Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sweeps Week at GB Seattle

This week has been “sweeps week”—meaning that we worked strictly on sweeps from the guard. I trained Monday night and Wednesday afternoon since they were doing construction Wednesday night. The alternative was to drive to Bellevue for class on Wednesday—which I just didn’t feel like doing on a weeknight.

There were three sweeps—actually there was a fourth added Wednesday afternoon that reminded me a lot of the Pe de Pano cross guard stuff I had been looking at recently. The first sweep is the one I called “Rodrigo’s Cradle,” though now I know it was pretty much a windmill/pendulum/flower sweep. I’ve known this one for awhile, though I’ve only recently started trying it when sparring. The detail, which I remember Rodrigo emphasizing over and over again, is that you don’t need the guy’s arm to move all the way across your body. If that happens, it makes more sense to take his back than to try the flower sweep.

Instead, Rodrigo recommended bridging up with the arm and then, as you are coming back down, nudge the elbow in toward the center. You just need enough room to be able to reach behind the shoulder of the arm you trap.

Another detail in this step. When you are coming back down from the bridge, that should be when you sit-up and reach behind the guy’s shoulder. If you wait, and try to break it down into three distinct steps, it looks like it would be harder to keep the guy’s arm trapped. So, bridge up/sit-up might be the best way to think of the set up for the flower sweep.

From there, I pretty much remember the basics. Reach behind the shoulder. Underhook the leg with the other hand (or grab the pants by the knee). Kick your trap side leg back, then scissor the legs and roll over your trapped side shoulder. The sweep should be virtually effortless.

The next two sweeps were a little trickier, and came out of the open guard. In both cases, the guy has put a knee up as if going to stand to pass your guard. Also in both cases you want to do two things: (1) get a cross grip so that you are controlling the sleeve opposite the knee up with your hand on the knee up side, and (2) hipscape in the direction of the knee up.

A last detail in the set-up is to grab the pants at the knee on the “down side.”

From here you are ready to go. The first of these two sweeps had you put a hook underneath the guy’s knee up leg. To sweep: pull on the cross sleeve, lift with the hook and (I think) push off on the pants grab at the knee. The guy should be swept away from his knee up leg.

The second version has you start from that same “cross guard” type position. Here, you put the hook in, but you are going to use it to push the guy away rather than lift him. I’m not sure about the next step, but I think you release the cross grip and grab the ankle of the knee up leg. From here, press the knee of your hook leg against the guy’s leg, lift with the pants grab on the other leg and pull with the hand on the ankle. The guy should be swept straight backward.

One detail here is that you want the knee on your hook leg to be pointed outward. Otherwise it is too easy for him to push the knee down and continue working to pass your guard.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Flying Jets

I was reading a few recent posts over at Valhalla's blog "Prancing and Sucking", her continued adventures in the world of jiu jitsu.

One of the things I appreciate about Val's blog is her struggle with the issue of competing. You never get the sense that she'll stop training, but the role, importance and value of competing is often a major philosophical debate.

I had a pretty okay run as a white belt. But the fact that any tournament I compete in for the next 2-3 years at least will be as a blue belt/intermediate, has me reading her thoughts and reflections on competing with new attention. On the one hand, as a white belt competitor I had an attitude and chip on my shoulder that won't exist as a blue belt competitor (I thought I was above being beaten by fellow white belts). So, there should be a slackening of expectations as I step up to compete as a blue belt.

On the other hand, who am I kidding? I won't care if the other guy is a six-day-a-week-training, four-year blue belt. I'll have the same feeling losing to him as I did to a six-month white belt. That takedown was solid! Where are my points? Pass the guard, pass the guard ... Aw, shit! Dammnit! Another triangle choke!

Niceties aside, winning is winning and losing is losing.

So why compete? I remember reading about how Kron Gracie, who just won the brown belt division at the Mundials, submitted opponent after opponent at the Pan Ams. He finished something like five opponents in a total of three minutes or something crazy like that.

I remember entering my next tournament thinking about how I wanted to be like Kron: tapping out dudes like nobody's business. Wouldn't that be great? Sure it would!

I did alright and ended up winning first place. But it was another victory without submission, against a guy I was pretty much able to smash once I passed his guard.

With that in mind, my favorite passage from the film Officer and a Gentleman:

Gunnery Sergeant: Why would a slick hustler like you sign up for this abuse?

Mayo: I want to fly jets.

Gunnery Sergeant: My grandmama wants to fly jets.

Mayo: I've always wanted it!

Gunnery Sergeant: We're not talking about flying. We're talking about character.

In other words, we're not talking about winning, or submissions. And we're damn sure not talking about being Kron Gracie. We're talking about competing with class, competing with technique, competing with spirit. "Leaving it all on the mat" as the cliche goes, and being hungry for the opportunity to do it again.

It also means preparing yourself properly. "Leaving it all on the mat" doesn't just refer to effort, I don't think. It means that you've pulled every rabbit out of every hat, tried every guard pass and guard replacement, every choke and armbar, attacked at every opportunity your opponent gave you. More than raw cardiovascular "effort", it's a sort of total awareness you want to enter. A true mind-body connection. Everything you know applied to every chance you get.

That's what I think you want out of competition. More than winning or losing (though, of course "winning" instead of "losing"), you want that "aliveness", what philosopher Karl Jaspers called "Existenz" ...
the indefinable experience of freedom and possibility; an experience which constitutes the authentic being of individuals who become aware of "the encompassing" by confronting suffering, conflict, guilt, chance, and death.


I remember somebody asking Rodrigo about submissions, I don't remember the specific question, but Rodrigo's answer was something along the lines of "the choke is the most efficient submission" ...

And I remember somewhere somebody writing of Rickson Gracie that his favorite finishing technique was the choke ...

Among the many memes to come out of the 2007 Mundials is the surprising (to many) idea that top jiu jitsu fighters finish fights with chokes.

I'm a huge fan of chokes. I think that the mata leao is the quintessential finishing technique in all of combat sports, all of martial arts. And I'm thrilled to have gotten my first few clean guillotine submission in training over the past few weeks.

But the thing they say about collar chokes is that they are "easy to learn, but difficult to master." If you are going to train in the gi, then you've got to become proficient--hell, expert--at collar chokes. There's simply no reason not to. It is the biggest difference between gi and no gi grappling, and the guy who is good at controling the collar has a tremendous advantage over the guy who is an excellent "grappler", but not sufficiently talented in the gi.

The first book in my fantasy trilogy of Gracie Barra Big Books (TM) is the Gracie Barra Big Book of Chokes. Nothing but chokes: the philosophy of chokes as a finishing hold, the biology of blood chokes versus air chokes, what the attacker needs to do, what the defender needs to do, and then choke after choke after choke ... Guillotines, triangles, brabos, katagatames, baseball chokes, cross collar chokes, clock chokes, mata leao, Frankenstein chokes ... just a sick compendium of effective gi and no gi chokes and strangles with set-up moves and lockflows.

Until then, here's a cross collar choke refresher ... "Easy to learn, but difficult to master" ...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

2007 Mundial Champions

The results of the 2007 International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation World Championships ("Mundials").

Black Belt Winners: Men

Rooster: Bruno Malfacine (UGF)
Super Feather: Robson Moura (Nova Uniao)
Feather: Rubens Charles (Alliance)
Light: Lucas Lepri (Alliance)
Middle: Lucas Leite (Brasa)
Medium Heavy: Romulo Barral (Gracie Barra)
Heavy: Alexandre Ribeiro (Gracie Humaita)
Super Heavy: Roger Gracie (Gracie Barra)
Super Super Heavy: Rafeal Lovato (Gracie Humaita)

Open Class (Absolute): Roger Gracie (Gracie Barra)

Brown Belt/Black Belt Winners: Women

Super Feather: Michelle Nicolini (Brasa)
Feather: Laurence Cousin (Behring)
Light: Hanette Quadros (Carlson Gracie Team)
Middle: Emily Kwok (Renzo Gracie)
Medium Heavy: Penny Thomas (Rickson)

Open Class (Absolute): Michelle Nicolini (Brasa)

Friday, August 24, 2007

No Gi Flipside

B.J. Penn calls this sweep "De La Riva Sweep While Opponent’s One Knee is in the Middle." I call it "no gi Flipside," after the move that Mamazinho showed us this spring, a move I incorporated in my Scissorhands suite.

The steps: The guy’s knee goes up. So many higher level guys start sparring this way—from Rodrigo to Stefan to Tommy and Casey. You want to put your opposite foot in the hip/abdomen. Let’s say their left knee goes up in the middle. You want to put your left foot in their hip/abdomen.

Slide your other foot (right) behind their knee that is in the middle. It’s a sort of DLR hook. What you are trying to do is trap the shin of that knee-in-the-middle leg (the position I call “Jayhawk”). The foot on your DLR hook should be close to the foot of your other leg.

Reach and get a collar tie with your left hand (the same side that has the foot in the hip/abdomen). With your right hand (the same side that has the DLR hook), reach and control either the elbow (preferable) or the wrist.

Pull the guy on you as you rock back. Once his weight is on top of you, extend your DLR hook leg and flip the guy over to the side. Follow him over to secure dominant position.

I think I almost hit this move on Wednesday night—or some variation of it. One of the things I’m trying to do is to understand the essence of sweeps, to break them down into their elementary particles, as it were. What do I need to block? What do I need to control? Where will I need to put the pressure? For example, in this sweep, you want to block the leg (DLR hook) and control the head and arm. The pressure comes from extending the leg. I feel that being able to answer these questions on the fly is key to being able to sweep with impunity—and creativity. The "unplugged" series helps me see how the some of the same key steps can be found in sweeps that otherwise look very, very different.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sitting Flat in the Guard

I hurt my right ankle last night after class trying to sit flat, the way you are supposed to sit when you are in the guard. I’ve figured out that at least part of my problem when it comes to maintaining posture in the guard is the fact that, since my right foot does not extend very well, I’ve compensated by not sitting all the way
down on it. The problem with that, as I learned while watching a video of someone explaining the Saulo ground pass, is that not sitting flat means that your butt is up. And that might be just enough “up” to make you vulnerable to being pulled down and your posture shattered.

So after class I’m talking about this with Stefan and trying to get in the proper position. After class, fully warmed up, I was actually able to sit flat. Stefan recommended that I consider sitting flat on my left ankle, and shooting my right leg out to the side. I had pretty much been only trying to shoot my left leg out when
opening the guard­almost exclusively so. So I’m eager to try Stefan’s suggestion over the next few weeks.

Unfortunately, sitting flat last night on my right ankle meant that I woke up in surprisingly acute pain in the middle of the night last night. I could get comfortable enough to sleep, but there was no denying that my ankle, which
felt fine all evening, was in serious pain. When I got up around 3 p.m. to let out Hecate for her regular middle-of-the-damn-night pee, I could hardly walk on it.

Hours later, my ankle feels pretty much back to normal. Some lingering soreness, but I should be able to train tonight (Thursday; no gi). What I do want to do is plot out some of what has been working and what has not been working in advance of tonight’s class.

The most outstanding things over the past six weeks definitely have to be my Twist half guard sweep and my Americana. I’ve also done better with guillotine chokes­something I never really worked on. And though I’m not doing a great job of staying out of triangle chokes, I am not getting submitted by them. I am also defending armbars and the RNC fairly well.

What’s weak? I still haven’t developed a coherent guard opening approach. One of the things I want to try (per the above) is to open up to the right instead of to the left. This should allow me to sit flat on my left ankle, improving my base. I’m also curious as to whether or not it will turn out that my left hand/arm is better for keeping the post than my right hand.

Off of that, one thing I want to keep in mind is the idea of switching between standing and ground guard openers. All I want to do is to be able to get a knee in. It might happen that I can’t get anything going on the ground, shift to standing, and am able to create some space­though not fully open the guard. I need to consider dropping back to the ground with a knee up, and seeing if I can catch the guy that way.

I still like my original idea: from inside the guard, control the collars with my left hand (“just a comfortable grip”) and use my right hand to try and snag the sleeve. If I get the sleeve, lean to my left and step forward deep with my
right leg. Leaning in the direction of that right leg, bring the left leg up and stand upright.

If I can’t get the sleeve, then I need to immediately step out per the Saulo ground
pass. He will probably reach for me with the sleeve. Depending on how the flow is going, I can either grab the sleeve and go back to the standing pass attack, or ignore it and continue with the Saulo ground pass.

A key thing: I need to be able to feel his anklelock on my hip. If I’m not putting pressure on that lock, then he’ll be able to hold his guard closed. To get back there, I need to make sure I turn my body fully to the side. FULLY TO THE SIDE. Don’t look down. Just make sure your base is good. Then circle back and sit to open the guard.

One interesting trick about the knee under the butt is this: Saulo warns against putting the knee in the middle. But he doesn’t point out what is so good about putting the knee under one buttcheek. In doing so, it makes it hard for the
guy to sit up and reach you from the opposite side. So, in the scenario above, with my left hand forward, I would put my left knee under the guy’s right buttcheek. This makes it harder for him to reach up and grab me with his left hand (i.e., attacking my right side). This is just as I want it because that is the side I will step out with and, eventually, the side I will pass toward.

Tonight is no gi. I’m sure we’ll be working on guard openers again tonight, though I’m not sure what specific wrinkles Rodrigo will be showing us. In addition to working on my guard opening technique: opening up to the right instead of the
left, looking up and turning fully to the side ... I want to continuing working on my half guard sweeps­particularly the Tackle, which I haven’t done in awhile. I also want to work on taking the back and getting better and attacking from dominant positions. I was in mount for more than a minute yesterday but was so busy maintaining position that I never really attacked. That gave the guy I was working with plenty of time to get set to escape (he rolled me into his guard) and
eventually launch an attack himself.

Another thing I want to study is people’s reaction when I attack with the Americana. I’ve caught enough guy’s with it from the bottom that I’m sure people are going to start to pick up on it (I don’t know anybody at our academy who uses
the Americana like I do). Do they pull their arm away to the side, opening them up to an attack to their body (i.e., poosh the guy sweep)? Do they bury the arm inside, opening them up to a possible windmill sweep, armlock or even take-the-back? I also need to work the sweep from the Americana attack: trap the knee on the
lock side and butterfly hook under the leg on the opposite side. Lift and slice­Rickson style­ to get the sweep. Continuing working to finish with the Americana.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More Guard Opening

Wednesday's class with Stefan was small, but it gave me a nice opportunity to work guard openers against two ideal opponent types: one size up and big MF.

In the first case, it's good to work guard openers against someone who is maybe a weight class above. I'm pretty strong for my weight class, and when I'm struggling with a technique I have to admit that I rely on that strength advantage more than I should. At my level, a little bit of technique and a lot of strength can go a long way against comparable or less experienced competition. (And therein lies the temptation ...)

In the second, I get called on any BS. With someone whose got a major strength advantage, my technique has to be on point or there's no way I'm going to be able to use the "escape hatch" of superior strength or explosiveness.

The emphasis Stefan put on tonight's take on guard openings was not just getting the knee up and in the middle after successfully opening the guard. But in getting tight and not allowing any space for the guy to reset his guard. It was the "follow-through"--for lack of a better word--that was the focus.

As usual, I struggled to open the guard against a determined closed guard. One thing I need to do is to think of three different guard opening techniques: the Saulo ground pass, the Gracie Barra standing pass, and the Jayhawk pass (which is the one we've been focusing on that looks to create space to bring the knee up in the middle)--as techniques in combination, that lead to the other. I haven't figured it out yet, but I'd like my guard opening attack to be as tight as that stand-up game combo that Marcio Feitosa taught us (ouchi gari to uchi mata to ankle pick) in the seminar ...

One thing that might help, that came up after class, was looking to open up to my right instead of my left. I'm not sure how or why I got stuck in a rut of opening up to the left to open the guard. But I need to try the right side as a way of dealing with my right ankle's lack of motion. I was able to sit it flat after class, probably because I was so warmed up. We'll see what happens going forward.

Sparring went better than I'd anticipated in some ways. I'm working more effectively out of the half guard lately, mostly due to the Twist sweep. I got caught up in a triangle choke attack after losing mount at one point. The problem was that I was just maintaining position in mount and not going forward with an attack. That just gave him time to prepare for his reversal.

With regard to the triangle, I really need to start working my escapes with more effort. There's a huge difference between not tapping out and escaping and getting into dominant position. I've got two very solid triangle choke escapes: C.C. Grinder and Midget Slam. I need to use them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Last American Blue Belt

Whenever you are in a situation where the thought crosses your mind, “this guy is too strong,” you’ve got to remind yourself that the problem is not his strength, the problem is your technique. Wrong spot. Wrong angle. No leverage.

One thing I like about the way Saulo teaches jiu jitsu in his instructional is his emphasis on leverage, on being in the right spot so that you are not wasting your energy fighting strength against strength. I think that’s what makes people like Rickson and Rodrigo seem to roll so effortlessly, save for short bursts of exertion during an escape or securing dominant position. They feel what is possible, and then they move to exploit it.

But to exploit it, you’ve got to be in the right position, have the right angle, and have more than just your strength going for you ...

We’re continuing to work on guard opening. We’ve really been breaking it down bit by bit, which is great. But I feel like I’m in danger of missing the opportunity to finally fix what has been my most critical weakness. If I can’t significantly improve my guard opening while we are focusing on it so much, then it is hard to believe that I’ll be able to improve it as rapidly as I’d like once we’ve moved on to other areas of emphasis.

Casey once told me that I’d be alright if I could just keep my posture. More and more I think that is the crux of it. I remember after losing a bid to medal in a tournament how Mamazinho got on me about not returning to base after a failed guard opening attempt. That’s something I read about in Path to the Black Belt this morning, the idea that you need to return to your base anytime your guard opener/guard pass fails. Get set, and try again. But get set. Don’t abort mid-pass and try something else when you are off-balance or not set.

For the most part, set = posture. Tuesday we worked specifically on ways to regain posture when it has been broken, as well as using either the inside or outside knee to keep the guard open once you’ve opened it.

The technique had you put your hands in the guy’s armpits (overhand or underhand). Move one knee in to the middle. Put the other knee out perpendicular as you turn your shoulders, opening up in that direction. With your palms down and pressing on the guy’s chest, then abdomen, walk your hands down.

As you do this, you’ve got two options: you can press down on the knee, and put your perpendicular knee over. Or you can pop the inside knee up.

What was killing me, again, was posture. Sometimes during the drill, I’d go to put the knee out to the side and literally tip over, falling on my face. Part of the problem is that I still haven’t overcome the instinctual impulse to look down. I’d like to believe it’s that simple because I know it is a major mistake that I continue to do. I need to keep my weight back and my head up—just look down with the eyes.

Wednesday I want to watch Stephan do this move. I want to watch how his weight shifts—or does not shift—when he goes to put the leg to the side. That’s one of the things that I hate about learning new stuff: you never know which detail is most important for your jiu jitsu until you try the move and fail. In this case, the detail that I really needed to watch when Rodrigo showed us the technique tonight was that weight shift. Does he push off against the torso as he is putting the knee to the side? That would make it harder to “tip over” as I did a few times.

I also thought I noticed Rodrigo leaning to the side, with his knee-out shoulder turned away. Cesar Gracie talks about sometimes going to the side when you are in someone’s guard because it can help you maintain posture better than when you are sitting there with your shoulders square. Another nice thing about opening up to the knee-out side is that it makes it easier to attack that knee as part of the guard opener.

All things to work on for Wednesday.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pounds & Kilos

I’ve got to tighten up on my diet. This morning, I weighed in at 169.4 dressed. That is hysterically too high. I never weighed that much even when I was on the sidelines in May, June and July.

I did two-a-days on Saturday and Sunday: circuit training and straight cardio. Watched what I ate all weekend. Even hauled my ass out of bed this morning to do some circuit work. Still, a crazy number on the scale when I get to the office. I knew things would be rough when the bathroom scale at home gave me 165. But I hoped for the best and ended up with the obligatory four-pound markup on the office digital.

So, carbs are out … save for my Wednesday pizza. I really want to get to the point where I am at 160 walking around. And it was depressing that after my first three-nights-a-week training in months, it didn’t seem to do much of anything to reduce my poundage. The typical pattern was for me to weigh around 165 on Monday, then drop to under 162.5 or even under 160 on the bathroom scale, by Friday morning.

Even during the month of twice-a-week training I had decent weigh-in numbers:

Monday, July 16 to Friday, July 20: 164.3 to 161.7
Monday, July 23 to Friday, July 27: 166.5 to 161.3
Monday, July 30 to Friday, August 3: 167.6 to 164.7 (Thursday)
Monday, August 6 to Friday, August 10: 168.5 to 164.8 (Thursday)

And Monday, August 13 was 167.4

One clear trend is that, since I’ve been training, my Monday morning weigh has actually gotten heavier. The average weight loss—Monday to Friday—is about three and a half pounds. That includes two weeks where the last weigh in was a day earlier—so the average might actually be higher.

A couple of theories: Rebecca thinks that I might have added a pound or two of muscle in the first four weeks of being back on the mat, which would help explain the “boost” factor in the weight. Similarly, I’m thinking that my cardio has improved to the point where I don’t get the same “water loss” that I used to get when training. I remember the first week or two coming home and seeing that I’d dropped about three pounds in one training session. But the last few training sessions were pretty much flat on the water loss—at least as far as the scale was concerned.

I don’t think diet was the difference. My diet wasn’t especially clean in the second half of July—including some weekend eating and drinking that there’s no way I’d try and get away with now.

I’ve stepped up the working out. But if Rebecca and/or my theory is accurate, then that’s not likely to help me shed much more poundage.

That only leaves the diet. I’d gladly starve myself just to get down to the 155 area and then try and “fill out” back to 160. That said, I’m going to try and take the responsible, Atkins-light/South Beach approach this week and see if I can tell if there is any difference. I can feel the additional weight around my midsection, even if it isn’t as visible as it feels. Extra working out notwithstanding, diet is probably going to be the best way to eliminate the next, and last, ten pounds.

Finishing Techniques and Body Type

I wrote this about a month and a half ago, but thought it might be bad form to post it. But hearing recently in an interview that Minotauro considered armlocks "his specialty" got me thinking that maybe there was something to this post after all.


It's been axiomatic that certain submission techniques in jiu jitsu are easier for certain people to perform compared to other techniques. The most common example is the idea that jiu jitsu fighters with longer legs tend to have an advantage with attacks like the triangle choke.

Another example I think comes from watching jiu jitsu/submission fighters like Paulo Filho and Joe Stevenson. Both of these fighters are short, but thick-bodied. Filho is only 5' 8" or so, but competes at 185. Stevenson is generously 5' 6" and only recently moved down to compete at 155.

Neither of these guys is going to win a triangle choking contest. But what they both have in common is a preference for joint locks: armlocks in Filho's case and leg locks in Stevenson's case.

I think this is because both fighters have large, strong arms and thick shoulders and core, and can use them--and their relative small size--to attack a limb with all of their bodyweight. It is easier for fighters like this to maneuver their smaller, but stronger bodies in between an opponent's body and his arm or leg than it is for longer-limbed fighters.

Is there another body type/finishing technique combination? I think there might be if you consider someone like Marcelo Garcia or even Leo Viera. Neither fighter is especially long-limbed. And I don't think anyone would accuse either fighter of being "built like a tank." Both fighters are relatively well-proportioned and--save for Garcia's somewhat oversized thighs--not especially muscled.

For fighters of normal athletic proportion, I think chokes might be the weapon of choice. Guillotines, brabos, north-south guillotines, rear-naked, d'arce ... all of these attacks should work especially well for the "average build" jiu jitsu fighter. Not only are chokes ultimately the most efficient finishing technique (if they don't tap, then they go to sleep), but also they are something that the less muscled and less long-limbed among us can apply more easily than our lengthy or thick-bodied teammates and competitors.

Obviously jiu jitsu fighters of all body types should become proficient in all forms of attack. I've given up the idea, for example, that my legs are "too short" for me to be able to finish with the triangle choke.

But it is worth having an idea of what sort of finishing techniques might be tailor-made for your body type. Everyone has their own jiu jitsu--as every knowledgeable jiu jitsu instructor insists. And knowing what kind of jiu jitsu your body was built for will go a long way toward helping you find it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Cassio Cardoso Choke?

courtesy of the good people of Abhaya ...

Encircled Collar Choke

I'd read an interview with Cassio Cardoso at On the Mat that was really fascinating. He seems like a real, old school jiu jitsu guy who was one of the people who was always supposed to fight Rickson in a jiu jitsu match but never did.

Here's a link to the interview ...

I went to Jiu Jitsu Gear Forum looking for stories about him. One of the stories--and there were an unfortunate few--talked about a certain choke that Cardoso did. In the story, Cardoso didn't just lift the choking elbow, he pulled and rolled, really sinking it in deep. I also think Cardoso wasn't working from the closed guard, which would have made the roll a bit more difficult.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

August 18th: Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu Day

Two years ago today, on August 18, 2005, I began my journey into Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Looking back on that first day and those first few posts of side control, it is interesting to see how techniques I was taught years ago continue to be techniques worth learning and refining. In some ways it is sobering. Two years later, I'm still trying to recall, execute and perfect the same sweeps, escapes and submissions I've been shown class after class after class ...

And in some ways it is inspiring. While all that I've learned in the past two years hardly reflects the totality of jiu jitsu knowledge, it is true that I've learned--or at least have been shown--a tremendous amount. If there is one goal I should have, one set of resolutions to take me from my second anniversary in jiu jitsu as an eight-month blue belt to my third anniversary in jiu jitsu as a 20-month blue belt, then it might be to own what I know, to make sure that I fully understand the techniques I've learned up to this point, and to be better able to execute them with ever increasing accuracy.

It was interesting to be at the Marcio Feitosa/Kyra Gracie seminar in Belleve on Friday night. James got his blue belt. Jason, who I hadn't seen in months, also picked up a blue belt--maybe around the same time as Mike. When you factor in other recent blue belts: Jason (Garcia), Griff, Lindsey, Dave--to say nothign of those like Jeff and Big Mike whom I haven't seen in a real long time--you've got a real growing crew of new blue belts. The next big move for all of us will be the move to purple, and although I continue to be especially impressed witih Jason (Garcia)'s technical ability, there's no way I'm going to handicap which one of us--or which few of us--make it to that purple finish line first.

I don't say that out of a competitive sense, but more out of a sense of wonder. I've pretty much seen all of these guys since they were white belts. Some of them started out at pretty much the exact same time that I did. So in watching them grow and improve, I am also in a way watching myself. As exhilerating as the run to blue has been, the marathon stretch to purple will be all the more amazing to experience.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Tommy Gun




Front Sweep

Back Sweep

Arm Drag

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Whizzer of Uchi Mata

You've gotta love the way classes have been sewn together this week.

We've been working takedowns and opening the closed guard in the gi all week. The main takedowns have been the classic judo/jiu jitsu throws: ouchi gari and uchi mata. We've done them in the gi. Marcio, Rodrigo and Stephan. We've done these throws both as attacks and as counters.

What was nice about tonight was not only doing these throws (well, at least, uchi mata) no gi, but was also doing them as counters.

In the same way that Rodrigo, for example, had us counter a collar grab with either ippon seionage or koshi guruma, tonight Rodrigo had us counter an underhook in the clinch with an uchi mata.

We worked pummeling after a solid but not soul-melting warm-up. The uchi mata counter came after some of the pummeling. It reminded me of the Karo Parisyan judo-to-MMA DVDs I've seen over at groundfighter. As is the case with jiu jitsu, not everything in judo translated perfectly into no-gi situations. But a surprisingly large number of techniques do, including most of the basics. Tonight's class was another good example of that.

No gi guard opening was interesting. If I have a hard time maintaining posture with the gi, then I have an impossible time maintaining posture no gi. I tried the BJ Penn no gi guard opener and pass, the one that resembles the C.C. Grinder triangle choke escape. But success there was pretty limited. I refuse to do the "elbows jammed into inner thighs" guard opener on principle. But I had a decent time controlling the upper body by palming the collar bone just below the throat. Something to work on, for sure.

In sparring, I did some things well. Got a mata leao, a guillotine and two americanas from the bottom in guard. Casey caught me in one of those triangle chokes from mount that increasingly seem to be a weak spot for me (that was a key Cindy submission when we rolled). More than anything else, triangle chokes remain my biggest vulnerability when it comes to sparring these days ...

One things I did notice during class was that my cardio really seemed to have improved. That's good news, because I haven't been dropping the weight this week like I usually do. I started off the week around 167 or so and ended the week at 166 and change. That's crazy for a week in which I've trained three times.

I'm going to have to get stricter on my diet if I'm going to get under 160 before September. I'd like to not have to rely on constant working out in order to stay under 160 because I don't know how sustainable that will be over the months and years ... Ideally, training three times a week plus working out twice on Saturday and Sunday would do it--though I'm willing to throw in a Wednesday morning workout if necessary. But diet is the soft spot, and where my focus needs to be for the next few weeks.

On a positive note, the flexibility routine is working out great. I managed to follow the routine to a T every night since Sunday the 12th. I'm already starting to notice some slight, slight results.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Uchi Gari and Guard Opening

Wednesday was my first class with Stephan in awhile. He worked us in takedowns and in the same opening-the-guard drills that have been the main course all week.

Warm-ups included Stephan's specialty, the granby roll, as well as some major partner-required ab work. The takedown was an inside leg trip. It's really the first part of the trilogy that Marcio was talking about in the seminar: attacking with the inside leg trip, then switching to the uchi mata if that failed, and then finishing with the ankle pick if the uchi mata didn't do the job. I think the formal judo names for the takedown attack series I'm calling "Feitosa" is: ouchi gari (the inside trip), uchi mata (the inside thigh throw), and kibisu gaeshi (the ankle pick).

Stephan had us working the uchi gari. It's a four-step move. A penetration step. Bring the rear foot up. Hook the front foot around the guy's lead leg. Twist your hips to the outside to complete the sweep.

All the emphasis on takedowns these days is great. I love the stand-up part of jiu jitsu as much as the ground work and feel pretty comfortable fighting for grips and going for takedowns. But the emphasis on opening the closed guard has been heaven-sent.

Next week, Rodrigo and Stephan will start introducing specific techniques to open the closed guard. This week we've been largely on our own--which I've enjoyed. I wouldn't mind another week of that. But it's good to know that we'll be on similar ground next week. I'm convinced that if I developed a decent, consistent guard passing game, I would be a pretty decent blue belt--at least in competition, where the stand-up part comes into play more. Every match I've lost in competition has been because of poor guard opening and passing. Next to escaping from bad positions, nothing is more important for me right now than that.

I've got a few "unplugged" version of guard openers: the Gracie Barra standing opener and Saulo's ground opener. I think what is holding me back is that I'm rushing it, that I haven't quite figured out how to get from being in the guard, to being in base but ready to open the guard, to finally opening the guard. In just about every move there's a point where you've got a beat, a moment or two, to check yourself and prepare for the finishing move--leaning back in the armbar and raising the hips, squeezing the knees in the triangle choke ... Because I haven't thought out the steps precisely, I have a tendency to rush it, trying to get to the end move as quickly as possible.

What seems to be sacrificed is my base. I go through the movements. But do so too quickly. So I undermine my ability to really attack the closed guard, for example, because my base is not set.

Hopefully, I'll get to work on that next week. It makes me think that the guard openers "don't work" because I feel like I'm doing all the steps and not getting the result I want. Rushing is a big issue in general for me. I'm reminded that the point isn't to be "quick". The point is to be in the right place at the right time. Timing is more important, much more important, than speed.

Sparring was short, but sweet. Rolled with Stephan and at one point tried to transition to half guard when my closed guard didn't seem to be accomplishing much. Stephan flew immediately into the move that Kyra Graice showed us at the seminar. I didn't even have a chance to put on the lockdown. That probably saved me from the kneebar, though Stephan transitioned into a straight footlock. It was a good reminder that against the better guys, I'm not going to be able to ease on into half-guard in an attempt to slow things down and get set. If I'm not ready to go on offense with the half-guard, then it is not necessarily the sanctuary it once was.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stand up Counters and Opening the Closed Guard

Tonight we worked counters to the collar grab from standing, as well as an intensive on opening the closed guard. Perfect calls, IMO. The counter to the collar grab is a nice compliment to the stand-up work we just did with Marcio and Kyra at the seminar last week. While the opening of the closed guard speaks for itself--I need the work!

The counters to the collar grab were throws, three of them really. Koshi guruma, the "hip wheel" throw I always think of as the headlock hip throw, Ippon Seionage, one-arm shoulder throw (pronounced "soy-nage"), and a sacrifice version of ippon seionage that I think I've heard called the "drop seionage" where you drop to your knees just before executing the throw.

These throws--and ippon seionage was by far my favorite--work as counters to the collar grab. The guy grabs your collar in the standup, say his left hand on your right collar. Rather than stepping away, you step into the guy, grabbing his elbow and reaching for either the head (koshi guruma) or underneath his bicep (ippon seionage), reverse pivot and execute the throw.

We worked on that for mostly half the class, going back and forth. Very good stuff.

The second half of the class involved opening the closed guard. Rodrigo just had us get in closed guard. The bottom guy couldn't submit or sweep, just try and keep the guard closed. The top guy had to open the guard. Passing the guard, per se, wasn't so important. The goal was in "opening" the guard.

This was a great, great drill. I've said over and over again that if there is one thing that is a glaring weakness in my game, it is opening the closed guard. I'd say that even though my guard game isn't spectacular by any means, the style of jiu jitsu I play hasn't exposed my guard game (at least not in competition). But I've been exposed on numerous occasions as someone who has a very difficult time opening the closed guard if the guy on the bottom decides to keep it closed.

I didn't do as well as I would have liked. One major mistake I was making in the Saulo pass was forgetting to sit as I'm pressuring the legs. I was doing everything else fairly well: good base, good hand position, good step-out. The problem was that even though I was putting pressure on the knee of the leg that was in front of me, I wasn't putting equal pressure on the leg behind me because I forgot to sit into that leg as I was pressuring the other knee down. That little detail was enough to frustrated my ground guard opening attack.

At least I remembered to turn my body! Bit by bit it comes together. Hopefully, I'll get another crack at it tonight during Stephan's class.

Sparring wasn't bad. Again Rodrigo focused us on the closed guard. I almost got caught in an armlock from the guard by Bruce, a white belt who also managed to pass my guard and take mount at one point. Good for him. I seemed to do better as the sparring went on, catching one of my "classic" americana submissions from the guard in one match and doing a pretty good job of maintaining mount in another.

The Next Four

I've spent four weeks in what I've called "pre-training." That includes three weeks of 2x/week training Tuesdays and Thursdays (gi and no gi, respectively), and one week of 1x/week (Tuesday) and two seminars (Thursday and Friday).

The next phase is four weeks of 3x/week training. I'm looking at training on the evenings of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Gi with Rodrigo. Gi with Stephan. No gi with Rodrigo.

I'm thinking that there will be a tournament sometime in early September. The last day of this second four-week period is September 7th, so hopefully nothing will be scheduled before then (at least, hopefully, nothing from Gracie Barra).

There are a few things that I need to spend the next four weeks working on--and just as diligently as I've been doing my evening stretching. I think these are the things that keep me from feeling "true blue" as a blue belt on the mat.


Not a huge priority compared to other areas. But definitely something to keep attention on. Right now, I'm looking at three attacks: double legs, arm drags, and the Feitosa series (inside leg tripo, uchi mata, ankle pick).

Guard Pass

Crucial. No other way to describe it. It is absolutely critical that my guard passing skills improve.

There are three passes that I have some confidence with, even if it is rarely displayed on the mat. The standing sleeve pass where you grab a sleeve, the handcuff pass where you pin the guy's arm behind his back, and the Saulo ground pass.

What I need to do is run through the scenarios of setting these passes up. My thinking is that I need to always look to catch an arm. If I do that, I can hit the standing sleeve pass or the handcuff. If the guy moves his arms to keep them away from me, then I need to immediately go to the Saulo ground pass. If he brings his hand/arm back into play to stop my Saulo ground pass, then I switch back to the standing sleeve or the handcuff.

Half-guard sweeps

Tackle. Twist. Take-the-back. More accuracy would be good, but mostly more aggression is what is called for here. Get sideways. Get small. Get the sweep.


Mount/rear mount. Side control. North-south.

Finishes from Above

Mount/technical mount: choke, armlock, katagatame
Rear mount/back control: choke, armlock, mata leao
Side control/side mount: kimura/keylock, Far Side/Watch Dog armbar, Babe Ruth

Attacks from Below

Tommy Gun
H. Rap Brown
King Crimson
The Widow
transition to Cobra guard/transition to half-guard

Saturday, August 11, 2007

B.J. Penn Interview

Here's another interview with B.J. Penn. He makes a couple of interesting points about the value of flexibility, and his overall gameplan in fighting.

B.J. Penn: The Ultimate Fighter's Newest Coach Reveals His Training and Fighting Secrets!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Omoplata Drill

From Lloyd Irvin black belt, Brad Court:
I can see working this into the armlock from the guard drill that Mamazinho and Rodrigo used to have us to at the beginning of class. Really gets your hips moving--which is critical to having a halfway decent guard game.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Feitosa Seminar Day One: Ground Work

For Feitosa Seminar Day One: Takedowns, click here.

From the ground, Marcio had us work on some chokes and armlocks from the guard while using the gi to help break posture and control the guy. Marcio said afterwards that he had picked up a lot of these techniques from training with Carlos Jr.’s son, a purple belt who was making much use of the gi from the bottom.

The first technique was the armlock. Attacking the guy’s right arm, we loosened up the gi lapel and snaked it under, out and then back over the arm. Pulling it tight helped trap the arm in place. From here, it is the basic armlock from the guard: step on the hip of the trapped side, swing the other leg up, sthleg up and chop down. Squeeze the knees. Raise the hips.

The next technique was the choke. The choke is a good alternative when the guy’s posture is too low and you can’t get at the arm. Take the gi lapel under and out, but then transfer it behind the guy’s head to your other hand. Then use a cross grip to grab the end of the lapel as it comes over the shoulder. With your other hand, use a cross grip to grab part of the gi on the other side. It makes for a very powerful choke, moreso than the regular one.

The last technique was an escape from the lapel wrap. Basically, you want to shrink down, sprawling to get both low and to create some space. It helped me to turn my head to the side also. Reach up and pull the lapel wrap over your head as if you were taking off a tight sweater.

Kyra showed us a kneebar counter to the lockdown. But truth told, I had a very hard time following it. My partner seemed to get it pretty well. But I could never quite get in the right position. My suspicion was that the lockdown wasn’t consistently applied, so I couldn’t do the counter correctly. The next time I get caught in a lockdown, I’ll have to try the counter from memory (though most of the lockdowns come from lower belts whom I’m a lot like likely to kneebar, for Pete’s sake ...)

Feitosa Seminar Day One: Takedowns

Day one of the Marcio Feitosa/Kyra Gracie seminar was held at Ballard Jiu Jitsu, Micah’s school. It’s such a small location compared to GB Seattle; the mat alone takes up a good 75% of the total space. But that helps create a nice intimate atmosphere that is especially cool in times like these when you’ve got big name jiu jitsu folks coming to town. The whole place had the air of a family reunion.

Marcio led us through a fairly moderate warm-up before moving on to techniques. Other than the relative lightness of the warm-up compared to what we do in class, I noticed that he included upas in his warm-up, which has led me to include them in my Tabata. It’s very good for north-south escapes, as well as other techniques. So I’m going to make sure I do a few sets whenever I’m warming up.

The stand up technique was one that Marcio said was among his favorites: the uchi mata. I think I remember reading Dave Camarillo, a jiu jitsu guy with a lot of judo in his game, mentioning that the uchi mata was one of the judo throws that translated well into jiu jitsu.

Marcio emphasized a couple of things with the uchi mata. First you want your grip to be about as high on the collar as it would be if you were trying to punch the guy in the jaw while still holding on to the gi. Not too high, not too low. This also helps prevent the guy from moving around to your back. When you move into the throw, you you’re your elbow in and down, from 3 o’clock to 6 o’clock, so it is pointing down.

Second, although it is not 100% necessary to grab the opposite elbow, the throw is best delivered with that grip on the arm. Grab right behind the elbow and, as you turn into the throw, make sure to lift rather than lower that arm. Think of it almost as if you were waltzing. Keeping that arm high makes it harder for the guy to maintain his balance.

A third detail that Marcio talked about was stepping to the outside as you did the reverse pivot. I think the idea here is that you get a better angle on the inside thigh if you step wide. If you don’t step wide, then not only is the guy closer to your back, but also you might actually swing your leg up into the groin instead of the inside thigh. Painful, perhaps, but not as effective in getting the guy off the ground.

Marcio talked about setting up the uchi mata with an inside-to-outside leg sweep. For example, I would be right-side forward. I snag the guy’s left collar with my right hand. The leg sweep has me step forward with my right leg and sweeping behind his left leg as I push with my right hand on his collar. As he steps back to evade the sweep, I swing into the uchi mata.

The uchi mata also works off a collar drag. Snag the collar and drag him toward you. As he instinctually pulls back, use that momentum to step forward and swing into an uchi mata.

If you don’t immediately get the throw, Marcio recommended keeping the pressure on. To do this, hop on your pivot foot and drive your shoulder into the guy, pushing him back. Keep kicking your up leg back to as you move into him.

Marcio showed us an excellent ankle pick that worked as a nice follow up if the guy still won’t go down. While you are attacking with the uchi mata, hopping into him, take that up leg and swing it back down to block his posting leg right behind the ankle. Push on the collar and reach down and pick the ankle. It’s a great combo move, especially if the guy has been giving it is all to avoid the uchi mata. From the ankle pick you can either get the takedown straightaway or you can lift him up and kick the other leg out from under him.

A few thoughts. This technique reinforced the idea of controlling the grips from the standup. Ultimate Grappling actually did a few decent articles on grip fighting that I should re-read. But given that my competition game is built around getting the takedown, this attack—which I’m calling the Feitosa series—is something I definitely want to add to my takedowns.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Instructional courtesy of Bjoern of

Monday, August 06, 2007

Introducing "Tommy Gun"

After Tuesday night's instructional of sweeps from the spider guard, I've been thinking again also about what Tommy said about his white belt career.

Tommy was saying that he relied on omoplatas and triangles from spider guard, attacking with one then the other, for some time when he was a white belt. While I like the idea of doing things that are equally effective in gi and no gi, the fact of the matter is that jiu jitsu for me is gi: that's how I train and that's the only way I really feel like competing. So the "equally effective in gi and no gi" point, for me, really is a non-starter.

One thing I can see about using open guards like the spider guard as early as possible is that it really teaches you how to use your legs and move your body (read: elevate your hips). That is the one signature of both Tommy's and Rodrigo's guards, and it is the one thing that really makes Rodrigo's guard such a maze. It's what I try to remember when I think that I'm not flexible enough to have a good open guard: Rodrigo is no yoga master, either.

It does involve leg strength, though, that kind of working strength you get most effectively from just doing the work. I've figured out some tweaks to my workout routine that will help isolate my quadriceps and strengthen them. But the best way is just to deploy the open guard, the spider guard, over and over again until raising your legs is as easy as raising your arms.

I'm calling the command position for spider guard attacks, "Tommy Gun". That is in part because of Tommy's point about the spider guard omoplata/triangle combination, and also in part because the idea of a "Tommy Gun" or old school machine gun is a helpful mnemonic for pumping your legs when you've got your feet in the biceps. You want to both keep the guy off balance as well as keep your legs in motion and ready to move. It's a lot like putting a foot on the hip when in closed guard.

The Tommy Gun series includes the omoplata/triangle combination attack, an armlock I just picked up from the Internets, an armdrag, and what I'm calling a front and back sweep. The front and back sweep were the techniques Rodrigo showed us Tuesday night. I've managed to put together an "Unplugged" version of both sweeps, so hopefully I'll be able to keep them in mind and try them on the mat.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Asked and Answered: Watch Dog Armbar

Q. I pass the guard and move into side control. But he's got good hip movement and is working his hips under mine to put me back into guard. What do I do?

A. Watch Dog Armbar

Q. How?

A. Watch Dog side control focuses on the hips and legs, compared to regular side control which focuses on the hips and upper body. Switching to Watch Dog will keep his legs from getting under yours and putting you back into guard.

However, you want to be thinking at least two steps ahead. So you get into side control and wait for him to try and slide his legs underneath. Keep an eye on his far arm so that you know where it is. Switch to Watch Dog to block his hips, then transition immediately to mount. Because he was keeping his hips low to slide them under yours, it will be easy to drag them down at the knee and step over them quickly for mount.

But don't just stop at mount. If he reacts quickly, then maybe he'll get a good bump or drop to disrupt your mount and try to put you back on the defensive. Keep attacking. Go right for that far side arm lock as soon as you clear the legs to get into mount.

Q. What if I miss?

A. At a minimum you should wind up in what Saulo calls the technical mount or S-mount. BJ Penn calls it the double attack position. You can still execute the armlock from here, as well as work to take the back.

Notes on the Armlock from the Guard

Charuto's No gi armlock from the guard set-up tip.

At least I'm pretty sure it's Charuto.

Charuto--real name Renato Verissimo--is one of BJ Penn's top jiu jitsu instructors. I've been looking for this video for days after first stumbling across it over at BJ
The tip is how to draw out and isolate the arm in preparation for an armlock from the guard. Charuto's point is that if you just grab the arm and stretch it, you make two mistakes: (1) if the arm is straight, then it is easier for the guy to just pull it out of your grip and (2) if you just grab the arm and try to pin it, then you will give away the fact that you are going for the armlock.

Charuto has you bring the wrist straight forward toward you, while pulling with your legs to help break posture. Then swing the arm across your body. But as you do so, come across with your other arm and bring it down across the inside of the guy's elbow. This will create the kind of bend in the arm that is necessary to keep it trapped as well as to hold off telegraphing the armlock until the last minute.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Interview with Roberto "Gordo" Correa

Courtesy of On the

Half Guard Sweep

I need a name for this sweep. It's effective against the kimura from the half-guard. But it is also nice just when the guy crosses your body and puts his head on your far shoulder. This position is prerequisite for arm attacks on that side like the kimura. It also makes it impossible to do the tackle, twist or "inside" take the back moves.

So this sweep is one worth practicing.

Friday, August 03, 2007

De La Riva Sweep Counter to Combat Base/Jayhawk

De La Riva Sweep Counter to Combat Base
The combat base, or Jayhawk as I code it, is a tricky thing to deal with. You'll find yourself up against it when somebody opens your closed guard and drops a knee in the middle. You also find it a lot when starting off sparring sessions from the knees. Rodrigo, Cindy and Stephan--two black belts and a high-level brown--have all started recent sparring sessions with me by adopting the Jayhawk.

There are a couple of different ways to fight it. I like this one in part because it uses the De La Riva style of guard work that Rodrigo teaches a lot of. I read somewhere on the forum that Gracie Barra guys are known for their De La Riva (along with Rickson guys allegedly). For what it is worth ...

Basically to start this sweep off, you want to put a foot in the hip and De La Riva your other foot through the knee-up leg. Your feet should come together, so that they are really locked in. Grab the knee-up side elbow and the guy's head. First pull him TOWARD you to get him off his base. Then kick him to the side with your De La Riva hook and move to block with side control.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Half Guard Sweep with Twist

Here's a nice quick instructional on the "twist" sweep out of the half guard. It's the compliment to Old School that I'd been talking about, and I think it is the same sweep that Tommy was talking about this spring.

In any event, this guy makes it seem very easy--more so that Bravo's Twist Back, which seems to require more leg/foot dexterity than I've got these days ...

A couple of details worth noting.

This is no gi, but is perfectly applicable to the gi. I can grab the pants at the knee instead of underhooking the knee, for example.

Also, the guy makes a good point of not just driving the guy across your hips, but diagonally. To do this, you lift as you roll, rather than just trying to haul the guy over your body.

The guy doesn't make too much noise about keeping the one leg trapped, which has been a problem for me. I suspect I'm just opening up my legs when I go to pivot, instead of just scooting my hips in, goshi-style. It also wouldn't hurt for me to get small instead of remaining stretched out ...

A last detail. Whereas with Old School you backstep to avoid winding in the other guy's guard, with this sweep--which still needs a good name ... "New School"?--you actually do a sort of sitout with the sweep side leg, bringing back under you, so that you don't just roll into the other guy's half guard.

A nice find. I'm very much looking forward to an improved half-guard game over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Half Guard Hang Ups

Some resolutions and stray thoughts following Tuesday night’s training …

I’ve got three seconds from the moment I get into half guard to start executing a sweep—and to continue executing sweeps until I am (a) in a dominant position, (b) back to neutral after scramble or, (c) with the guy in full guard—closed or open.

I need to treat being on the bottom in half guard like being on the bottom in side control or something. There aren’t very many good submissions from the half, and I’m tired of being on the bottom in half guard and just defending the pass. I’ve got to focus on specifically what I want to do from the bottom in half guard. Underhook? Old School or take the back. Overhook? Tommy Sweep or the Slip.

I should also consider putting in the butterfly hook and trying the Rickson sweep, also. But the point is that I need an “agenda” when I’m on the bottom in half guard, the same way that I built “agendas” for closed guard (i.e., King Crimson, The Widow, Scissorhands, H. Rap Brown, etc.)

I should break it down into specific actions, like the unplugged. Even though I’m not hitting the arm drag like I’d like, for example, drawing up the unplugged version means that when I don’t hit the arm drag, it is NOT because I don’t know what to do. I’m just too fazy (my neologism of fatigue and lazy) to get it down.

The old school sweep is a good example. I know that sweep like the back of my hand. Yet I’ve not been coming up on the inside elbow. If I don’t do that, then I’m just wasting time—and more importantly, wasting energy. Old school. Get the underhook. Come up on the elbow. Come up on the knee. Grab the far foot. Pull and tackle. Backstep to avoid his guard and move into side control.

It’s that fucking simple. Yet I might do it properly once a week, if that.

Tommy Sweep—which needs to be renamed. Get the overhook. Dip your shoulder down and inside to get small. Hook the guy’s inside leg with your inside leg. Reach down and grab his outside leg pants at the knee. With your inside foot planted, pivot your hips inside like a hip throw/goshi and lift the guy’s outside knee up and over. Backstep to avoid his guard and move into side control.

I’ve been missing the Tommy Sweep in large part because I’ve been so committed to trapping the guy’s inside leg with my outside leg. Then, when I go to pivot, I inevitably release that trap as I pivot on my hip. That allows the guy to pull his leg out and hop right into side control. It happened again last night.

Looking for some details on the Tommy Sweep, I came across some notes from Eric Dalhberg about taking the back from half-guard that I want to look at. Those notes were based on the underhook. I’ve also got some notes for taking the back when you’ve got the overhook.

And of course there’s that great functional half-guard tutorial I’ve got on Google Video, the one that showed how to regain the underhook from the “double paw” position. The paw has been working wonderfully. But again, I’ve been using it mostly as a defensive tool, not as a tool to help me set up a sweep. That has got to change.

Bottom line: I like the half guard. But I need to make it an offensive weapon and not just a defensive one. I can use the lockdown to freeze a guy when either first getting into half guard or after a failed sweep attempt. But three seconds is all I’m giving myself after I’ve clamped that lockdown. Time to go. Time to move. Time to sweep.

Spider Guard Armlock