Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pounds on the Scale

I weighed in at 160.4 post-training this afternoon. That's exactly five and a half pounds above the maximum weight for the February Revolution tournament.

If I were a pro, that 5.5 would be a walk in the park. As a recreational jiu jitsu guy, I'm not so sure. The lightest I've competed at was about 158 or so in my last tournament several months ago. That was when the lightweight cut-off was 158.9. Now, I'm shooting for 154.9.

I'm not going to kill myself if I don't make it. This is a work-through tournament with some specific goals (takedown, guard pass, mount, double attack/keylock). If I do that against max 169.9 guys or max 154.9 guys isn't the point. I also wouldn't be surprised if there aren't enough blue belts to fill out the three divisions below the 169.9 max.

Then again, if BJ Penn can do it, then why can't I, right?

Rebecca bought me BJ Penn's unbelievable book, Mixed Martial Arts: The Book of Knowledge the other day. An incredible gift and a cosmic connection with jiu jitsu. Though the book is about mixed martial arts, Penn's specialty is jiu jitsu and there are tons of great ideas to be found. What's more, Penn does a lot of things from the guard that I've been trying to do: arm wraps, crossover sweeps. I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the techniques he thought transferred well from jiu jitsu to mixed martial arts are many of the same techniques that I prefer to use myself.

Back to the pounds on the scale. The trick will be the weekend. If I can keep from gaining in my typical fashion, then there's a good chance that I'll be able to make the sprint to 154.9.

Best Training Evah

Not just because I got to roll with Rodrigo for 20-25 minutes straight, but also because I executed the best guard opener/pass I've done in many, many months just one sparring partner before that.

I've been trying to break my guard opening into the most basic steps possible. To get my basic positioning, I've got "Tuck. Hands. Shrug. Up." From there, I've got three moves: PTMU, the Saulo Step and today's feature, the Snatch and Go.

It worked flawlessly. With that sort of effortlessness that you learn to love when you do something in jiu jitsu right. I've been loathe to give my training sessions more than a B+ for one reason: usually my guard opening and passing sucks eggs, and for as long as I was unable to overcome some basic bad habits, I refused to give myself an "A" grade, regardless of how well I might have done in anything else.

But not today, baby. It was really an "A" training session--my first one in awhile. Here's hoping I can make a few good habits stick.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Babalu at the European Championships

Renato "Babalu" Sobral competing at the IBJJF European Championships in the Brown Belt Absolute Division this past weekend.

Check out that sparkling white Gracie Barra gi!

Friday, January 25, 2008

100 Things You Should Do Before Reaching Black Belt

Not sure if I ever posted this from Gracie magazine. But it is a true classic.

And don't forget the 20 Commandments at the end!

100 Things You Should Do Before Reaching Black Belt

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Return of the Son of Damn Your Eyes

Not even a hint of cauliflower ear.

No staph, no ringworm.

No popped elbows, no tweaked knees, no twisted wrists or turned ankles.

No kinked neck. No seperated shoulders.

No chipped tooth, busted lip, or broken nose.

But I'll be damned if the jiu jitsu gods don't have it in for my eyes.

Or at least my left eye, which is once again suffering from another corneal abrasion. I made it out to the specialist in Renton who confirmed that the pain I had been suffering since Monday morning was in fact another attack of the Cornea Abrasion Without End.

The good news is that corneal tissue is allegedly the fastest regrowing tissue in the human body, with most abrasions healing within 24-36 hours.

The bad news is that I've already lost a week of training in advance of the Revolution event I still plan to compete in on February 9th.

It's a work-through tournament, so it's not as if a tremendous amount is riding on my performance on the 9th. Still, it's a major pain not to be on the mat with three weeks--now two weeks--left to go.

The specialist fitted me with a clear plastic lengs to protect my cornea from my eyelid while it heals. I'll got to get the lens checked on tomorrow afternoon (ahem, 48 hours after the lens was installed for those of you keeping track of time). The specialist I visited yesterday thought that I'd probably end up keeping the lens in place for another week regardless to make sure that the cornea had completely healed. So I'm not sure if I'll be training next week or not.

One thing is for sure, though: I'll never train without me pirate eyepatch again.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Revolution is Three Weeks Out

The Revolution event is three weeks from today.

In the six weeks leading up to the competition, I've trained seven times in the first three weeks. Nine would have been ideal. Eight forgivable.

Using Lloyd Irvin's notion that it takes 21 times to fix a bad habit, I thought that 21 classes that were tournament prep was a nice metric. Nine classes in the first six weeks and twelve in the second six would have gotten me there.

So I'm liable to fall short. I'd still like to get in the twelve trainings in the second six weeks, which means four classes a week for three weeks. That would be a perfectly fine 19. Even eighteen, which would work out to an average of three classes a week for six weeks, would be forgivable.

Mondays seem very doable, as do Wednesday when I do my work prep thoroughly the night before. Tuesday is the better night to train compared to Thursday. And it remains to be seen if I can get in there on Friday. Saturdays will be nice when I can get them. Maybe once a month, if I'm lucky.

A big issue: the weight. I was 170.4 with the gi before class. And 161.4 without the gi afterwards. I figure that nine pounds was about half gi and half water weight. It is a night-before weigh-in (thank God!), so I can push it in the final week if I have to. But I do need to get down below 154.5 to be sure of making the lightweight division.

I wouldn't be surprised if I end up getting grouped in with the 164.5 and under. But I want to get nicely under 155 in any event. My last tournament weight was at about 156 or something, and I felt great on the mat.

I think when I'm keeping my water intake up, not getting out of control on the weekends and training at least three times a week, I'm okay. I need to start taking more dietary advantage of working from home--instead of just the conditioning advantage (which is not bad, at all. Though more on that later ...). Rebecca made an unbelievable salad of garbanzos, red beans, and cooked carrrots in an olive oil, red wine vinegar and dill viniagrette this week. THAT'S the kind of food I need to eat more of. And bringing the regular green salads back into the lunch mix wouldn't hurt, either.

Given how disasterous the weekends tend to be, let's see if I can get on the official scale on Monday before class and weigh what I weighed after class today: 161.4. That would be a huge accomplishment, and nicely kick off the three-week cutting period. I'm basically looking to lose about 2.5 pounds a week--doable, with some discipline. If I can get to 161.4 before Monday's class, there's a good chance I'll drop 2.5 pounds by the time I'm done training that day ...

I mentioned getting back to the conditioning issue. The LSD workouts are fine. But I need to be doing regular T and Berardi workouts. I should probably do 3T as my morning routine on training days, and extend it to the 39 workout on days I'm not training. But the short, intense interval work has got to be more in the mix. My recovery overall is not bad during training. But I'm lacking the GO in sparring, and I get initially--especially by a lot of the young 'n' hungry three-stripe white belt types. Three weeks of more appropriate conditioning and regular training should help fix that.

Technically, I'm moving back to the half-guard on the bottom, and abandoning Rap Star for a focus on butterfly/Cobra guard sweep work. I think this is the way to optimize my attributes, to simplify and specialize a litle bit this year. From the top, I'm still prefering the Saulo double-attack and the armlocks from crossbody (keylock, kimura, far side).

Coursework: Saturday Sweeps

We worked on a variety of drills today. The overall effect was to learn some new moves as well as get in some solid conditioning.

We started with some basic pummeling, then went into the armdrag against standing opponent drill that Rodrigo had us do before. Next were two-step and one-step armlocks from the guard. After that, we did two triangle choke attacks: one from a spider guard set-up, and the other a push-pull set-up against the guy's hands.

All good stuff. To add to the conditioning aspect, we only worked one side.

Rodrigo threw in two other techniques that were sort of combination moves. The first was a sweep off an armlock transition-to-omoplata attack from the guard. The second was a very nice sweep to use when you are on bottom in half-guard and the opponent is keeping his weight on you.

The sweep off the armlock comes when the guy tries to pull his arm out of the lock by stacking. You swing around and underhook his leg with your inside arm and transition to the omoplata on the opponent's other arm. What the underhook does is allow you to sweep him if he cannot be finished with the omoplata. You just continue rolling turning it into an omoplata sweep with the help of the underhooked leg.

The half-guard move was a way to get space at a minimum, and a sweep at its best. What you want to do is grab the opponent's collar behind the neck and, with your inside arm dive down and grab the pants of his trapped leg at the knee.

You don't just want to reach down, though. It is almost a dive where you want to get your head as far south as possible.

You want to free your hips. Kick your legs back against the opponent as you work your way almost into a shoulder stand. The deeper you dive with your head, the easier it will be to get up on your shoulders. This is what helps really get the leverage in your legs going--especially if your legs are on the short side.

To complete the sweep you just keep kicking back with your legs and rolling over your shoulder. It seemed weird, but once you got the hang of it a little bit, it was an amazingly powerful sweep from the half-guard. Definitely something to start working every time I am in half guard.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cobra Guard Pummel to Sweep

Aesopian breaks it down into three steps. When the opponent successfully pummels for the underhook ...

Trap the elbow.
Shoot into Cobra Guard.
Sweep 45 degrees to the trap side.

Mighty, mighty Aesopian!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Coursework: Return of the Far Side Armlock

Tuesday night we worked on the far side armlock again.

This time Rodrigo broke the move down into two parts, which I thought was a great move.

1. Elbow over / Switch hips / Trap arm / Walk to north-south / Lock side leg sprawl and pitch lock to leg

2. Lock side leg step in / Turn and Pivot / Drop to Armlock

Here's an Abhaya version of it. I also found a Paulo Guillobel version. The big difference that Rodrigo emphasizes is somewhere between the two versions. Guillobel pikes up from the north-south position, while the Abhaya purple belt remains on both knees.

Rodrigo had us put the leg that is on the lock side out in a sprawl/straddle fashion, with the knee of the other side on the mat next to the opponent's head.

Another big difference is that Rodrigo has us pitch down toward the legs rather than raising up, as both the Abhaya and Guillobel versions do.

The difference is that Rodrigo's approach provides mobility by keeping at least one leg up, while at the same time being able to keep your body as low as possible to prevent creating space through which your opponent can escape.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Coursework: Tournament Prep

First time training on a Monday afternoon. Pretty good turnout.

Today we did tournament prep. Three minutes of standing only sparring (light but real). Then four minutes of full sparring starting from standing and then continuing on the ground.

I'm still a little timid from standing, though I do very well when I attack. I'm still nervous about throwing people, so I've been relying on ankle picks a la Jacare as my "go to" takedown. I've tried a headlock throw that didn't end up disastrously, so maybe I can keep the kubi-nage in my toolkit.

Also doing a pretty good job defending the choke, although I'm getting caught in armlocks as a consequence. The main issue is moving from "defending the choke" to actually working to escape rear mount.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Coursework: More Takedowns and the Mount

More takedowns to start Thursday night's training. We worked pummeling for the most part, increasing the resistance gradually. Rodrigo showed us a takedown from the pummelling stance that allows you to trap the arm and the leg on the same side and go for a modified single leg.

To set up the takedown, let's say you've got an underhook on the left side and are cupping the elbow on your right side.

Slide your hand down the length of the guy's forearm, shoving his arm against his body. Drop to your inside knee as you move down, and reach around with your far arm and wrap up the guy's inside leg. Get deep, then stand up to get the takedown.

I want to make sure that I've got the drop leg right. I'm thinking that you drop on your inside knee--the same as you would for a duck-under. But I'm not 100% sure.

We also worked on maintaining the mount. It was sort of a free drilling/controlled sparring type of situation. It was nice to practice my mount escapes, really focusing on checking the hips, turning to my side, and escaping my hips back and away.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Coursework: Far Side Armlock

Wednesday afternoon we worked one technique. Over and over and over.

I'd love to see Rodrigo do more of this. It really helps cement a technique in your head. Personally, I wouldn't mind sticking to one or two techniques each class.

The far side armlock is a basic attack from the crossbody. What is nice about it is that though it has a lot of moving parts, you do not need to do the moves quickly in order to be effective.

From the crossbody, you want to reach around the guy's head with your north side arm and trap his far arm by gripping your collar. Sometimes it helps to open your hips up to the south in order to get a good angle for the collar grip.

Return to straight ahead, perpendicular side control. Keeping piked on your toes and a tight grip on the arm, move around to north/south.

Here's where things get tricky. Sprawl your lock side leg to the side, and lower your knee on the other side so that it is on the mat right by the guy's head. As you do this, drive your body to the south, taking the guy's arm with you.

Finally, swing across the guy's body and bring the sprawl leg up and under the guy's body by the armpit on the lockside. Use your opposite hand for balance. Squeeze the knees together, grab the guy's wrist, drop back and extend.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Coursework Addendum: Armdrags and Jayhawks

I forgot to mention one of the drills that we worked on Thursday night. An armdrag from the sitting or Cobra guard against a standing opponent.

The key thing here was the leg positioning. In a nutshell, you always want your legs to be butterflied, but open to the outside. That will mean having your inside knee up, your outside knee down and your inside arm up as you attack with the armdrag.

We worked it in a free form, moving back and forth and attacking with the arm drag when we were "ready." It really reinforces how those "jawhawks" I used to include in my jiu jitsu Tabata are a worthwhile exercise (and maybe one I need to put back in ...) I had a hard time both with the leg coordination and with the "lift off" of the jayhawk. I suspect the problems are related ...

Friday, January 04, 2008

Straight Outta Tatame

Some good rolling Thursday night ... and I'll admit that I'm really starting to love the new space. It's like a jiu jitsu treehouse.

Started off with some half guard work. My half guard needs a major overhaul. From the bottom, I've still got a problem with getting to my side. From the top, I was trying to work the sitout, but I'm still a little confused about how to use my legs to open up the half guard from that particular half guard pass.

Overall, very, very rough. Too much "wrestling". My half guard has really fallen off over the past year--more than anything else.

Got in some no gi work, Thursday night, also. Some good recognition of different no gi chokes: the mata leao, the katagatame, and even the north/south choke, which I didn't manage to really lock in well enough for the submission. Later on, I did a pretty good job of defending against the choke when I got caught in rear mount.

I got to work a couple of things from the bottom of rear mount. I was trying to catch the guy's leg when he was attacking with a body triangle. I managed to keep him switching, but wasn't able to reverse the position back to guard. I need to do a better job of transitioning into the guy's closed guard when I've got someone focused on maintaining the body triangle. I'm already at the point that guys are cautious about using it on me. I need to make sure that if I get a guy who is paying attention to my counter on the body triangle, that I do a good job of spinning into guard--especially when rolling no gi.

Got the leg cramps from hell Thursday night. Both inner thighs. First time I ever had cramps there (usually its hamstrings and calves). The culprit was clearly dehydration; it was the second time at the new academy that I rolled without Gatorade. That, plus the fact that I'd done a Berardi workout earlier in the day, probably had my thighs in ready-to-explode mode. So I need to watch this going forward.

Some interesting news: Cindy Hales will be fighting one of the best women mixed martial artists in the world, Megumi Fujii, on Valentine's Day in Japan as part of the SmackGirl promotion. Cindy joins jiu jitsu fighters like Bibiano and Rani who have been deemed quality contenders to some of the best fighters on the planet just because of their jiu jitsu ability, which says a hell of a lot about jiu jitsu as far as I'm concerned. An incredible opportunity for Cindy--win or lose.

Fujii has a lot of that crazy Japanese sambo shiite going on. She has been effective with an armlock and has a pretty nifty uchi mata. She's also got a lot of experience, which means that if Cindy starts beating her up a little, she might be able to withstand it better than many.

Megumi is definitely the favorite. But a Cindy Hales victory would not surprise me for a second. She's training Tuesday and Thursday nights with Gracie Barra Seattle which Thursday night meant some round with Rodrigo, Alex (who has been training with Marcelinho and I got to roll with a little bit), and Jeff from FosterBJJ, who's got some really good jiu jitsu from what I could see.

More info on Cindy's fight when I get it.

Also ran into Angela who, unfortunately, is out with a separated shoulder. If it is any consolation, it sounds as if she might have had a Mike Fowler Moment (meaning she got slammed while someone was trying to escape her submission attack). It sounds more like an accident. But Angela was elevated before she came down on the shoulder, which tends to shift the responsibility toward the one doing the elevating. But that's jiu jitsu. She sounds fine, seems to have a great positivity about it, and is expected to heal pretty quickly (though three months is three months).

All for now. I really need to retool my half-guard this year. But I'm not going to focus on it like I tried to do in 2007. From the top, there are some small details to focus on. From the bottom, some basic fundamentals I need to improve.

A good night. It is great to be back on the mat. It is also clear that my off-mat conditioning is helping tremendously (thigh cramps notwithstanding). My wind is good and when it's gone, I'm getting it back pretty quickly.

Coursework: Takedowns

We worked three moves from standing.

The first was the kubi nage or headlock throw. Rodrigo broke it down into three steps.

1. Step forward with your lead or penetration foot. At the same time reach up for the collar tie with your lead arm and grab the guy's opposite arm at the elbow with the other. Keep it tight.

2. Step outside with your lead leg. It's sort of a standing backstep, lunging out with your lead leg to the outside. It might be easier if you skip step into that backstep.

3. Step back between the guy's legs in a classic reverse pivot. Bend a little at the knees and execute the throw over your hip. Don't forget to keep hold of the arm.

The second move was a counter to the standing guillotine. Rodrigo showed it to us as part of a failed single leg attempt, that left your head out. As with all guillotines, the trick is to look up and get your outside arm up and over the guy's shoulder.

From here you want to walk in the direction of your overhooking arm, looking up and lifting the guy at the leg with your other arm.

The last technique was one I really took to. It's really nice when you find a move that your body just knows how to do. Then again, I tend to be pretty good at anything in jiu jitsu that involves falling down.

The move was sort of a headlock counter-to-takedown. You have a guy at your side with a headlock on. You want to reach around and hook his waist with your inside arm and, bending over, put your hand (thumb down) on the guy's far knee

Step your inside foot behind him between his legs. Step around with your outside leg and turn into the guy. It will feel for a moment like you are sitting the guy in your lap before you take him to the mat on his hip. A very nice takedown.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Straight Outta Tatame

A little Hilo Guard, nothing special, but it was good to see me working to put pressure on the hips. Managed a nice manuver to get the arm wrap, but got a little confused about where to go to initiate Rap Star. I felt the kimura opportunity come and go, and then thought I had a chance at the off-armlock. A little scrambled, but it was nice to see the images flashing before my eyes ...

No spider guard, which was a little negative. And I bailed to half-guard twice, which was another negative even though I managed a keylock submission from the bottom the second time.

Got caught in a basic choke from rear mount. I just gave up on the position and didn't really work my main Saulo positional escape, at all. I remember the choke escape that Mamazinho showed us--and that Rodrigo reminded me of afterwards. I just didn't fight.

This is something I need to make a focus of training in 2008. My cardio is perfectly fine and my conditioning is probably as good as it has been in months if not years. So while I'll cop to being scatterbrained in mid-roll, I cannot allow myself to blame fatigue. Moving and failing is different from deciding not to move and failing.

Did some good work in maintaining the mount. I also hit my first armlock in many, many months. It was a little sharp, I was catching a guy who had abandoned his arm as he was trying to roll out of mount. I went belly down--Fedor-style--with the armlock and my partner cried out immediately. I released the hold, but it was a little late and he needed to ice his elbow afterward. Hopefully, I'll see him again next Wednesday and he'll be okay. He seemed alright afterwards.

Overall: Not a bad first day back. If I'm going to make the armlock my attack then I need to learn how to gauge it. Quick to position. Slow to finish. Again, the armlock is my submission for the year, so I shouldn't have to feel like I've got to turn into Minotauro or Paulo Filho in a month. Study the entries and set-ups, see how quickly I do and do not need to move ... Patience.

I've been surprisingly vulnerable to chokes over the past several weeks. I always think that you are most vulnerable to whatever techniques you yourself are weak at. Generally speaking, I feel very comfortable standing and increasingly comfortable defending my arms. No surprise that my takedowns and arm/shoulder attacks are my most effective jiu jitsu.

All this and no talk of guard passing?! I decided to stick to the Saulo ground pass. I know: I should have worked the Margarida or the Cesar/PTMU. But I really, really would love to master the Saulo ground pass and figured as long as I stuck with it for the entire training session, then it would actually be perfectly fine.

As it turned out, the times I really committed to the Saulo, it worked. I bailed on it a few times. But it worked enough times for me to realize that it is just a matter of imposing my (meager) guard passing will. My base didn't feel perfect, and I was trying to remember to sit to open the legs.

Again, if I'm going to do the Saulo, then I need to stick with it every time I'm opening the guard for the whole session. No weak Saulos as an excuse to avoid the Cesar or Margarida passes!

Coursework: Butterfly Guard

Now that I'm getting the hang of my paying writing job, I'm going to try and step things up here at side control.

Most important, I want to make an entry called "Coursework" for every class I take. This post will be limited to what was taught in class, no sparring notes, no drill notes, no ruminations and philosophizing--just the class, ma'am.

This afternoon was my first class back on the mat in several weeks. I think the last class I took was also a Wednesday, days before the Revolution tournament in Bonney Lake on November 10th.

I say that because we were working on the butterfly guard then, and worked on it again this afternoon.

Today, Rodrigo was basically teaching us another pass of the butterfly guard.

You are in your opponent's butterfly guard. He's got the overloop arm around your back, hand on belt and is probably working to turn his body sideways to get ready for the sweep.

On the same side of the overloop arm, you want to reach under his leg or hook on that side and grab the pants of his other leg at the cuff. With your other hand--the hand your opponent wants to trap--reach up and grab the guy behind the neck at the collar, thumb-in.

Be willing to move a little to make it easier to grab the pants at the cuff. Stepping up to a knee on the side you are trying to grab can help create space.

Once you've got your grips, bring your elbows in and lean forward, putting your weight on the guy. You are going to want to move, a sort of "sprawl walk" around in the direction of leg you have trapped.

He may roll to his side as you move around. Not a problem. Use your shoulder to flatten him out.

We spent some time working on this pass, as well as some time just practicing on balance when the guy on bottom has a good, butterfly guard and is working to off-balance you. One key Rodrigo mentioned was that if the guy has a good hook on one leg and is elevating it, you need to sit and put all your weight on your other leg.

"Sometimes you have to give," is how I think Rodrigo put it, and you can feel the jiu jitsu. Rather than fighting the hook when the guy's got it in pretty good, let him have the hook, but shift your base so that the hook is ineffective. In fact, if the guy overcommits to the hook, he might become all the more vulnerable to getting his butterfly guard passed.