Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: Year in Review

Looking back on 2008, something I'm not sure I'll be able to do effectively for several more weeks, if not months, I see it more as a way I got here from there more than anything else.

From a training perspective, it was filled with 4-8 week stretches of top quality training, intensity and focus, followed by periods of injury, distraction and lack of focus. When I think of my training at its best: March and April when I was training days, that great first week of April when I trained for five days in a row, dropping from 163.6 on Monday to 155.4 on Friday afternoon and returning to my home office to sit in my chair literally vibrating with energy and exhaustion.

That was the first stretch of idleness, the shoulder injury that sidelined me until June when another burst of activity - this time lasting for about five weeks - leading to my first tournament win, and second place finish, as a blue belt at the Revolution event in July.

The year had begun with fairly minimum training, a recurrence of my eye injury in the fourth week of January as I trained for the February Revolution event on the 9th allowed for sub-par average of two training sessions a week. Scribbling for the Daily Planet dominated the remainder of February leading to that great six weeks in spring that I already mentioned.

I had high hopes for the end of 2008 - the November revolution event, in particular. My training in August was not bad, averaging probably 2-3 classes a week, with the pace picking up in September as the two-day Marcelo Garcia seminar and the Gracie Barra Friendly tournament on the 27th when I was totally overwhelmed by Sauleh. Nevertheless, my weight was good, the training was good.

In October, I fell off the bus. A mid-month visit from the in-laws and two weeks of missed time due to winter colds made October a disaster of a month from a training perspective. From the 15 classes, seminars and competitions in September, I fell to a mere 5 sessions on the mat in October.

I decided against competing in the November event and didn't train again until the 11th. The year I had planned was not working out nearly as planned. I made it onto the tatame 8 times in November and, in December, with the weather, a trip to Tucson for Christmas and a recurrent cornea erosion, saw me at the academy for only 8 times again.

In one of my notebooks, I wrote that my goals for 2008 were: "Stay healthy, train consistently, compete frequently." There's an argument that after missing six weeks with a bad labrium/shoulder, one week for an eye injury in the spring, two weeks for a common cold in the fall and another week's worth of eye-related absence in the early winter, I've not done a very good job of meeting the first goal.

The second is largely a function of the first. What I do like about 2008 is that it is clear that when I get in the mat time, I reap the rewards. I think my two biggest growth spurts came this spring training with Steve and Brian during the afternoons and in September, late November and early December rolling with teammates like Stephen and Clint when I switched back to evenings. I can only wonder what more consistent training would have done for me.

As for the third goal of competing frequently, it's a little harder to say. I would have liked to have competed in at least three of the four events in 2008: the three Revolution events in February, July and November and the Subleague event in May. As it turned out, I did half those events. But I also did the Gracie Barra Friendly events, which had at least some of the pressure of fighting in front of an audience. So maybe I'll call it a draw on the third and final goal for 2008.

At the end of 2008 - or near it - I earned my purple belt. For all my shortcomings this year, the end result was something overwhelmingly positive.

It was a crazy year. And it looks like some of the sacrifices on the personal front over the course of 2008 are going to pay off in 2009 after all. Perhaps, with my earning the faixa roxa, the same can be said for my jiu jitsu life, as well.

I'll write a Gameplan for 2009 post tomorrow. For now, the lessons of 2008 are clear: training consistency, focus and good health are really the three most important factors in improving my work on the mat. All the outside conditioning, theorizing and film study can contribute so much. But when I'm getting my mat time, training with a goal in mind, and getting my sleep, everything gets better.


In mixed martial arts, a fighter is rarely criticized for being a knockout artist. Certainly not from the average MMA fan, who loves a brutal knockout as much as any boxing or K-1 fan.

But have a fighter win the vast majority of his fights by submission and the cry will not be long in coming: "yeah, well wait until he fights some real competition. You need more than just jiu jitsu to win a fight against anybody good."

Of late, Demain Maia - whose string of submission victories in the UFC has been among the most impressive - has been the target of this ridiculous adage that, like all adages, is right until its proven wrong - again.

So with that, let all of us who love jiu jitsu stand and cheer the career of Shinya Aoki, a "submission first, second and last" fighter with very little in the way of stand-up striking prowess who many wiseguys thought would get battered by, wait for it, the "heavy-handed wrestler" Eddie Alvarez at the K-1 Dynamite New Year's Show in Japan.

Dynamite!! Aoki Claims WAMMA Crown

As one fan put it in a recent message board post: "First I thought Aoki would get crushed by Hansen in their first match; instead, he gogo'd him.

Then I thought Aoki would be beaten down like he owed money by J.Z.; instead, he got his back and almost omoplata'd him.

Then I though Alvarez would KO Aoki with the quickness; instead, Aoki heel hooks him.

Jiu-jitsu's still enough!"

Works for me. Parabens Aoki!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Better Not Pout I'm Tellin' You Why

It seems as if the weather was not obstacle enough to my training goals for December.

I took an ill-fated nap late Christmas morning in Tucson after a perfectly wonderful Christmas morning of in-laws, good coffee, fruit salad and gift-giving. I woke up after about two hours and decided that I had enough time for maybe another hour of sleep before it would be time to start helping out for dinner. There were going to be about 12 people over for Christmas dinner, so there was plenty of food to be prepared. I hadn't been so relaxed in weeks. I was very looking forward to 40 more winks.

That extra hour turned out to be a bad idea. I woke up with a searing, slashing pain in my left eye, a classic Bunuelesque Chien Andalu moment I knew all too well.

I'm much better now, 1000 times better, some four days later - which seems to be the standard duration for this eye jones I've get. My eye was swollen - far more than is usually the case. And, of course, the strangest part is that there was no poke or scratch from outside. I went to sleep. I woke up. Pow!

I finally went to Urgent Care where the doctor told me it was one of the worst eyes he'd seen. I don't know if that was just a way of saying "pretty bad" or not. But he said that there were abrasions all over the cornea (rather than one line or slash as had happened in other situations).

He gave me some antibiotics and some pain medicine. A very good clinic, I should say, though not surprising for the Tucson foothills. Incidentally, you can now get a sizeable spread in the foothills of Tucson for less than half a million. If I could move everything and everyone connected with Gracie Barra Seattle to the old Pueblo, I'd almost consider moving back.

That and the fact that the desert air of Tucson and the winter-time central heating system are probably what wrought havoc with my eye. There was probably some eyestrain involved as well, and not taking my eye drops before the nap (I never nap). I was up late the night before working for the Daily Planet, and the leaving had been stressful enough. So there were a host of factors probably involved. But it was a pretty crummy time to be walking around, half-blind with an eye that looks like it's growing a lip under it. Fortunately, everybody was tolerant about it and the food, as usual, was fantastic.

I'm headed to the specialist tomorrow to hopefully get some Big Picture view on what's going on. Hopefully, the fix is something as simple as staying hydrated, using a humidifier when possible and using my eyedrops whenever I'm going to sleep - even for a quick nap. We'll see what Dr. Casey, opthamologist of the newly Mike Holmgren-free Seattle Seahawks, has to say.

Mir Finishes Nogueira: Post Fight Presser

Monday, December 22, 2008

About Those Monthly Training Goals

The academy was officially closed tonight. That's got to be the first time the school has been closed for two days in a week - not including the time when we shut down to relocate a few miles deeper into SoDo. At best, I'll get in another two training sessions in December, Monday and Tuesday nights, the 29th and the 30th for a total of 10 in December.

Pretty pathetic, and not a great start to my purple belt tenure. Even with the weather, it didn't look like I'd meet my target. Toss in the fact that tomorrow is a traveling day and I'll be settling for the minimum this month. That comes to 25 classes for the quarter (Oct/Nov/Dec): 5 in illness-riddled October and 10 each in the following months.

I feel good about my training otherwise. I've been out of sync on a host of levels for the past couple of weeks - the year feels like it is rattling to a close like a busted up truck pulling up to the curb. Far more whimper than bang.

But I'm looking forward to 2009. I've started to put together a GGP for the year that makes sense and builds on what I've bee working on in the second half of 2008. I think I'm brutally honest about my weaknesses - and the strategy that makes the most sense to fix them.

I figure that I will enter 2009 wearing a purple belt. But I hope to leave 2009 truly feeling like one.

Here's some nice watching from over at the Sherdog Grappling Forum featuring a grappler with one of the coolest jiu jitsu nicknames around.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mo' Sno'

It's really a winter wonderland here in Seattle this week. We got hit with a big snowfall over the weekend and sitting here on Sunday afternoon with the snow still falling, it's hard to imagine being able to train Monday night.

And that will be my last shot before heading off to Tucson. In treacherous retrospect, I could have trained Monday night (new rule for 2009: ATM "Always Train Mondays") and Wednesday for Jesse's class. The Thursday snow really took me by surprise; I thought I'd be able to get into town that night. And Friday was Friday.

Anyway, I'm working on some things to make part of my 2009 Gameplan, which is filling out pretty nicely. A lot of the 30-day plan will have to be folded into the plan for the first couple of months since I was able to do so little of it here in mid-December. But it's all compatible and focused on some of the same larger issues, so it shouldn't be much of a problem.

For now, here's a spider guard pass from Cobrinha, who just won the 70 kilo (154.3 lbs) black belt division of the Capital Challenge International in Amman, Jordan

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snowed In - Again

Missing training tonight due to the snow everybody thought would fall in Seattle on Wednesday.

Not looking like a good week to catch up on my monthly training goal. I doubt the roads will be clear enough to make an afternoon training tomorrow, as I thought I might be able to do. Saturday is never an easy training to make and Sunday is Sunday - especially with our leaving for Tucson on Tuesday.

Reread a great piece from Roy Harris' marvelous essay, "Belt Progression in Jiu Jitsu" which really matches up with what I had been writing in my notes about what should be my focus for 2009. I wrote that 2009 would be the "Year of Creating Reaction: Make Them Give You What You Want." And here's what Roy Harris wrote should be the roadmap for the purple belt now on the road to faixa marrom.
Purple Belt

This is the belt of momentum and combinations. This is the belt level where the amount of energy you expend to accomplish a specific task should be considerably lower than it was when you were a white belt. Your game should have a certain amount of grace and finesse to it. Your game should not have rely on speed, power and explosiveness to get you into positions or out of positions. Your repertoire of techniques should be very high. However, you should begin to focus your training on your depth of knowledge. The white and blue belts are the belts where you accumulate techniques. The purple belt is the first belt where you must begin to refine your techniques. It is also the belt where you learn to put the basic techniques together into various two technique and three technique combinations, with the use of momentum.

Because you become more reliant upon combinations and momentum, the amount of speed and power required to effect your technique decreases. This is not something a white or blue belt can do just yet because of their limited amount of knowledge and experience.

As a purple belt, you must begin to focus your training on the use momentum. You must train your entire body to FEEL momentum. Up until this point in time, most everything was visual. You must develop a high level of sensitivity so that you can flow with your opponent instead of forcing techniques with speed and power, especially when you grappled people who are much bigger and stronger than you are. Pushing an opponent's dead weight around is exhausting if you do not have a firm foundation in escapes and positioning. You will need to learn to use the momentum that your opponent gives to you, as well as create momentum when his body is not in motion. Momentum will help you to lower the amount of strength you use to perform your techniques.

Your training should also begin to use the basic techniques together into two, three and sometimes five technique combinations. Notice I said "basic" techniques. The purple belt mentality is very different from the white and blue belt mentality. White and blue belts think the answer to their problems is learning more techniques. The purple belt thinks to himself: "I need to refine the techniques I already know and then learn how to reflexively put the appropriate techniques together into flowing combinations." For example, when I first learned the triangle, I thought it was just a matter of throwing my legs over their head and shoulder and squeezing my legs together. Then as I matured in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I noticed that there were a specific set of components that made up the technique (20 to be exact!). Then, I noticed that these components could be broken down even further into sub-categories. Now (as a black belt), the triangle is no longer a simple technique with three or four movements. It is now a myriad of over twenty (20) different (and subtle) moving parts that must be put together in a specific order so they can all work together towards one common goal: apply pressure to the neck. Once I had mastered the triangle, I needed to put it together with other basic techniques like the arm lock, the hip bump, the sweep, the kimura, a knee lock, etc. Knowing how to combine the triangle with other basic techniques was very important to my development in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! Once I could combine techniques together and use them in conjunction with momentum, I now felt ready to take on the world. I've noticed the same in many students, both in seminars, at my school and other schools.

The purple belt's mind set should be on the refinement of his current knowledge and the use of momentum and combinations. The purple belt is able to do this because he already has a wide base of knowledge in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I know that white and blue belts want to learn how to do this, but they simply aren't ready for it just yet.

This mindset, along with some rapidly developing skills by the purple belts usually sets the stage for some highly charged matches, especially amongst new purple belts. Why? Because the some of the "veteran" blue belts want to make a purple belt tap. Plus, a number of students who get their purple belts go through a period which I call "testing their wares." They want to see just how they compare to the older, more experienced purple belts, especially those who are about to be promoted to brown belt.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

Didn't feel comfortable braving the icy roads that surrounded both house and 'hood Monday night, so my first time on the mat was tonight.

A very, very good class. Even though I did squats earlier in the day, I felt very good doing the warm-up: squats, pushups, chokes ... A lot of energy. Maybe it was the tea and oranges at 4 p.m. that did it ...

I worked with Lindsey - for what might have been the first time in more than a year. Another great guy to work with - we were doing 7 minutes of ippon seoinage drills to start with and it was a good, good flow.

We did one of my favorite guard passes, one I had been hoping that Rodrigo would show us. The goal was to deal with guys who open their guards and go into a sort of "scissor sweep guard" with their knee up in your chest.

The first pass was for those times when you are fast enough to move before their knee gets fully in place. What you want to do is pin the lower leg to the mat with your near leg in a sort of shin-pin, with your toes still on the ground to keep him from gaining half guard.

Staying low, you want to get a cross face or shoulder pressure with your outer arm, while shooting for the underhook with your inside arm. If you can't get the underhook, then you want to put your elbow down tight on the hip, as you do for a good tight crossbody, and work to get your hands Gable-gripped over his far shoulder.

From here, you can pass by bringing your other leg to the shin-pin side, by bringing the other leg up and sliding into mount, or by backstepping toward the shin-pin side.

The variation was in case you were late and he got the knee up. In this situation, you've got the shin-pin, but the knee is blocking you.

With your inside arm, reach and grab the guy's gi high up on his back. At the same time, palm the knee with your outside hand and put all your weight on it as you pull on the gi with your other hand. Keep your hips down, flattening the knees.

Once he gets pretty flat, you want to switch grips. With your outside hand you want to switch from the knee to the collar (front) to pull him toward you. With your inside hand, you reach between his legs to keep the bottom leg pinned as you walk your way around toward your pulling hand to pass. Stay low, stay heavy, then drive into him to put him on his back as you move into side control.

The last technique of the night was a choke from side control using the gi. It was another one of those slide-by's, as they say in Greco, where you control the lapel with one hand, slide around the guy and pass the lapel to the other hand to complete the choke.

There was one version where you switched grips and another where you used the same grip all the way through. But I need to think them both through again to make sure I remember them correctly.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thursday Night Training

Rodrigo was still out sick on Thursday, so Shawn led the gi class.

After a really vigorous warm-up, Shawn had us working on the half-guard passes some more. I think it might have been the third or fourth day in a row (for me) that we worked on these passes. But I'll be damned if I don't have them pretty well burned into my muscle memory.

What is especially nice about the two passes - the Royler and the Switch - is that they are very different from my current standby half-guard pass. This gives me three solid options - not including standing out of the half guard. The trick, of course, will be to integrate all three into my game so that I feel comfortable switching to whichever one looks most appropriate for the moment.

Cindy's no gi class was also a review of sorts - again, no complaints on my end. We worked the duck-under, the arm-stuff triangle and the omoplata. Doing the arm-stuff triangle, I actually started to have visions my myself actually being able to use the triangle choke in sparring.

Visions - or delusions, perhaps. I've been watching a lot of Ryan Hall stuff of late, looking for different set-ups: the chicken wing, the shin/chin smash ... But one thing I realized Thursday night was that if I just focus on getting the basic triangle leg lock in place and then grab my shin with my opposite hand and "fit" the triangle into position, I might actually be able to start pulling them off.

I have a pretty good sense of the mechanics of the triangle AFTER I've got that basic leg lock in place. I've just done a poor job of getting to that initial step. A large part of it, I know, is my perennial inability to break posture from the closed guard, which means that I'm really just throwing my legs up in a vain attempt to catch the guy.

In any event, I'm not going to make the triangle a big part of my game all of a sudden. But it is something I want to at least have as a credible threat.

A little sparring afterwards. Nothing too remarkable. I'm getting increasingly comfortable with north/south as a dominant position and the kimura as a finish. I need to start turning those kimuras into armlocks and those north/souths into take-the-back. But so far, so good.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

I only stayed for the first hour/class since I had to run across town by 8 p.m. Turns out my timing was perfect, even if I hated the idea of not being able to train a little more. But the last time I tried to do that I miscalculated and missed the connect, as Saulo might say. So one class/one hour for me tonight.

Sean taught the class since Rodrigo was still under the weather. We worked on half guard passes after some extensive warm-ups, the same Royler knee-through pass and then the switch with double underhooks. I'm really liking the switch; just as with the Watchdog half guard pass that is my bread and butter, wedging the knee in there really gives you some incredible leverage to open up the half guard.

Feels very weird to be walking around with a purple belt on. Very glad my first night back on Monday was spent rolling with Steve and Clint, guys I feel perfectly comfortable training with. I'm trying to avoid the same sort of Spartanism that accompanied the first few weeks of getting my blue belt, thinking that there is now some level of purple belt invincibility I must display at all times. Not only is it just wrong, but it will completely limit my development - and I've got a lot of developing to do.

May hop back on the tatame on Wednesday, but Thursday is the only definite for the week. I really want to ramp up the mat time in this first year as a purple belt, really hit my weaknesses hard and force them to come up to speed. I'm starting to develop some half decent instincts. It's just a matter of deepening them.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday Night Training

Rodrigo was out sick tonight. I actually thought I saw him pulling out of the driveway as I was walking up.

I had hoped to arrive early enough to participate in Lindsey's class (something I'm thinking about making a permanent part of my Monday schedule) and lucked out. We worked some techniques from knee on belly, mostly the baseball choke and an armlock attack if the guy tries to defend the baseball choke. The detail with the armlock is to bring your far leg up behind the need of the guy's defending arm, keeping the elbow up. Reach over with your north side grip and push the arm further over across the guy's body/face before swinging the leg over and sitting down into the armlock.

Sparring was great. I rolled with both Steve and Clint, two of my favorite people to roll with over the past several months. Overall, I thought my movement wasn't bad - though I still need to get better about initiating the action from the guard position. Some of the half guard things I'd wanted to work on, like passing the lapel between the legs to get a better grip in deep half guard, worked like a charm.

All in all a nice first class after promotion. I'll grow into this purple belt sooner or later.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Faixa Roxa

So let's talk 'bout our plan- you can count is gonna work
Carry on feel immortal- at the risk of getting hurt
I'm praying that it rains- so some day we'll be sowin'
Living through a little pain- no complainin' as were trainin' for the riches

Oh, tell me where are you hidden?
Oh, all of a sudden
There you are
--"The Riches", Jane's Addiction

Friday, December 05, 2008

Demian Maia Highlight

One of the brightest stars of the jiu jitsu world making his mark on the sport of mixed martial arts.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thursday Night Training

A good training night tonight - in large part boosted by getting to roll with Cindy no gi before the gi class. As Rodrigo said, we sparred all of Tuesday's beginner class, so Thursday night would be all drills. And in Cindy's no gi class, we did technique and I got a roll with Bruce. So thanks to a visiting reporter doing a story on Cindy and her kid's class (and more as it turns out), I managed to get in two sparring sessions on a night where I might have only got one.

Rodrigo had us working half guard passes from the half guard. There were two, both variations on kind of knee-through pass. The first has you secure the underhook, then plan your head on the near side of the opponent's head and your pass-side arm posted wide. Pike up high, with your weight on your head, giving your hips room to move. Keeping shoulder pressure on, pivot and dip your hips in as you knee-through the half guard.

You can use the other foot to push off on the legs if you get stuck. You also want to control the guy's pass-side arm, pulling it up as you would in side control.

This is the pass I have the hardest time dealing with. So seeing how to do the pass correctly will hopefully help me defend it - as well as add it to my half guard passing game. I still like my current half guard pass better. I'm just more comfortable with it. But adding this one as an alternative is a good idea.

The variation comes about if your foot gets stuck and you just can't get it out. What you want to do here is to get double underhooks, releasing the arm control and snaking for the underhook, walking your fingers and hands forward to get maxiumum control of the upper body. Take your trapped knee and put it over on the far side, the non-pass side until that knee hits the mat.

As you are doing this, you bring up your other leg and slide that leg, knee-first, in between you. If you do the move as you rotate over with the trapped knee, there should be plenty of room to wedge the other knee in there.

Kick your trapped leg free and then shoot the trailing leg (the knee wedge leg) out as you sit into scarf hold.


Cindy had us working the duck-under, which is increasingly my favorite move from the clinch/standup no gi. We also worked on the two alternatives after you get the takedown (remember to hang on the neck!): the take-the-back move with the knee block and the hand reach around to the thigh, and the side control move from controlling the elbow and the knee and essentially tackling the guy over.

I need to ask again about leg control, to be sure. But I'm pretty confident about the arm control.

She also had us work on another option, especially against someone who goes for a single leg. It has you move in a couple of different directions, which make it seem more complicated than it is. But it looks like a great way to put the attack back on someone who had just launched an attack.

What you want to do is drop to the knee of the attacked leg. Stuff the head with the arm on the opposite side. Reach around and grab the butt, thigh or ankle on the attacked side. Bring your opposite leg up, like you would in a tight kimura or armlock attack, tight against his side.

You are going to fall on your "opposite leg" as you drag the guy toward you by the butt, thigh or ankle. It's similar to the sort of sit Rodrigo had us to to fight off the butterfly guard.

As soon as you pull him into you, you come up a bit and switch your hips so that you wind up sitting down into a perfect crossbody on his other side.

It's definitely a move that improves on drilling. Cindy also had us work on another back control technique from the turtle where you get a backward harness with your north arm under the neck and the far armpit and your south arm closing in for a darce grip. You walk around to the side, tightening the grip as you move, until you are in front of him, almost lying on your back. From here you pull him in toward you as if you were hiking a football. Give it a good pull and he should wind up right in your back control.

I had a hard time doing this from the one side where the pull came from my bad shoulder. But switching to the other side pretty much fixed the problem. It's another nice little wrinkle from the turtle. If the person doesn't go, then you can always roll backward and work to take their back.

A good night, like I said. A lot of technique. A lot to remember. Hopefully, I got all - or most - of it down more or less like it happened.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Apropos of Nothing in Particular

I have no excuse whatsoever for posting this video - other than the fact that I can't get this song out of my head AND it does tend to describe my affections for jiu jitsu at the present time.

I tell you what. Not many will boast of it, but I am a true child of the 70s.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

The schedule at the academy is changing in January. Part of that change will include some advanced classes for blue belts and above. I think that's a great idea.

Rodrigo said that it had been awhile since he'd done specific training with white belts. So tonight instead of drills we did guard/pass guard. All the blue, purple and brown belts were in the guard and the white belts rotated through as guard passers.

I did well on a pass/no pass basis, though the only sweeps I was able to get were from half guard. I did play some moth guard. But didn't really have my wind together and tended to play it safe. There was a moment when I almost went for butterfly guard. Growing pains between here and there in my training. Slowly opening my guard game up.

The tatame was good. Brock caught me with a keylock from side control. I completely forgot to straighten my arm and roll in the direction of the lock.

He was also doing a really good job in getting the underhook and using the knee-through pass against my half guard - just as he had when we were rolling no gi last week. I still don't have a go-to counter to that guard pass that I really feel comfortable with, though finding one that really feels right is a pretty high priority.

Weight was back in the reasonable range after training: 163 and small change. 160 or less after Thursday's training will be fine.

A nice group of advanced belts training tonight: Andrew, Casey, Stephen, Clint, Michael, Brock, Garcia, Shawn, Jesse, Jim, Megaton ...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Monday Night Training

As I mentioned awhile back, Mondays have gone from "open mat" night to "drilling with open mat" night. This makes Tuesdays a little less special in some ways, though it is nice to get a jump on what the technical lesson for the week is likely to be.

Monday night we started off with some takedown drills, the one-armed shoulder throw or ippon seoi nage, after the opponent grabs your sleeve. Details here included making sure not to step too wide when turning into the throw and making sure that you squat down rather than bend over before loading the guy's weight.

We worked this for a little while. Then did some ground work in escaping from side control.

The old school approach, as Rodrigo called, involved swimming your far arm in between you and your opponent. But with more guys hooking the head and grabbing underneath the leg (or the pants), the far arm swim can be hard because it can be difficult to turn into the guy.

The new approach has you turn into the guy first, as you would in a regular escape. Then turn away from him so that you can get space to slide your inside hand up by your ear between him and you.

Once you have the one hand inside, bring the far hand over to meet it. You are going to use these hands, gripped together, to help create space between you and your opponent.

A key detail Rodrigo mentioned was to make sure that you drive up, along the side of your head, not out into the guy. This will create space and unlock the guy's control of your head, without trying to literally push the guy away.

Walk on your back, walking your legs away from him until you've got enough room to go to knees or attack with a single leg from the ground.

A very nice technique for guys who really rely on head control during side mount.

I rolled with Stephen and Garcia for about ten minutes each. I was pretty tired at the end and, while I should have probably squeezed in one more roll with somebody, I didn't mind quitting while I was ahead. If I can keep training consistently, day in and day out, then staying at the Academy all night for any one session isn't as necessary.

One tatame note: I tried my overhook guard trap tackle sweep on Garcia two or three times and he countered it every time. He's got very good balance. But props to me for making sure I'm trying out the new moves instead of relying on the ones that already work. Same thing with standing to pass the guard. Let's see if I can stay at it.

Weighed in a grotesque 168.4 after training! Wow! That's what Thanksgiving weekend will do for (and to) you!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Monday and Tuesday Training

Managed to get on the mat twice during the holiday shortened week, Monday and Tuesday nights. I had hoped to sneak back to the Academy on Friday during the day, but the market volatility has really made it hard to look away from the screens for even a few hours.

We've continued to work on open guard sweeps this past week. The "one" variation, with the hook behind the leg, the "two" variation with the balloon sweep if he sprawls to avoid your leg control, and the "three" variation with the de la Riva hook.

This week, I think it was Tuesday, we added a wrinkle for when the opponent remains on the ground, as well as when he puts one knee up.

The variation with the knee up led us toward open guard variation "three" with the de la Riva hook. We started with a transition to moth guard as a way of dealing with a guy trying to elbow your closed guard open. The detail here was to turn on your side and really push off with your foot (right in my case) to create some distance before swinging your leg knee in and up into the moth guard.

It's a reminder to go really slow and deep when doing hip escapes, to train your body to respond accurately.

Let's say he puts his right knee up. And I've got the moth guard on. I want to grab his right ankle with my left hand and hook my left leg in a DLR hook on his up leg.

To get space to do this, I push off again with my off leg (right), the same way you do in the "three" open guard DLR variation and lift my hips up and over to that I get a good angle on the up leg.

Here's another key detail. To sweep, you lift up with the ankle and the DLR hook, pull on the sleeve with your off hand (right) and push out the opponent's down knee.

In order to have the leverage to pull this off, though, you have to sit up. You can't be on your back trying to push out the leg and pull on the sleeve and lift up on the DLR hook unless you can just overpower the guy and lift his body. By sitting up and the falling back into the sweep, you get the momentum you need to help move him forward and into the sweep.

Keep turning into the sweep until your DLR hook foot is planted on the mat. That's how you'll know that you have the control.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Conditioning and Jiu Jitsu

An observation from Joel Jamieson, who runs 8 Weeks Out, a mixed martial arts strength and conditioning website - when he's not training professional fighters like Spencer Fisher, Matt Brown and Jens Pulver ...

BJJ Conditioning versus MMA Conditioning<.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Year End Training: Week Three

I'm two weeks into my year-end training program. And more than a few things have changed.

For one, I'm abandoning the 8 Weeks Out muscular endurance program. Or, rather, I'm starting over using squats instead of pushups. My shoulder is taking plenty of abuse from training, and the pushups are really taking a toll.

As I think about it, the most important muscular endurance I need isn't in my pushing ability (which might be the case with an MMA athlete), but in my legs (with my pulling ability coming in second). Legs are what make it possible for me to shoot for a single leg in overtime, what make it possible for me to have confidence - and relentlessness - when passing the guard from standing, what makes an open guard attack that more powerful ...

So between those two revelations, I'm going to make the final six weeks of my Year End Training the full six weeks of the 8 Weeks Out muscular endurance program, only using squats instead of pushups (and doubling the volume).

I'm adding a 2x/week Pull program that I've been working on for weeks, and will add the LSD9 back into my conditioning routine once a week, as well as a Push progam. If I can get to the academy 3 or 4 times a week around this, then all will be more than well for the balance of the year and my goal of getting in 24 classes in the final eight weeks of the year. Six down. 18 to go.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Morning Training

All Straight Outta Tatame on Saturdays ... nothing but open mat rolling and both familiar and unfamiliar faces.

I got to roll with Jeff, one of the original guys from back around the time I started training in the fall of 2005. He's back from double knee surgery that had kept him sidelined for almost a year. I also got to train with Clint, who's got an increasingly dangerous kneebar attack that I've had to be on the lookout for.

That accounted for about 15-20 minutes of training and I was thinking that maybe I should call it a day when Rodrigo encouraged me to ask for another roll. It was the perfect solution insofar as I got to roll with Stephen for about 10-15 minutes. As I've said before, Stephen is one of my favorite "new" people to roll with, plenty of give and take, and I feel like I get chance to work all parts of my game.

A very nice Saturday. I would have liked to hang out a bit afterward and listen to some of the goings-on. But I was a little on the clock and had to scurry our around 1 p.m.

That said, I'd love to be able to train every other Saturday. That could help boost my weekly training average to 3.5 times a week and really help me accelerate toward what I'm hoping might be a purple belt at the end of 2009. I'm going to have to really work - and have a whole year that is as good as this past week as been. But that's my "goal" for the coming year: if not to actually earn the faixa roxa then to at least start feeling like it wouldn't be the craziest thing in the world for me to earn one come December 09.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday Night Training

Gi and no gi tonight. In Rodrigo's gi class, we worked on the same open guard moves that we worked on Monday and Tuesday. Even though my back was killing me from being bent over, playing guard passer in the open guard drill, I really appreciated getting to work on a single set of techniques three times.

Of course, it's up to me to work on them on my own for another 297 times. And maybe this time I'll finally get that done. The key to specialization, of really having signature moves is to do them over and over again.

Tonight Rodrigo didn't have us do the "three" the de la Riva hook move. But we worked "one" and "two" quite a bit. Again, the difference maker will be whether or not I keep trying to work these open guards into my sparring sessions.

There are plenty of times when I face standing guard passers, more often than I think. I've got to just start getting double sleeve control, putting both feet in the hips and then working from there - especially when I get the opportunity to work with less experienced folks.

Rolled a little with Casey and was tossed around like a rag doll as usual. He's one of those guys like Andrew and Jesse that I just can't do anything with. I think I might have escaped a bad position into a scramble once rolling with Casey. That's about it.

Cindy's no gi was fun. We worked the duck-under, which has become my favorite no gi takedown/take-the-back of all time. We also worked on a front arm-in headlock from standing snapdown, and a take-the-back move from there. It's a good technique. I always forget how often I end up with an advantageous front headlock position. It's nice to have a way to turn that into something even more positive.

Two rolls no gi. Not my best tatame, but I stuck with half-guard and survived to get a few things done. I hadn't rolled no gi for about a month, and it did take a little getting used to.

About the shoulder. I'm quitting the Muscle Endurance program I started a few weeks ago. I just can't take the pushups and still be in halfway decent shape for jiu jitsu. There was actually a few hours late today when my shoulder felt normal. It must have been the first time in more than a week.

It's a little jacked up right now. But I'd rather have it sore after training and be able to train after a day or two off, than to have it sore after doing a conditioning routine and find myself less and less able to train at a decent rate and level.

I think I've figured my walk around weight to be between 164 and 162. With any activity at all, I stay under 165. I suspect that when I add regular cardio once or twice a week, that number will drop to 162-160, which is a good level to loiter.

My goal for this end of year eight weeks is to average 3x a week training, stay healthy, and tighten up what I know. At the same time, I want to introduce a few new elements from top (north-south choke) and a few new elements from the bottom (butterfly guard) as well. If I can get all that done by December's end, I'll call it a win.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I'm no Bobby Southworth hater. But I would love to see Babalu put on a "submission of the night" performance against him in their upcoming fight for Strikeforce.

If you're like me, then you probably don't watch enough Leo Viera. Here's a video posted at the Sherdog Grappling Forums awhile back of Leozinho sparring with what appear to be some students after a seminar.

Jiu jitsu Night at the UFC! The main attraction at last Saturday's event was the heavyweight title tilt between Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar. But the main "feature" of the night were awesome jiu jitsu performances by Dustin Hazlett (armlock from omoplata), Demian Maia (rear naked choke and aggressive half guard sweep), and KenFlo Kenny Florian (rear naked choke on "jiu jitsu black belt" Joe Stevenson.)

Asian Jiu Jitsu Championships are a week from this Saturday.

... And the 14th Grapplers Quest West Championships are in Las Vegas the weekend afterwards.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

Tonight's training was a beginner version of Monday's night's training. We worked the same open guard set-ups and sweeps. But instead of pulling guard, we just worked them as open guard attacks on a standing opponent.

I worked with DG, a welterweight sized blue belt I remember from some time in the past. A very good guy to train with. We developed a nice three-count for all the set-ups that made it a lot easier for me to remember the steps. One of the things that I still have a hard time with is remembering the basic 1-2-3 of different moves. Having a three-count, even if you need an extra "four", is one way to keep things in mind.

For example, "one", the open guard with the hook was:

Starting from double sleeve control and feet on hips.
1. Switch to cross sleeve grip
2. Kick off with the sleeve side foot in hip, opening up guard wide and cup the sleeve side ankle
3. Insert hook behind far side knee or ankle

To switch to the balloon sweep from here:

1. Remove cup and take sleeve side grip
2. Grab far side collar, remove hook and put far side foot on hip
3. Pull on sleeve and collar and bend legs to load, lift to sweep

And to switch to "three":

1. Switch to cross sleeve grip
2. Cup ankle, push off hip with legs to "sit" on his sleeve side foot
3. De la Riva hook with your sleeve side leg while pushing on the hip with your far side leg

We worked on these for awhile, back and forth, at faster and faster speeds. I never use these kind of leggy open guards. But they really seemed to feel not-so-bad tonight. The trick, of course, will be working them in to my training - which I've not ever really done consistently.

Some good tatame tonight. Rolled with "Garcia" for the first time in months, if ever. It will be nice to have him back training regularly. I also rolled with a newer white belt I didn't recognize and tried to work some moth guard and long half. It was a little sloppy. I really need to review my moth guard sweeps.

Feeling pretty good. My shoulder has a few aches, but probably feels better now than it did earlier in the day. I did do some resistance work, all pulling motions, and I think I benefitted from not supersetting the bent-over overhand rows and the bent-over underhand rows and the alt curls and hammer curls. I really think it was the hammer curls that did it this time.

The plan is to train Thursday night and Saturday morning. I weighed in at 163.4 after training, which is heavy, obviously. But I think I'm not going to worry about my weight during this "End of Year" 8-week training stretch. Nothing over 165 will be acceptable. But aside from that, I want to train, build up my shoulders a bit, eat normally and maybe mix in a little cardio once a week (when I'm not doing jiu jitsu four times a week).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Night Training

Monday nights are changing up a little bit. Rather than being a sort of organized open mat, Monday nights will now include a 30 minute drills session from 6-6:30 p.m., then sparring until 8 p.m.

Tonight we worked on pulling guard from standing. Rodrigo's emphasis was on having an attacking guard pull, that puts you a step or two ahead and allows you to stay there. He said this was preferable to a pulling guard attack that just ended up in closed guard.

To pull guard from standing, you get the collar and the sleeve (always the same side collar). You put your sleeve-side foot in the guy's up and sit down, turning your hips out as if you were exaggeratedly trying to insert a butterfly hook (which you will be).

You've pulled guard. Now to get into an attack position you want to take that extended leg and put in the butterfly hook on the near leg as you swivel back to square up. At the same time, you want to change grips. You want to grab the sleeve with a crossbody grip and use the sleeve side grip to cup the sleeve side ankle.

This was "one." Two was a conversion to a balloon sweep. You can go to the balloon sweep directly from the guard pull or after "one". Essentially with the balloon sweep, you bring the guy's weight on top of you, put a foot in each hip, bend your legs and then extend them. Be sure to maintain your grips as you backroll and be on the look out for an armlock as soon as you roll over into mount.

"Three" was a conversion from the guard pull or balloon sweep set-up to a de la Riva guard. I want to check on some details on the grips for the de la Riva guard - I can't remember if you have a two-on-one on the DLR side sleeve or if you are cupping the ankle on DLR side. The main point of emphasis, however, was in putting your feet in the hips and pushing off in order to move your hips up and over to the outside. You want to basically sit on his foot (which partially answers the gripping question above, I think).

Nice to do some drills, even though I was looking forward to just rolling. I can already feel that Rodrigo is getting us geared up for the various tournaments early next year. There will be Friendlies in January and February (third Saturdays of the month) leading up to the Revolution event in early March. So there will be more than enough prep time.

I had an okay evening. My shoulder is a problem, and is starting to feel like the leading candidate for my very own nagging 'n' never healing jiu jitsu injury. I'm rolling okay - mostly trying to avoid having to use my right arm in anything that is not technically required. The pain comes and goes, and was probably re-aggravated a few Mondays back when I got back on the mat after being out sick for a week. Then I think I tweaked it late last week when I was really working hard on some hammer curls.

Hopefully all that is true, which means that it isn't just lagging discomfort from the initial shoulder injury this spring. There are no good injuries. But I'll be glad when this one heals up, hopefully over the balance of the year.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday Night Training

Thursday night is turning into take-down/stand-up night, which is fine with me. Rodrigo had us do a counter to the collar grab that transitioned into a shoot and either a leg trip, a single leg or a double leg takedown.

The idea is that when he grabs your lapel - and we're assuming he grabs the right collar and doesn't make the mistake of reaching across his body - you want bring your elbow up in and tight and, while twisting inward, bring your elbow down sharply (and tightly) to break the grip.

As you come down with the elbow, you want to step deep to the outside of his leg with your outside leg and go to your inside knee, reaching up and wrapping the leg with your inside arm.

From there you can do a couple of takedowns. One in particular that Rodrigo had us do involved wrapping your outside leg around the leg you were attacking with your inside arm. Lean into the guy and bring that wrapped leg in tight for the takedown.

When Rodrigo was showing us the variations with Shawn, the brown belt from Alaska, he actually did a nice throw that I can't quite remember and will have to ask him to show again.

The sparring wasn't bad. I rolled with two white belts, both of whom had a little size. It's good to start working more with the bigger guys, especially if I'm going to compete at 155-169.9 in March. I had a good tough roll with Clint and was pretty much worn out for the night after that.

The north-south choke attack off the kimura from side control is starting to really feel natural. I definitely like moving to north-south to get away from those leggy guards. It really fits into the basic set of what I feel comfortable with from the top position, which probably explains why I'm having a good time integrating it into the mix.

On the downside, I had some great opportunities to work butterfly guard tonight and just forgot. This is the perfect time to develop my butterfly guard came, with the next tournament more than three months away (though there will be a Friendly in January and again in February). So I've got to do a bit better with that. The basic rocking sweep set-up that Rodrigo showed us Tuesday night is a good place to start.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back on the Mat

All day it felt as if I hadn't trained for months. But the closer I got to heading out: folding and packing my gi, filling up my Gatorate thermos, double-checking that I didn't forget my eye patch ... the more I felt among the familiar.

Home is home because it feels like home. That's how you know you're in the right place. Everything about the drive felt great. I put on Sugar's Beaster for old time's sake - though I'm sticking with the new route straight up 4th Avenue. My favorite Temple of the Dog cuts on the ride back ...

The coursework was the butterfly guard. We started with the basic butterfly sweep/lift rolling directly backwards. Rodrigo then added a hook sweep: first, by planting the sweep side arm and escaping to a knee as you maintain the hook for the sweep. Shoot the escaped knee underneath you as lean back, pull on the arm and lift with the hook.

The variation had us move to the sweep after the back roll without planting the arm first. The thing to remember is that you've got a lot of time when you get the guy up in the air on the back roll lift. You want to make sure that your hips are out of the way, that you are turning your body as he comes back down - in fact, you should probably start the hook just as he is about to come back into contact with the mat in a short of shearing action (Rickson style).

Rolled with Rodrigo, once for about ten minutes and then again for maybe 5 or 6. I waa pleasantly surprised that my cardio was in decent shape. I also made a pretty concerted effort to mix in a lot of standing guard pass attempts instead of just trying to stuff the hook and then stuff the knee.

Best of all, I finally managed to get out of Rodrigo's mount for a change. I had been thinking on the drive over about how important it was for me to get better at the basic escapes. I watched a little Saulo on escapes from rear mount before driving over and, while I was in the car, made a mental note to really fight to get out of mount with a consistent bump-bump-twist action the next time I got caught. Tonight was a pretty good example of how well it can work when I get it to work.

Going to see Some Like it Hot at the Metro tomorrow night, so my plan is to be back on the mat Thursday night. I think (read: hope) I've missed enough time being sick on the sidelines to last me for awhile.

Bitter on Paulao's Loss

When my eyes first passed over the headline, I misread "bitter" for "Bitetti".

That tells you where my sentiments were in the Filho/Sonnen WEC rematch. I was really hoping that Paulao would put it together and do to Sonnen what he did to Doerksen. If you've seen the fight, then you know that it certainly turned out differently.

I'm not sure what will come of Paulo Filho. MMA brings different types of people to our consciousness, people we wouldn't know much about one way or the other except for their skills as martial artists. Whatever else they are, we often don't know and - truth told - often don't care so much.

Bitetti on Paulao's Loss

I hope we see the Paulo Filho of Pride, of his brilliant debut in the WEC. But that's more up to him than anything else. If he doesn't really want to fight, then I hope he realizes there are plenty of other ways to live his life. If he does want to fight, then I hope he joins a real brand of warriors (read: Anderson and Antonio Rodrigo) who can bring out the best in what he has to offer.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

NYT Article on Dynamic Stretching

I'm especially fond of "The Scorpion".

Stretching: The Truth

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The 5 Black Belt Learning Strategies

I subscribed to the Gracie Insider newsletter several days ago after reading this interesting article that helps jiu jitsu students "learn how to learn" jiu jitsu.

The 5 Black Belt Learning Strategies

I've come up with a few of my own over the few years that I've been training, and some of the one presented here by the instructors at the Gracie Academy are similar to ideas I've come across before.

But it is always worthwhile to see even familiar ideas rephrased, reworded and re-explained. And, of course, the ideas in the Gracie Academy's 5 Black Belt Learning Strategies that aren't so familiar are all the more worth reading, learning and implementing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Return of the Son of Here's to Health!

Me and my week with the virus ...

Substitute futon, humidifier and keyboard for bathtub, rifle and best friend.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Here's to Health!

Not the best of times on the health front. After a great training day on Saturday, I started feeling a little creaky on Sunday. By Sunday night, while I was working on my articles for the Daily Planet, I was losing it: congestion, headaches, chills, sore throat ... The same fare I was dealing with two weeks ago.

I worked as much as I could today, though I'm still falling behind with a few projects (editing a 20-page interview transcript, an article for Futures magazine, a new series on trading exchange-traded funds ...). But I spent the majority of the day sleeping - first on the futon then crashing in bed once my last piece of daily delivery was turned in for the day.

So I missed Monday night's training - my favorite night of the week to train - and am not sure if I'll be on the mat Tuesday night. With the tournament coming up in two weeks time, I could use all the training I can get - even if I've decided that the November event will have to be a work-through tournament.

Regardless, I need to get and stay healthy. I can't tell if I've just relapsed back into the cold I had two weeks ago or if, in my I am Legend-like existence working from home, I was re-infected with a new cold virus sometime late last week. And between the tasks piling up at work and the urgency of tightening up my game for the tournament, there's not a lot of room for what I feel I need most: rest.

We'll see what happens. I had a great time rolling on Saturday. I finally got to try out the north-south choke that Jeff Monson, Marcelo Garcia and Rani Yahya have been popularizing and got two submissions with it. I'm really thinking that north-south will be my finishing position - armlocks, kimuras and, now, this north south choke that is just starting to work.

But it is hard to stay motivated when you just feel like curling up on the futon and burying yourself under every blanket you can get your hands on.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Burien Top Team, Welterweight

Training for Revolution 11 08 08 has not gone as planned.

I got sick last week, the week of the 1sth through the 18th. I knew the week might prove tricky, with Rebecca's mom and dad coming to town. But if I hadn't gotten sick I'm sure I would have been able to get on the mat at least twice that week. As things turned out, I didn't make it to the Academy once.

That's set me back in a number of ways - most directly on my monthly training count. I'd set an unofficial goal of training 15 times a month - a mark I reached in September with the help of the two-day Marcelo Garcia seminar and the GB Seattle "Friendly" near the end of the month.

Controlling for those three events, I still should be able to train at least 12 times a month. So far, in October, I'm up to five sessions - three in the last week including today. That means if I can train four times next week, I can get it up to nine - which isn't horrible considering the missed week cost me at least two sessions, if not three.

One piece of good news. Rodrigo asked me to compete at welterweight - 155.9 - 169.9. I've not had a lot of success at welterweight - I'm 0-3, to be honest about it. But given the way the weigh-in's will work out this time around - we'll be weighing in day-of-event - I'm grateful for not having to worry so much about my pounds and kilos.

I probably should have made this decision sooner. Right now, Rodrigo is looking to have Sauleh and Bryan compete at LW, with myself and a GB Ballard guy named Dominick compete at WW. There aren't a lot of physical adjustments I can - or should try - to make in order to compete at WW. I've got a much better sense of my game since I last competed at WW back in February. I'll treat this competition as a play-through tournament - something I had increasingly thought about doing anyway given my poor preparation - and look to the summer or fall Revolution event in 2009 to really go for the gold.

The midway point as a WW is 162.5. I'll no doubt be the smallest guy in the division (I weighed in at 158.4 after training today). If I can become a cut 162.5, then I might be pretty happy about competing against guys I suspect will be cutting from 175. That will require some pretty quality calories, more iron and less treadmill. But I felt weak as hell when I last competed under 154.9 (I weighed in at 152.1 or so the day before). Not having to worry about my weight, assuming I behave myself by eating right and training consistently, will be a nice turn of events going forward.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Revolution 11 8 08

The event has been announced. And all I can think of are the day-of weigh-ins.

Technically speaking, the Revolution event has night before weigh-ins. The problem is that those weigh-ins will be held at the tournament location, Bonney Lake, Washington. And while Bonney Lake is beautiful northwest country and a very nice drive, I have no intention of cruising down to Bonney Lake Friday night before the tournament to weigh-in. So I'll have to do it at the event.

As will the vast majority of Seattle-area competitors.

What's all the more problematic is the fact that the lightweight limit for Revolution events is four pounds lighter than usual at 154.9. This iwasn't been a big deal in the past, with night-before weigh-ins. But the idea of having to make 154.9 within hours of competing excites me very little.

Sure, the IBJJF does weigh-ins right before you go on the mat. But their lightweight limit is 167.5 with the gi. And I don't suspect many lightweights are competing in gis that weigh 13 pounds. After all, Howard Combat Kimonos' heaviest competition double gi jacket weighs four pounds.

The IBJJF's lightweight limit for no gi? 162 lbs. Grappler's Quest lightweight no-gi limit? 159.9.

Forewarned is forearmed, I suppose. And maybe there will be a Seattle-area location for night-before weigh-ins, after all. The good news is that I'm ahead of schedule in both my weight and my LSD conditioning - even as I've scaled back the day-to-day intensity of my workouts. I needed to be under 157.59 after Thursday's training and tipped the scales at 156.4.

That's almost half a pound lighter than I need to be in a week. My current cutting schedule has me weighing in at 154.53 after training the Thursday before the event.

We'll see what happens. I'll want to read up on some of my better research on day-of weigh-ins to get some refueling tips. Last time I tried to make 154.9, I ended up overshooting the night before and weighing in at 152.1 or something. I didn't have the energy I would have liked the following day, even though I managed to get the win.

So I'll have to do a better job this time. So far so good and my conditioning feels very good. I'm still needing to tighten up my guard passing, though I like the improvements to my guard that I've made by adding that "moth guard" sweep that Rodrigo showed us awhile back. More of this in a coming post.

Friday, October 10, 2008

100 Burpee Challenge

Hmmm ...

Courtesy of Petranek Fitness / CrossFit Los Angeles

How about a 100 Double Leg Challenge or a 100 Bicycles Challenge or a 100 Pushup Challenge or a 100 Squat Challenge ...?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Missing Link: Rear Mount?

One of the things I have really neglected in my half guard game is a take-the-back move. I'm thinking that my new emphasis on "rocking" from half guard and deep half guard to goad some motion out of the guy will help encourage me to make that move a more regular part of my attack from the half guard.

I've got a halfway decent rear naked choke, like my half guard pass, I feel as if I've "figured it out" a little bit. By that, all I mean is that I can remember all the ABCs of the move, that I can see a thru-line from the first thing I'm supposed to do all the way to the sweep/pass/submission I'm after.

But I can't work my RNC if I don't spend more time in rear mount. I don't want to give up on what is working for me right now from the mount - and I know that the sooner I build a knee on belly game the more mobile I'll be from on top. But between the RNC and the conversion armlock (the one Werdum finished Lindland with one of my favorite matches to watch of all time), I've actually got some weapons I feel comfortable deploying. It's just a matter of putting myself in the right position to use them.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Monday Night Training

Monday night was all sparring. Before the class started, Steve and I warmed up a little with some open guard before doing some guard/pass guard specific work. I was trying to focus on standing passes, but I was having a lot of discomfort in my right ankle every time I tried to plant or move.

It was a bad sign. A little later, rolling with a blue belt from Lake Stevens, I tweaked it pretty good. We'd been stuck in a stalemate. I was unable to get the leverage to sweep him from a pretty deep half guard, and he was working chokes and passes. I put a little too much force into an Old School sweep and, though I got the sweep, my ankle paid the price. For a few moments that pain was especially sharp.

But fortunately not too long lasting. As I've since realized, it is the twisting or sideways motion that really kills me. With my brace on, I was able to do 2.25 miles today on the treadmill with no problem. But too much force in the wrong direction is excrutiating.

Fortunately I was able to get in another three or four rolls that night: a couple of white belts and a roll with Lance, who I haven't sparred with in weeks if not months.

A few observations. I need to get some motion going in my half guard by rocking back and forth with my whole body. Too often, I find myself just "pressing" against the guy instead of trying to goad him into moving. That was really glaring in the stalemate against the guy from Lake Stevens, who had a really solid base.

It's been a weird week. I had planned to miss training Tuesday night, but thought I might make it up tonight. That didn't happen unfortunately. I'm hoping to get my other two days in Thursday and Friday - and might even be able to steal Saturday since Rebecca's folks will be in town next week. But if I can get Thursday and Friday, I'll be pretty happy - all things considered.

Conditioning-wise, I'm alright. Berardi/3T on Monday, took Tuesday off, LSD9 today ... I'll probably do Berardi/3T tomorrow and LSD9 on Saturday - assuming I don't train. I've got plenty of time to max my conditioning up to where I want it. But I want to stay focused on it. Rodrigo made the point that the November tournament is likely to have a lot of competitors this time around, so we might have 3-4 fights.

I don't think I've ever had more than two fights at a tournament, so the prospect of 3-4 matches is a little daunting. That said, my problem in competing has always been my first fight. So maybe come match 3 or 4, I'll actually start to be worth watching.

The sudden rash of injuries - the ankle and the finger - have rattled me a little bit and kept me from training the way I'd've like to over the past week or so. I need to make the most of October - not just getting in at least 15 training sessions this month, but in focusing in on what I'm going to need to do well in November.

I've broken it down into three main areas to focus on: (1) passing the guard, (2) finishing from the top, (3) bringing my right side half guard game up to the same level as my left side. And that's truly in order of priority. If I do nothing more than develop a "go to" guard pass - the same way I've developed a half guard passing game that is working very well for me - I'll be in much better shape to place at the competition in November.

More on all that later. I weighed in at 161.4 or so after class on Monday, which is a good Monday night weight five weeks out. I'll start to tighten up the diet next week on Monday so that I can have a much less traumatic cutting experience during the final two weeks before the event.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Post Compete Week Training: Monday/Tuesday

I managed to get on the mat Monday and Tuesday nights this week. It's been an off week in some respects, with my ankle still giving me problems and a few sore knuckles on the hand on the same side that have made it difficult to write and type. I'd hoped to train Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday since I was going to be busy Thursday night. But I felt a little too beat up Wednesday night to roll in and, as a result, ended up with only two days of training this past week.

Monday night was some good work, starting from standing. My footing was a little ginger, I worked mostly uchi matas to avoid having to change levels dramatically. Uchi matas, arm drags and a few feeble duck unders. From there we did some open guard rolling, movement and position stuff for the most part, and I focused pretty much on Rodrigo's heel 'n' hook open guard.

During some specific work, I felt a little bit off my game. Specifically, my good side half guard was coming up short. I was having a hard time getting control of both the legs after getting in deep. Now I figure that the problem was that I was still too much on my back and not enough on my side, which would have allowed me to reach farther around with my underhook/outside arm to better secure the lower legs.

Tuesday night we worked some techniques from closed guard: triangle to omoplatas mostly off the Rap Star. The specific lockflow was, from Rap Star, choke, triangle when he defends with the opposite hand, then omoplata when he tries to pass by coming around the side. Rodrigo emphasized escaping your hips to the outside after you secure the arm in the omoplata. That way you put more pressure on the shoulder and inhibit the roll/jump over escape.

Some good training. I rolled forever with Steve Monday night and Mike Tuesday night. My stuff sweep out of half guard is definitely something I want to keep working on since I'm having some success there. And I need to make sure that I'm bringing my right side half guard up to speed on the basics. Another half guard note is to make sure that I turn on my side even - if not especially - when I'm deep in half guard. That is what will allow me to get the leg lock I need to work the Old School/Twist Back double attack.

Monday, September 29, 2008

3 Nifty Little Mount Escapes

In my quest for go to submissions, passes and escapes, here are three clever little mount escapes from the ever-so-technical, Roy Harris.

It goes well with this one,

And also with this one, though getting that knee game down seems like it might be harder than Roy Harris makes it look.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wilson Reis Wins EliteXC Featherweight Belt

Among other things, Wilson Reis is known for his exceptionally deep half guard game. One of the classic jiu jitsu matches involves his deep half guard versus the incredible capoeira-influenced balance of Cobrinha, Rubens Charles. The first video is Reis MMA championship fight, and the second is an interview he gave.

Unfortunately, I can't find a copy of that Reis v. Charles matchup online - it may have been pulled down.

Reis V. Cullum

An Interview with Wilson Reis.

Xande Wins MMA Debut

Alexandre Ribeiro
Get more pictures like this from SHERDOG.COM

In a time when it's become increasingly fashionable to take jiu jitsu skills for granted and to suggest - in 2008, no less - that the "Gracie era is over", few things make me happier than the successful mixed martial arts debut of jiu jitsu champion, Alexandre Ribeiro. Parabens!
Read Sherdog's coverage of the event, Sengoku V, here.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Thoughts On Saturday: Toreano Uber Alles

There were a number of things that I didn't do well in preparation for the Friendly. Most immediately, I didn't get in a warm-up roll before competing. I've figured out that it's essential and I remember the sinking feeling I had went I got upstairs and saw Sauleh warming up. The couple of folks I asked to roll weren't interested or had already warmed up, and it helped put me off balance.

That explains I why I did so much better training after the competition. I was never a big warm-up person, especially when I was younger and felt like it was a waste of time. But grappling is a certain shock on the body, and it helps to pre-treat the body with a little light rolling before expecting it to perform at any thing near peak performance on the mat.

So if that means arriving earlier or approaching perfect strangers, I'm just going to have to do it. And not just working up a sweat, but actually rolling, exchanging position, getting the jiu jitsu motor running.

My ankle is bugging me more than it should. I wonder if the fact that I backed off the treadmill and Berardi work has caught up with me. I'm certainly putting a lot of that back into my workout during the week over the next six weeks between now and the Revolution event in November.

I also need to work on passing the guard. I got to the point where I was comfortable opening the closed guard more often than not, stumbling into half guard, and then working from there. But what I need is a concept of passing the guard, an idea of what I fundamentally want to do to get there from here.

That's how I build a half guard game that - at least on one side - I'm pretty comfortable with against anybody: Get the underhook. Defend with the paw. Get small as possible. Control the outside foot. Old School or Twist Back depending on his momentm.

I'm even feeling more and more comfortable defending my guard, especially using the moth guard with the knees - though I'm still not attacking with the sweeps like I should.

But I've allowed my guard passing game to stall. I got stuck in Bruce's closed guard for what seemed like an eternity the other night. I was completely shut down. I've got to get back to whatever my basics are going to be.

To a lesser extent, this is also true with my mount escape - which was unfortunately called into emergency service this morning at the "Friendly". If I want to get back to half guard as the end goal of my mount escape, then I need to set up the mount escape to take me in that direction.

And though it should go without saying, empty stomach training is a bad idea. Competing on an empty stomach competing is worse. I've allowed my diet to slide this week - culminating in Thursday night's grotesque 162.4 post-train weigh-in. Fortunately, I was 158.0 after training today. With six weeks to go, I'd rather spend my time on this side of 160 rather than the other side.

I think I'm going to work on toreano passes with some dedication, backing out of the guard if need be in order to work a fully standing pass. I think I'm comfortable enough with my half guard pass to let it go a little bit and focus on a new guard passing "game." And given the opposition, the toreano is the way to go.

The two passes I want to focus are the Butler and the Bogart, stretching the legs and going in with the shoulder on the one hand, and the step-through to knee on belly on the other. With the bail-out to half guard always an option. If I can get these passes working over the next few weeks, then this might be the Top Game Improvement of the Year for 2008.

Super Sauleh

Absolutely nothing impressive about my performance in the GB Seattle "Friendly" today. I had one match against Sauleh and spent most of the five minutes completely on the defensive, escaping two armlocks and a triangle, scrambling out of mount and against side control. As far as I'm concerned, it was pretty terrible.

But apparently exciting to watch. Or at least that was the attitude of a couple of folks who came up to me afterward. Sauleh is the Ali to my Foreman: too fast and too technical for my plodding, position-based pressure game to keep up with. As such, he is probably the best blue belt on the planet for me to train with, a modern day Tommy: all guard, all movement, all technique, all the time.

I didn't get a chance to roll with him after the tournament - which had more than a few interesting and fun to watch matches including one with Jesse and another with Angela. But I did get to roll with Miriam, a black belt out of the new GB Yakima school, and felt better being able to work my half guard.

One of the things that I will say about my match with Sauleh was that I found myself in half guard two or three times. But every time I was on my left hip instead of my right hip, and my half guard game on my left hip is very underdeveloped. I pulled half guard on my left hip because the opportunities were there, but until I improve my half guard from that side, I have to make sure that I'm pulling on my right hip. It's a world of difference.

I also rolled with Steve for a long time, which also was just what the doctor ordered. It was like taking a nice long 5K run: I got to try a lot of different things, including the heel and hook guard that Rodrigo had us working on earlier in the week. It was a good "stretch-out" roll, the kind of thing everybody should do at least once a week.

After a while, if you get past the ten or fifteen minute mark, you start to try the techniques that are buried under the surface of your jiu jitsu consciousness, things you were taught but never really tried. It's like you break through to this open space where what was once avoided seems now attractive, and what you once wrote off as impossible suddenly becomes a great idea to try.

My top game, in some ways, has stalled as my guard game - mostly half and open - has started to catch up. It probably had to happen. The last leap in my top game came a few months ago, when I started to be more successful taking and holding mount. So maybe I'm just not due for any major improvements from the top.

Those improvements, when they do come, will hopefully involving passing the guard. But that's another story for another day.

Any time you return from a competition with a renewed sense of wanting to get back on the mat, it's been a successful competition. I really would have liked to have performed better. But hopefully that regret will prove a renewable resource to get me where I need to be in time for the Revolution event in early November (as well as the next "Friendly" at the end of October.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

New techniques, drills and sparring made for a pretty well-rounded training Tuesday night.

The techniques were sweeps from the open guard, a double sleeve control "heel 'n' hook" guard where you control both sleeves at the wrists and have your lead foot (heel first) in the hip and your lower foot hooking behind the guy's knee.

The idea is that you've got the hands controlled - a must if you are in an open sitting guard - and one foot in the hip to keep him back, with one foot hooking behind the leg to keep him from getting away.

We did three different sweeps from this position. To make sure I get it right, I'm just going to talk about the sweeps from one side.

I led with my left. In the first sweep, you switch grips and use your left hand to hook the ankle. Pull on the ankle, push on the hip and lift with the hook.

As you come up, make sure to keep the grip on the ankle. His leg should be between your legs, and you should still have a cross grip on his sleeve.

The second sweep helps deal with the guy if he steps out of your hook. Rather than chase him with your hook, swing your leg around so that your hook (right) foot is now on his hip/abdomen. You are facing outward, and you want to swing your other (left) leg under and scissor out the heel of the leg that you had tried to hook.

Basically, I go from on my back to my left side as I roll to, essentially, switch legs/hip pressure and get a new "trap" for that far leg.

The third sweep itself had a few variations. But this is the main sweep. Again, the guy steps out to avoid your hook. This time, swing your hook leg (right) over the guy's sleeve control arm on your left side (you've got the cross grip with your right hand) and hook your foot under his thigh. Pull tight on the sleeve to maximize control of the arm.

Depending on how deep the arm is, you'll either get an armlock or the sweep. What you want to do here is get a tight grapevine on the arm, then switch your grip to your outside hand (left for me usually) and underhook the guy's near foot.

You put so much pressure on the shoulder and arm that the guy either (a) taps from the submission, (b) falls flat from the pressure allowing you to do a sort of modified single leg takedown to the back, or (c) does a front roll to relieve the pressure.

To get the sweep, pull on the arm, lift up with the grapevine and the underhook. One key is to move your hips to the outside to get the good leverage and angle.

Rodrigo showed me a couple of variations after class when I was asking about the hip placement in this sweep. But I'm going to stick with these three moves for the time being. They don't really fit into my guard game at this point. But they are excellent against standing opponents, which I deal with in my Cobra guard all the time. So it will be worth my while to see if I can get a few of these sweeps to stick.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jean Jacques Gi Choke from Side Control

Here's a nice, straightforward choke from side control using the knee and the shin. Sets up nicely out of the scarf hold.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Night Training

Tonight I tried the Leopoldo v. Lutter sweep from the 2003 Pan Ams on Rodrigo during sparring. As you might imagine, Rodrigo was not swept. But it was indicative of a pretty damn good night on the tatame: moving, trying some moves I'd always liked but never really put in the mat time to perfect ... It's why I said that Monday nights are really "must train" nights. I'm terrible at open mats because I feel too self-conscious to ask people to roll. So the structured sparring on Monday nights, many times beginning with the specific position sparring, is absolutely perfect for me.

I was failing to get the one-legged X-guard a few times, mostly because I was not getting nearly deep enough. You need to get all the way under the guy, throw up the inside hook high under the target thigh, and then wrap the outside leg from behind the target leg, circling outside to inside and in front against the hip.

The other detail I missed, especially with Rodrigo but also with Stephen, was the hand game of getting into the X-guard, the overhook of one leg and the push on the other to create space to get your hooks in. I'll have to work on that.

One thing that was working okay was the "kimura sweep." What was so nice about it tonight is that I was able to get the sweep without doing a full kimura, just by stuffing the arm with my right hand, and butterfly hooking with my left hook up and over. It's the same sweep, just without a full kimura lock.

It's worth remembering that you are sweeping over the same shoulder that the kimura or arm stuff is. It's a really nice sweep.

Thinking about it, the Leopoldo sweep is a variation on the sweeps from moth guard that Rodrigo was showing a few weeks back. I think the trick to set it up is to pull on the knee and push with your knee as if you were doing a tackle. Then when he pulls the knee back to resist your pull, use that momentum to twist in the other diretion, flaring out your knee and the trapped arm on the sweep side and pushing on the knee out and up.

You also want to watch the footwork. You have to keep the leg trapped with an inside hook (for me it will tend to be my right leg as the inside hook). That's the same leg that you're going to use to pivot and do the sweep. I think it's probably done in two motions, like most twist sweeps: get the guy's center of gravity over you first, then sweep him off to the side.

A good, good night of training. And 159.2 on the scale. I guess that's what missing my regular Saturday oysters and chips lunch (and Sunday Quiznos classic Italian sub brunch) will do for you.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Higher Ground

The latest jiu jitsu psychology piece from Gracie Magazine

To hunt your demons
Stagnation, lack of motivation, lack of stamina? Nineteen stars reveal their secrets to exorcize any demons you may come across during your Jiu-Jitsu career

In Praise of the Guillotine

Marcelo Garcia is known for many things technically-speaking: arm drags, X-guards, mata leao (leaoes?). But next to his omoplata game, Marcelo's guillotine is truly underrated.

I'll do a full write-up of my notes later. For now, I want to say that if I take nothing else away from today's seminar, it would be his details on the guillotine. Like I said in the last post, the guillotine is probably the most important choke for every jiu jitsu fighter to know. And since chokes are by far the most efficient submissions, that makes guillotines the most important submission, as well.

Fortunately, as Marcelo pointed out, guillotine chokes are very straight-forward and very easy to get from a variety of positions. There are a couple of key details that I think make Marcelo's guillotines so effective and worth copying.

First is the hand motion. You want to bring you choking forearm straight up, solar plexus to chin, almost as if you were parrying some spear thrust with a shield. Marcelo made a pont of saying that he never came in from the side, which is how the vast majority of people attack with guillotines.

With your trapping/pinning hand, bring it straightt down behind the head in a chopping motion. You are feeding his neck - by way of his head - into your choking wrist.

The second point is almost the most important. Here you want to pull his head low enough so that you can bend forward and trap his head down with your chest. I've never heard anybody else emphasize this point and it's a huge one. It goes right to the most basic jiu jitsu notion of using as much of your body as possible to attack a specific part of your opponent's body.

Once you bend forward and trap his head, you can release your hand from the back of his head and secure the guillotine grip. You are choking with the blade of your wrist so you want to cup that part of your wrist (on the underside) to close the grip.

It's always funny to hear Joe Rogan or Frank Mir talk about mixed martial artists losing arm strength when trying to attack with guillotines. If you do the guillotine the way Marcelo does, then that doesn't really happen. You might not get the guillotine using his approach in some circumstances. But I'd argue it's got a comparable attack opportunity rate to the average guillotine attack, a much higher success rate and far more efficiency. In other words, no arm burn if done Marcelo's way.

Of course, the other big problem are the MMA gloves, the biggest anti-jiu jitsu disadvantage since the three, five-minute round contest.

To finish, squeeze your elbows into your sides as you lean forward and pull your grip in towards your solar plexus. Go slow. Done right, it really doesn't take much of a squeeze, at all.

When you throw in some of the things that Cindy showed us recently about the guillotine: the guillotine sweep and the guillotine-to-arm stuff-triangle, the guillotine really becomes a must have submission, arguably more than any other.