is likely being used as a post in the turtle position. In the first variation, you reach across the face with the outside arm and hook the guy’s far arm, then reach under the chest with the inside arm and claps hands around that far arm. Pull the arm towards you as you lean your weight into the shoulder. As the guy topples over, pull the arms up and out of the way as you slip into judo side control.

The variation is in case the guy posts out with his far leg, making it hard to roll him over. What you want to do in this case is to move a little further behind him and twist him over his shoulder, rather than directly on his side. It actually looks a little like a midget shoulder throw.

What is especially interesting is that I’d been looking at escapes from the bulldog position (i.e., being turtled and looking to reverse or put the guy in your guard). The Essential Guard has two different moves that I like. One is a backroll over and the other is a sort of inside drop step. With the roll, you want the guy to your side and you want to hook his outside leg from the inside out. Roll on your inside shoulder and throw your outside leg up, around and over the guy’s body. You should wind up in guard.

The other inside drop step is similar to a move Mamazinho showed me last night when I was rolling with George the purple belt from Oklahoma. Here, instead of hooking the leg, you want both of your legs to be outside his. Create a little space with your inside leg and then bring your outside leg up inside.

Another key: make sure you keep your elbows in. I made the mistake of reaching out with an arm and George managed to trap that arm, making it impossible for me to work either of those two escapes.

A very good night of training for me. I’m starting to feel like I’m getting “it” back. I hit a very nice “Poosh the Guy” to “Rodeo” for the first time, and will definitely make sure to keep working on it from the cobra guard (formerly the lotus guard). I also like the fact that when I went to closed guard, I immediately transitioned to the hilo guard, which is something else I want to work on diligently this year.

At the same time, I got a little lazy and a little sloppy in the guard—so I want to make sure I don’t start slipping on this and falling back into old habits. Pass the guard! Stand, STAND, STAND!

I also like the way I was controlling the sleeve when I was working effectively for the pass. It was a point that Rodrigo had brought up frequently. I was impressed at how effective controlling that sleeve can be so, again, something to make a staple of future practices.

I’ve got some ideas about finishing the d’arce and brabo chokes. I was trying to work them in one sparring round, going back and forth between the two, but couldn’t get either of them sunk. I know one mistake with the brabo was in not going under the arm at the armpit. Instead I attacked further down on the arm where the guy had more control of the arm and could nullify the choke.

I’m actually starting to find some extra inspiration in some of the things that were on my mind when I wrote parts of my “Born Under a Bad Sign” post. It’s actually very similar to the situation I was feeling (and also wrote about) with Bartinho, the leader of BJJ Spokane, and what tended to happen when I was matched up against his guys. While it is a stretch to say that this kind of jabber is a “compliment”, there is a perspective from which I can treat it as one--and that’s exactly the perspective that I’m going to take. Whether I like it or not, the jabber is a barometer of my performance that I can use to get better, faster. And that's just what I plan to do.

Monday, March 05, 2007


I’ve found myself going up against guys who’ve dropped into “combat base”, the position I’ve been calling “Jayhawk.” Both Tommy and Cindy dropped into this position at the beginning of our recent sparring sessions, as did George, the new purple belt that’s been training with us over the past few weeks.

I remembered a way to attack this position, a counter that Rodrigo showed us many months ago that I don’t remember having worked on in some time. I remembered the first part of the counter, which was to sit up (if you were on your back) and hook the guy’s up leg with your leg in the “hip split” position. If he puts his right leg up, then you hook with your right leg.

But I couldn’t remember the rest of the move. What did you do with your hands? Where were your grips? Which direction did you take the guy and how?

While looking for some help on finishing the arm drag—particularly help on dealing with people who stand and “run around” trying to pass your sitting/Lotus/Cobra guard, I actually found the key to solving the SWAT Team riddle. The key was in the form of an Ultimate Grappling magazine article from December 2006 featuring Marcelo Garcia. Garcia uses a form of SWAT Team as a way of dealing with somebody who is standing and pulls away to avoid the arm drag.

In order to complete SWAT Team, you want to completely control that up leg. So in addition to hooking it with your leg, you want to hook it with the opposite arm also.

With the hook side arm (the leg hook side), you want to post behind you in the same way that you would for an arm drag. This post is important because it will help you maintain your balance as you move—making it easier to move faster.

Turn in the direction of the leg hook, turning so that the shoulder of your arm hook is driving in to the back of the guy’s leg.

Marcelo stands up from here, wrapping both arms around the leg, moving his head to the inside of the trapped leg, and driving the guy to the mat on his back. I suspect there are other moves you can do to finish it off, like going to the back. It probably depends on what the guy gives you.

Back on Track and an Open Guard Sweep

It wasn't a full week of training, but I made it to class on Wednesday and Thursday evenings and--more importantly--made it through both classes "without incident" as the kids say. I felt that I was rolling a little bit scared, especially on Thursday when every other fiber of my being was saying "please let me make it through the week unscathed." But that's probably to be expected.

Wednesday night was as Wednesday nights have become of late: mostly specific sparring and then some general sparring. Stephan and Chris (both brown belts) have been "regulars" on Wednesday nights, with an assortment of white and blue belts joining in after we've gotten started.

Thursday night Rodrigo taught a gi class and had us doing a number of drills as part of the warmup. Mostly sit-outs and arm drags--both of which I'm making a part of my jiu jitsu Tabata workout in the mornings. We did butterfly guard lifts (always a killer for me) and a drill to help you keep your balance and move your hips properly when in the mount and the guy tries to lift you up and put a knee up. The sit outs are a good solo drill that helps support that "mount pass" drill.

If there was a lesson from Thursday's class, then getting back to basic movements is it. I realized some of the problems I was having with the arm drag from the Lotus guard (which I'm thinking of renaming for reasons I'll write about later) had to do with some basic movement issues, particularly getting my hips out of the way by using a post. That "posting" comes up a lot, it is also a factor in the crossover sweep, for example.

Rodrigo also showed us an open guard sweep that seemed to give most of us more than a little difficulty in learning.

The sweep is used when the guy stands up in your guard. From the bottom, you want to control the sleeves.

Put one foot in the hip. Hook the other foot behind the knee of the other leg and reach down and cup the ankle of that leg, as well. That's the set-up.

The hard part for me was executing the sweep. You want to push with your legs and pull with your ankle and sleeve grips. As you do this, you want to turn on your side in the direction you want to sweep the guy.

I had a very hard time getting to my side when doing this drill with Jesse. I'm not sure what the specific problem was, though my guess is that I wasn't breaking his posture on the foot-in-hip side. I think the sweep is similar to the cross guard or X-guard sweeps that Rodrigo showed us a few weeks ago insofar as you can do an accordian squeeze, pulling and pushing to get the guy stretched out a little bit and off-balance. That should make it easier to (1) break posture and (2) turn over to the sweep side and finish the sweep.