Saturday, February 23, 2008

Travis Tooke Wins NAGA Vegas Absolute

When I was vacationing in Mazatlan with my family over the Christmas holidays, a young guy spotted my Mamazinho Gracie Barra Seattle t-shirt and told me he trained with Travis Tooke in Houston, Texas. I hadn't seen much of Tooke, but I'd heard good things and knew that there was a lot of very good jiu jitsu in Texas (home also of Travis Lutter).

I also didn't know that Tooke was a Gracie Barra black belt, which makes it all the more fun to congratulate him for winning the Absolute division at NAGA Vegas. Here's a link to On the Mat's coverage of the event.

NAGA Vegas Report

Here's the excerpt describing Tooke's Absolute division win ...
Match Notes: Travis Tooke is a Gracie Barra black belt hailing from his Definitive Martial Arts academy in Houston, Texas. He was one of the smallest competitors in this no-gi absolute tournament, as he weighed in at 169 pounds. He faced off against a fellow jiu-jitsu black belt in Rodrigo Uzeda who teaches his Uzeda BJJ Team in the Copacabana area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As mentioned before, Uzeda weighed in at 199 pounds. The match started out as a seesaw battle, which saw Tooke mostly working to pass. Tooke used his speed to counter Uzeda's strength and then strategically took advantage of the NAGA rule, which awards 1 point for a significant submission attempt. Tooke locked on a straight ankle lock, which Uzeda was able to defend. Tooke used nice fluid transitions to stay out of danger and eventually made his way to Uzeda's back with one hook in as time expired. The win earned Tooke the OTM No-Gi Absolute Championship Belt!
And here's a link to Tooke's championship match:

Travis Tooke over Rodrigo Uzeda via points

Friday, February 22, 2008

Submission Wrestling League Qualifier May 3

The next area event looks to be the Submission Wrestling League qualifier on Saturday, May 3rd.

Submission Wrestling League

The qualifier will be held at West Seattle High School, the same location as the last Revolution tournament. It is the third qualifying event, the first two being held on March 8th and April 5th in Hillsboro, Oregon.

What is especially interesting about this no gi tournament is that it is submission only, as they say "no judges, no points, no kidding." Competitors fight everyone in their group, and the fights are ruled either "submission" or "draw."

I have to admit I'm pretty excited for this event. One wrinkle are the divisions. First, of course there is no "masters/senior" division. Second, the lightweight division runs from 150-169.

That means I can either compete against the same sort of guys I competed with at the last Revolution tournament, or drop down to 149. There is also no "night before" weigh-in. You weigh-in right before you compete just like in the IBJJF competitions.

Funny thing is that even though I've not been able to train this week because of work, I've managed through some home conditioning and caloric restriction to get down to about 155. I'm following a modified Gracie Diet, which is really letting the pounds fall. Can I get under 150 by the beginning of May? That would be one hell of a feat, especially considering how I stumbled trying to make 154.9 a few weeks ago. And that was at a night-before weigh-in!

We'll see. I feel great at 155 right now. Could I really shave off another five pounds over the next 60-75 days?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

SmackGirl Results

My French isn't as good as it used to be, but it looks like Cindy lost by armlock to eventual tournament champion and one of the best female MMA fighters pound-for-pound in the world, Megumi Fujii.

SmackGirl Results.

No shame in losing to Fujii. It looks like Cindy had her in a good guillotine attack for a little while at least. If video becomes available, I'll be sure to link to i./

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Half Guard / Butterfly Guard

Some great insights into the relationship between the half guard and the butterfly guard (Cobra guard) in this segment from Stephan Kesting's Dynamic Half Guard.

Coursework: Side Chokes

It probably has something to do with the fact that the next local tournament is no gi, but Rodrigo had us working on no gi chokes Monday afternoon. We did the baseball choke, no gi style and he showed us how to transition to the brabo choke if your opponent got the underhook on you and began a proper escape. Last, he showed us a transition to guillotine (with a sort of faux brabo grip).

The no gi baseball choke comes from the crossbody. You want have your northside arm behind the head with the blad of your forearm along the back of the opponent's neck. You want to bring your southside arm up tight, with your hand on your ear, to prevent him from getting the underhook. You can even disguise your bringing up that southside arm as just trying to block his underhook.

Catch your southside hand in your northside hand and apply the choke by dipping your southside shoulder and squeezing your elbows together.

The brabo comes if the guy gets the underhook on you and starts to escape. The trick to getting the brabo is the angle. You want to work yourself back behind the guy, not just back off. For one, you want to keep the connect. For two, by getting behind the guy's shoulder (moving to the south) you can get a longer reach under the guy's arm and neck with your inside brabo arm.

The other trick is to push down on the guy's head to help get your brabo arm through. You should be able to cup the guy's neck easily with the hand of your brabo arm. The locking arm is almost (almost!) just a detail.

The guillotine transition comes if you can't get the good reach with the brabo arm. Shorten up the brabo reach and attack the neck with a guillotine. With the other arm, reach under the guy's arm (between his head and shoulder) and reach under the shoulder and across the lat. It's sort of a brabo-ish guillotine. Drop back into guard--preferably closed guard--to finish.

I've got to say that this is a huge sequence for me. When you throw in the Anaconda choke and the d'arce, you're looking at five different choke attacks from the side control/side control escape or all fours position. I'm here a lot when rolling, so these chokes would be a great addition to my attacking repertoire.

Monday, February 11, 2008

February Revolution Results Are Up

Hopefully the results from last weekend's tournament will get a permanent link. For the time being, you can read those results here.

I don't know how the team points are awarded. But my back-of-the-envelope scoring, giving three points for a 1st place finish and one point for a second place finish, suggests that Gracie Barra Seattle won the team jiu jitsu competition going away. That, of course, does not include kids/junior divisions or the submission wrestling competition. Just the gi.

Gracie Barra Seattle: 17 points. 5 First place and 2 Second place finishes.
Foster BJJ: 13 points. 4 First place and 1 Second place finishes.
Marcelo Alonso BJJ: 8 points. 2 First places and 2 Second place finishes.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Reflections On the Revolution

As Georges St. Pierre might say, I'm not impressed with my performance. I never really felt competitive. I lost in the grip fighting, control of the standup, the ability to escape bad positions ... I was just outclassed.

Ironically, I wasn't on top for a moment in either fight. It was the complete opposite of all ten of my previous matches as a white belt--wins and losses.

That means that I'm going to have to spend more time on the bottom, developing my guard. One thing training during the day has meant--and Rodrigo almost "warned" me about this--is that I don't spend very much time on my back and when I do, it is often in half-guard where I feel pretty comfortable defending myself in general (if not advancing my position ...)

Over the past six weeks leading up to the tournament, I trained 12 times. Three of those twelve times were evening sessions (when higher belts tend to train). That's a pretty low percentage (25%). I've got to increase that to at least 1/3 over the next few months. More rolling with tougher teammates is the goal between now and July.

More number crunching. In the six weeks leading up to the tournament, I averaged 2 training days a week. Ex-items (i.e., the week of the eye re-injury), that number goes up to 2.4. I think that's C average.

I need to change up my conditionng program to include more resistance circuit training and less LSD cardio. I don't think I was ever all that tired in my matches, both of which ran at least than four and a half minutes. I think my cardio was fine. I was just outworked, mostly by superior technique, but partially because I lacked a certain explosiveness to respond, to say nothing of attack.

I remember how dead my legs felt when I tried to put in some treadmill time on Friday. The soles of my running shoes kept scuffing the tread because I was barely picking my legs up high enough. This went on for a good two miles.

So I'm giving my legs a break from the cardio. At least a week, maybe two. After that, maybe once a week. If that.

That means a focus on the 3T and Berardi, the muscle endurance stuff I'd backed off from doing as regularly as the LSD. Walking out on the mats this morning, my legs still felt dead. I tried to do Marcelo's little jump thing to get me going before my first match. But it felt like it too more effort than it should have.

With regard to weight, my official weight was 159.4. If I'm going to keep competing at 155-169.9, then it just doesn't make sense for me to loiter around 160. I should either work to gain six or seven pounds of muscule--and maintain it--or do the work necessary to lose six or seven pounds so that I am weighing 153.4-154.4 come tournament time.

Although I love the idea of getting closer to 150, the truth of the matter is that I haven't weighed that little since 1999. I've managed to cut to as low as 158 or so for tournaments, which leads me to believe that I'm going to have to actually lose some meat as well as potatoes in order to get to the low 150s.

The similarities between my first blue belt tournament and my first white belt tournament are many. In both cases I lost by a finish, and was completely outclassed and overwhelmed in the process. In both cases, I was unable to get a stand-up game going, which is typically the best part of my jiu jitsu. In both cases, I competed at a higher weight than I would have preferred.

Competing under 155 will also help me establish a discipline about eating. If I know I've got room up into the low 160s, then there's a greater likelihood that I'll go off the rails and not feel the need to steer things back on track. I think that's especially a risk given the fact that I'm going to be cutting way back on the LSD cardio and amping up the resistance circuit training.

For all the crap that Crossfit takes, I think Crossfit workouts would be almost ideal for me at this point. I felt slow and heavy this morning when I should have felt light, fast and strong. More elf and less dwarf.

Whatever. Time to get back to work. There's plenty of time to train between today and the next event in July. I need to get my weekly average up above 3, preferably to 3.4, with 1/3 to 1/2 of each week's classes being at night where the big dogs roll.


Just a quick report on the February event. I lost two matches, the first to the eventual second place finisher and the second to a guy who lost 0-2 in his first match. The first loss was by a collar choke at about 4:31, a choke I'd been fighting off for about a minute and a half before he finally got it. But his positioning and tenacity paid off. The choke I tapped to was tight.

The second loss was similar to the first, though the guy didn't have the technical skill of my previous opponent. He did feel stronger, and was able to maintain dominant position for most of the match. I was actually surprised at how strong he was. There were a few near-scrambles that I thought I could wrestle my way out of, but he was too much. I lost on points.

Brian down at featherweight (remember that 154.9 line?) lost his first but won by submission in his second. Very good for him; I'm pretty sure it was his first tournament as a blue belt.

And Lindsey won our division, dominating his first match, escaping far too many guillotines to win his second, and avenging my loss (if you will) by beating the guy who choked me out to win the gold in his third and final gi fight of the day.

Overall a very good day for Gracie Barra. The event was very well run, in my opinion. Jeff is getting it down to a science. I heard that bad weather east of town kept some of the East Washington teams away. But the turnout seemed to be okay and there were tons of white belts.

I'll link to the tournament results as soon as they're posted.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

159.0 ... So Much for That

I'll be competing as a middleweight this weekend, 155 to 169.9. I suspect I'll be fighting guys who are weighing 175 come Saturday morning.

So be it. I hit the scale at 159.0 exactly after training this afternoon. I would have needed to be significantly lower, like two pounds lower, to have a decent shot at 154.9 by Friday (to say nothing of Thursday night). So rather than kill myself trying to act like a professional fighter, I'm taking the old man's way out at registering at the higher division.

At the regular tournaments, the ones we sponsor and the ones the Machado guys out of Spokane sponsor, I'd only be concerned about making 158.9. But the guy who runs the Revolution events is a 135 pounder himself, I am convinced that has something to do with the fact that the weight classes, especially the lighter ones, have a downward shift.

The thing of it is that the Revolution tournaments might be the main thing in town. We haven't sponsored an event in awhile and its been even longer since the Spokane guys have. I don't mind that per se: three tournaments a year is a good minimum for the area. But that means getting used to competing with the middleweights if I don't work my weight lower-which I'm not convinced I want to do.

At this point, I think my goal should be to become the healthiest, fastest, strongest 160 pounder I can be and let the weight classes fall where they may. There's something to grappling with larger guys that I like: they are nowhere near as tricky to keep up with as the lighter guys, even if you can ultimately muscle the lighter guys around every now and then.

Nothing in the gameplan changes: takedown, pass guard, mount, submit.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Darce Choke

If you can't get the anaconda off the front headlock or snap down, but you've got the grips, then this darce choke is an excellent alternative.

Anaconda Choke

A Minotauro special: the anaconda choke. I think there's a way of getting this off the snap down from standing, and I may try to work it in as the second option off the snap. The trick to that is to keep hold of the sleeve off the snap and to push that arm in as you do the reach under the guy's neck with your other arm to set the choke.

The Arm-In Guillotine

Here's a great primer on the arm-in guillotine and how to finish it. Both Nog and Almeida finished their opponents with arm-in guillotines. Bryan Harper does a good job of showing how this choke that Jamal Patterson once boasted was a "secret" taught to him by Renzo Gracie is really done.

Monday, February 04, 2008

January Goal Review


I re-injured my left eye (corneal abrasion) on Saturday the nineteenth. That kept me out for a week.

Totally my bad. My eye patch came off and I didn't replace it. Eventually, I got caught with something in the eye again. The moral of the story? Wear the fucking eye patch.

I also experienced a lot of cramping in my legs. I suspect part of that has to do with the additional conditioning I've been doing and the lack of proper hydration. That should be an easy fix.


Trained eight days in January. Two a weeks would have given me ten days. Three a weeks would have given me fifteen. If you toss the week I was out with the eye injury, then we're looking at two a weeks with eight days and three a weeks with twelve.

So that's not as bad as it looks at first glance. I ended up at the low end of the 8-12 range. But at least I was in the range--which is more than I can say for much of 2007.

With regard to technique, I've been focusing on the half-guard from the bottom, passing the guard and half-guard from the top, and things like Rap Star from the closed guard. That should be enough for the first quarter (January, February, March) of this year.


The Revolution event is this Saturday at West Seattle High. I weighed in at 161.6 after training today, which is about seven pounds over. If we take away the 2-3 pound weekend allowance, then we're looking at a Tuesday weigh-in of around 159.6-158.6. That would keep me on pace for making 154.9 by Thursday evening after training.

I'm not going to kill myself to make 154.9--not for this event. But I'd like to make a real go of it. Ideally, I do think I'm competing under 155. But we'll just have to see if I can get there from here by then.

The next event after this one that I know of is the Revolution event on July 12. But I wouldn't be surprised if somebody sneaks in a tournament in March or April.

Monday's Training

161.6 lbs after class. Not good. A three-pound miss.

I don't know what I expected after the weekend, and Super Bowl weekend, at that. I stuck to Rebecca's viniagrette cole slaw to go with my patented Big Daddy's Nine Spice Ribs for the Super Bowl feast--which probably was okay. But then I succumbed to the traditional Sunday night, "ugh, here comes the workweek" snacking, with the predictable results on the scale 18 hours later.

Good things from training today: I was a few minutes late, but we went right into specific sparring drills. I'm doing much better with both my flower sweep and my "poosh tha guy" sweep from the Cobra after not being able to break posture from the closed guard. I think I hit both sweeps two or three times, which was pretty incredible.

Not-so-good things from training today: My half-guard is still far too ineffectual. I did a better job at keeping the sticky paw grip, and in fighting for the underhook. But I've got to, got to, got to work harder to get on my side.

I think one trick might be to hipsscape back to get some space to reset the half guard and get more thoroughly on my side. This, more than anything, is killing me in the half.

Conditioning-wise, I was about at a C+, typical enough for a Monday, I suppose. I won't be back on the mat until Wednesday afternoon and I'll tell you what: if we offered afternoon classes on Tuesday and Thursday I think I'd train everyday.

At any rate, given my 158.6 goal for Monday and my Monday actual weigh-in of 161.6, I need to get to 157.2 if I'm going to make 154.9 by Thursday night (when I have to register).

Truth told, I'm thinking about registering for the heavier 155-169.9 division. If I register for 154.9 and under and miss when I weigh-in on Friday, then I'm disqualified. That or try and sweat the extra pounds off--which I refuse to do the night before a tournament. So, to be on the safe side, registering for 155 and up may make the most sense. After all, there's no chance that I'll weigh more than 169.9, is there?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Great Night for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at UFC 81

Three top jiu jitsu fighters in mixed martial arts competed at UFC 81: Breaking Point in Last Vegas last night: Middleweight Ricardo Almeida, and heavyweights Frank Mir and Antonion Rodrigo Nogueira.

Three fighters. Three wins. Three submissions.

Almeida and Nogueira both won with arm-in guillotines. Mir won with a kneebar. All three showed great smoothness and fluidity in moving from position to position. Mir showed some great open guard work against Brock Lesnar, manuering with the speed and balance you usually see out of much smaller fighters.

And Nogueira's half-guard sweep of Tim Sylvia was perfection. Nobody works the half-guard in MMA better than Minotauro. It was downright inspiring, for a wannabe half-guard player like meself.

Friday, February 01, 2008

158.6 One Week Out

Managed to get to the academy for the afternoon class. I was a little late, trying to finish up some work for The Daily Planet, and I hadn't eaten anything but a couple of strips of bacon and some raisins all morning. But it was good pop in and out of the telephone booth and get in some more mat time before next week's event, nonetheless.

I'm about four pounds over right now. I really couldn't have hoped for much more. If I can hold the line over the weekend (Super Bowl Weekend, at that!), and weigh-in at 158.6 or lower after training Monday afternoon, then I think I'll make 154.9 by Friday night.

Actually, it's more like midnight Thursday. That's the registration deadline, and I don't want to sign up for 154.9 and under unless I know I can make that weight. If I make 154.9 on the official scale after Thursday night's training, then I'll register at that weight. If I can't make it by Thursday, I'm calling the whole weight cutting affair off for this tournament and signing up for 155-169.9.

My plan for the final week is to use the "Sponge Weight Cutting Strategy". No meat after Sunday. Carb loading with Gatorade Monday through Wednesday. Protein drinks for dinner Monday, lunch and dinner Tuesday and all meals from Wednesday through weigh-in on Friday night. I'd like to avoid the sort of water starving I did last time, just because it was so unpleasant. But that will depend on what I'm weighing by Tuesday after training. If I'm at 156.9 or less, then I don't think keeping up a decent H2O intake will cost me come Friday night.