Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Competition Preparation

Here's a nice, thorough article on preparing for competition by David Thomas, head coach, Austin Jiu Jitsu.

Competition Preparation: Getting Ready for Battle

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thursday Night Training, Part 2

Cindy led no gi. She emphasized double leg takedowns for the most part, as well as sprawls and sitouts.

Cindy continues to emphasize the role of turning the corner on the double leg in order to get the maximum leverage for the takedown. It's a key flaw in my double legs, which tend to resemble tackles more than true wrestling takedowns. It means having to pass the guard, which is another whole task in and of itself. So there's a real benefit to getting the proper takedown.

Another point Cindy makes about the sitout against a sprawl is to shoot as far out as possible with the sitout. This is worth remembering as I do my jiu bata training at home. Like with the hipscape, you want to go deep, to really make the move. In both cases, you are trying to move your hips - not just your "body" in some generic way.

When you first start learning jiu jitsu, you are focused on trying to move your "body" in ways that seem completely counter-intuitive. But what are doing in almost every instance is moving your hips: forward or backward, turning them to face one direction or the other. Everything you do with your legs or torso or arms (and pretty much in that order of importance) is to set up the proper positioning of your hips. I think that realizing that makes everything you need to do, and do properly, that much easier.

I had a good night of sparring: the first armlock from the guard in maybe ever, another omoplata, some good attack and defense with the handcuff. Even though I only got in two days of training this week, I can feel myself starting to "fill out" and add more and more things to what I'm trying to do on the mat. Maybe 3-4 times a week will prove to be too ambitious. But if I can keep up this pace of at least 2-3 times a week (more often 3 than 2), then I think I'll be glad I did.

Thursday Night Training, Part 1

Rodrigo's class: we worked two sweeps out of moth/spider guard and a side control escape to another sort of combo guard with some nice control and sweep possibilities.

The moth guard sweep was similar to some of the others we've done out of that position. Hipscape out to create space out of the moth guard and vine an arm. Pull tight on the vined sleeve and drop your inside leg down so that your shin is across his body around his abdomen.

This is the trap door. It looks so irresistable that the guy will tend to crowd you, maybe to hook your head to pass guard. As he moves toward you, you grab the pants at the knee and roll him over your far shoulder.

The mechanics of the sweep call for lifting your inside leg - the shin across the body - to get the real elevation for the sweep. That and turning your self toward the far side, leading with the vine.

The other version of the sweep was against a standing opponent and involved more of a spider than a moth guard. But they were similar in that in both cases you locked up an arm (this time with a straight foot on bicep) and then let the guy move in to put his weight on you. Here, the key was in bending the foot on bicep leg and then extending it, rather than just trying to swing the leg back to get the sweep. The inside leg plays more of a role of blocking as you go more or less perpendicular to his body/legs. An underhook or pants grab with the inside arm helps keep the guy from recovering his balance as the sweep gets going.

The third and final move of the first hour was a guard replacement out of a side control escape. You start with the escape, creating space and working to get a knee inside. Then you swing your other leg over the guy's head to control the otehr side of his body. For example, if you are escaping from a side control on your right side, you would escape your hips to the left and wedge your right knee inside between you and your opponent. Then you swing your other leg - your left leg - up and over the guy's head, to the left side of his head.

From here you want to grab the pants at the knee with your right hand and the sleeve with your left. You should be able to control him from being able to move to your rigt, and if he tries to pass to your left, you can pull on the sleeve and lift with the pants grip at the knee and get a pretty solid sweep.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Unbelievable. After about six hours I get a call from the King County sheriff's deputy who did the original police report on my stolen car. They found it, in a Roadway parking lot on the other side of Burien.

Aside from a pervasive smell of cigarette smoke and general disorder (including two opened mismatched condom wrappers - contents thankfully nowhere to be found), the Old Grey Mare is in good shape and ready to roam the streets of Burien, West Seattle and beyond once again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Always Something

The good news: my shoulder feels much better after some Ibuprofen and a night's rest.

The bad news: my car was stolen this afternoon.

With any luck, I'll be back on the mat tomorrow night. That is all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

As Roseanne Rosannadanna used to say, it's always something."

Tonight - and most nights these days - it's my shoulder acting up. Things got really hairy toward the end of last week. But going into training tonight I was feeling pretty top notch. A few hours later, I'm aching again.

I'll have a better sense tomorrow. It wouldn't be the first time I came home after training aching somewhere only to wake up the next morning feeling close to if not at 100%.

In any event, tonight's training was solid. I had actually been hoping to do some mount/mount escape work and tonight that's exactly what Rodrigo delivered. The emphasis was on getting your elbows tight, your hands on the hips (I was grabbing the pants at the top or the belt with underhand grips) and giving a good strong upa before escaping your hips BACK.

Back. Back, back, back, back, back. Another point of emphasis was this good strong hipscape as far back as you can drive your hips. Otherwise, all you're doing is turning on your side beneath his mount.

This is a good reminder of why it's a bad idea to half-ass your hipscapes. I've been working on them on my home mat, trying to get smaller and deeper (just like with the half guard). It's a little more extra effort. But the rewards of a good, deep hipscape are huge. And it's worth making them a habit.

A good time in sparring. I got my first omoplata submission in months if not years, and a nice omoplata to rear-mount transition that I remembering seeing Ryan Hall pull off (though he was en route to a heel hook or something). Can I tell you how nice it is to get a submission that ISN'T a keylock/americana?

I made a nice transition from the Cobra guard to X-guard - another move I haven't done in years. It took me awhile to get the inside hook in - and I spent a little too much time "working the guard". But it was nice to feel myself slip into that opportunity - however awkwardly.

There was also some nice work overall in half guard,a nice patient twist back sweep. Out of sitting guard, I'm being much more aggressive about controling the wrists. I need to move that to the next step of turning wrist control into armdrags. But so far so good.

I was trying a lot of my toreano guard passes with Rodrigo. For one, I think that will be my main weapon of attack when trying to pass the guard because so many of the guys I compete against have very active open guards.

The other reason was that I have had trouble against standing guard passes myself - particularly when I'm in my sitting/Cobra guard. Standing against Rodrigo gives me an excellent look at some of the options that I should consider when I'm on the bottom against a standing opponent.

While I'm on the subject, one thing that Rodrigo did was that patented Gracie Barra move that I've seen Pe de Pano do in the Pan Ams, where you attack one leg and sort of do a hip split around it after capturing the arm. That's not a great description. But I'm going to do a lot more standing against Rodrigo's guard to see more options that I can use when I'm in that spot.

My mount has grown by leaps and bounds just from being trapped in Rodrigo's mount and seeing what I had the hardest time with. That's where I got the idea of alternating between locking my ankles underneath the hips when I needed maximum control of the hips (for example, to deal with the upa), and grapevining the legs to make hipscapes harder.

If I can improve my basic approach to guard passing the way I improved my mount, then this will be a very productive second half of 2008.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

It's my third birthday in jiu jitsu. My first day on the mat was August 18, 2005.

First Day of BJJ

A lot of things to reflect on three years later. The most obvious, of course, is the fact that many of the people I began training with years ago are no longer training. Mario, Andrew, Big Mike, Joe, Jeff ...

I wonder if people like Rodrigo and Cindy, who've been around for years and seen people come and go, had a sense of who might still be training after three years ... who might still be training after another three years.

All told, I'm happy with where I am after three years: slowly coming into feeling like a "solid blue belt" ... maybe a year or a year and a half of solid, 3 times a week training from purple. I'm at the point where I clearly recognize the difference that mat time makes, and am able to take advantage of my training better and better.

I'm trying to train a little harder in class. All the great fighters do. Rodrigo runs class at a nice fast tempo, so it is easy to do when he teaches. But it is something I want to get more and more in the habit of doing.

I'm definitely starting to see my jiu jitsu game develop, like a shape beneath a block of marble. From the bottom, I'm all about sweeps - especially from the half guard. From the top, mount increasingly seems like my best position, though I'm still struggling to find a finishing technique that works well for me from the mount. (Katagatame? Double attack?)

So far so good in any event. I'm still struggling to balance work and training - the fact that I spent my anniversary off the mat tonight is a testament to that continued battle. But I'm doing a better job of getting my tatame time in. May that be the case for the next three years.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Courtesy of Saulo Ribeiro.
The key ingredient is using the knee to drive the elbow up. As is the case with the half guard, the trick is concentrating, getting small.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Marcelo in the Pacific Northwest

a.k.a. an opportunity of a lifetime.

I have no plans of rolling with Marcelo Garcia, arguably the greatest jiu jitsu fighter alive (along with Roger, Xande, Jacare, Cobrinha ... ). And, truth told, a photograph with him is probably not the most likely thing in the world either (though I am bringing my book for an autograph).

But the opportunity to take a seminar and learn some of the current projects of one of the true innovators of jiu jitsu is beyond belief. I have heard nothing but unbelievable things from people who've taken seminars with Marcelo Garcia, and am excited to soon be a part of that lucky cohort who have. I kicked myself for missing Minotauro and Anderson Silva when they came to town several months ago. But catching two days worth of Marcelo Garcia is a chance I'm not going to miss.

Marcelo Garcia Two-Day Seminar

Outside of Rodrigo and Cindy, obviously, Marcelo Garcia's game is the one that has the most elements that I want to adopt, particularly his butterfly and X-guard game. We have a similar body type: slightly above average reach and strong, heavy legs, so it makes sense that a lot of what works for Marcelo might work for me.

I'm also thinking that the seminar will serve as a nice halftime show between my experimental period now and my pre-tournament period starting in late September. I'm hoping to work my butterfly and half guard games simultaneously up to that point. See what Marcelo shows us that might be a nice addition to what I'm trying to do. Then, last, pick a gameplan out of what has worked over the past several weeks and train it exclusively for the final seven weeks going into the Revolution event.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday Night Training

A great way to end the week - though it is clearer than ever that a perfect training schedule would allow me to get some time on the mat on Saturday just to wash things down. Rodrigo had us work one move - a counter to the bump / underhook /back2belly escape from side control - at varying levels of intensity.

The counter has you switch your hips to watchdog and bring your headside elbow back across his underhooking arm. As you do this, you backstep with your south leg. You are working to take his back as he goes flat.

Do a reverse sitout, bringing your inside leg back behind you to get toward the back. The trick is to backstep your way around instead of crawling, which gives the guy a chance to take your leg and attack with a single.

This is a tricky move. It really tests your ability to move your body, a theme in Rodrigo's training. There was a lot of that in the handicapped drill that Rodrigo had us to Monday night: moving your shoulders and hips - the strongest parts of your body - instead of reaching and trying to control and move the guy with your arms.

Cindy led the no gi class. We worked the arm stuff triangle, and a front headlock snapdown to rear mount. The arm stuff triangle was a nice repeat - it's always nice to see people with shorter legs like mine teaching the triangle choke. The long-legged guys can just throw triangles like nothing. You've got to have the right technique to get away with it if you are built on the smaller side.

The front headlock snapdown to rear mount move was a nice jiu jitsu/wrestling hybrid. You "pet the cat" and pull the head down, immediately going for an overunder (like you were setting up an arm triangle or anaconda choke). Keep your elbow in (I'll explain why in a minute) but clasp the guy's tricep as part of the arm triangle.

You want to put all your weight on his shoulder, as you would for a clock choke. If you can flatten him out, so much the better.

You are going to spin into the guy, reaching under his body with your outside arm (the one not involved in the arm triangle) to get an underarm grip on his wrist (as you might if you had rear mount).

In the spin, your inside knee should rotate in against his hip. It's the inside knee that you pivot around as you spin.

Release the arm triangle and cross face to get new head control. Cindy calls it "brushing the teeth". Depending on the ferocity of your opponent, apply this concept at your discretion as literally as the situation requires.

From here, switch your knees and do the "fat man roll" back in towards you and work for the hooks.

I mentioned the elbow. Cindy warned us against going too deep with the elbow. It's something that Saulo warns about also. Cindy's point was that it was very easy to "elbow drag" the guy if his arm was too deep in attacking with the front headlock.

All you have to do is grab his elbow with the hand on your trapped arm and walk toward that side. So if your right arm is trapped and you are reaching across your body (your arm should already be driven against your body), grab the elbow on your left side and walk around to your left.

As you do this, pull on the elbow and you'll be surprised at how easy it is to "elbow drag" him and take his back - or even armlock him if you lean forward against his elbow.

Some good work from the half guard in no gi. I think I'm going to work both butterfly and half guard from now until after the Marcelo Garcia seminar in September. That's when I'll begin my seven-week "camp" in preparation for the November revolution tournament. This is the one I've been working up to, so I want to do this one right - which might even include competing in the no gi division, as well.

We'll see. As much as I'd love to be able to train on Saturdays, Thursday night no gi is a pretty fun way to finish of the training week.

One thing that I've been doing a much, much better job with is controlling the hands from my cobra guard. I still don't mount much of a credible offense and end up pulling half guard. But I'm surprised at how just being aggressive about controlling the guy's hands has stopped that "expressway to side control" that had been happening far too frequently as I've tried to learn this type of guard.

Now if only I could turn that wrist control into arm drags ...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wednesday Night Training

Lindsey led the class tonight. We worked a couple of different moves from the guard and mount. The first was a triangle from the guard. Lindsey's main emphasis on was on keeping everything tight and, like Cindy's triangle, grabbing the shin instead of trying hit the Instant Triangle.

Lindsey also likes to underhook the arm to help you pivot into the "rifle sight" of the triangle. I would imagine that if you combined that with the shin grab and pivoting with the overlocking leg, you would very effortlessly get perpendicular and perfectly into prime triangle position.

We also worked to Rap Star moves. The Rap Star triangle and the Rap Star butterfly sweep. I had success going both directions with the Rap Star butterfly sweep, but Lindsey's approach of sweeping away from the rap side seems to leave you in the most dominant position.

I go back and forth over whether I should stick with developing my half guard whenever possible or introduce butterfly guard and try to optimize them both at the same time. I still think the better approach is to bring on the butterfly guard work after I've started to feel some real comfort with my options in the half. But it is nice to work the butterfly a bit from time to time, just to alert my body to what will be coming with more frequency in 2009.

We last did a triangle choke from mount. I had been looking at this position in one of my books because I'm still looking for a "go to" attack from mount. I'm feeling more and more capable of maintaining mount, switching from the Squeeze to double grapevines to Saulo's "technical mount". But I'm not at a point where I have a proven gameplan for finishing from the top.

I'm sure I'll figure it out. Clearly that will be where I will be getting most of my submissions from: I'm doing too well at getting and keeping mount to look to finish fights elsewhere (i.e., from the guard, knee on belly, rear mount ...). I've just got to keep trying different things and see what surfaces.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008 IBJJF No Gi Championship Results

It blows me away that no jiu jitsu/grappling website has a story on the 2008 IBJJF "No Gi Mundial". Not even a link to the results, which are available at the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation website.

2008 IBJJF No Gi Championship Results

A lot of interesting things in these results. I'm going to stick with the black belt competition with regard to my top six highlights.

1. Cobrinha and Jeff Glover taking 1st and 2nd at lightweight.
2. Saulo Ribeiro winning the medium-heavyweight division.
3. Hermes Franca coming in 2nd in the masters middleweight division
4. Local jiu jitsu instructor Brian Johnson taking 2nd in senior 1 lightweight.
5. Lloyd Irvin winning first place in the senior 1 super heavyweight division.
6. Leticia Ribeiro winning women's superfeather and Felicia Oh taking 2nd in women's feather.

I, Soleus

My latest injury seems to involve my left calf. Rolling last night, I got a massive cramp deep in the muscle, one that took a little longer than usual to come around.

Come around it did, and I was able to roll with Rodrigo some (before his sea urchin injury caught up with him). But my calf has been pretty sore ever since. I can walk around fairly normally. But I decided to take the night off of training to let it heal up a bit more. I can easily see it cramping up on me given the way it feels right now.

I think the problem is actually the smaller calf muscle, the soleus. I usually do a pretty good job of the regular, straight leg calf stretch that stretches the larger gastrocnemius. But I almost never, ever do the bent leg version that stretches the smaller, long soleus muscle that is underneath and below it.

That would also explain the location, a little lower than the "head" of the calf, the sensation of the cramp being particularly deep, and the reason why massaging my calf didn't seem to help very much last night - which almost always works with my regular leg and calf cramps.

Truth told, my hydration was lousy and that was probably the primary culprit. Even though I downed a full jug of Gatorate 90 minutes before time, I suspect my body soaked that up like a sponge, leaving me with little left after the hour of jiu jitsu.

I need to get to the point where that jug of Gatorade feels excessive, so that it isn't quenching my thirst, at all. That only happens if I make sure to increase the water intake pretty seriously earlier in the day.

I'm doing those soleus stretches tonight, lightly and for the most part just trying to imbed the stretch in my memory so that it will become a part of my routine. Those calf cramps were bad enough during training. Now that one has actually kept me off the mat, they're all the more a problem to deal with as soon and as effectively as possible.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Night Training

Monday night is must-train training. Rodrigo was back and he had us doing handicapped drills. For example, we did a guard drill where the guy on bottom had to have one hand in his belt. We did a half guard drill where the guy on top had to have one hand in his belt. And then we finished off with a side control drill where the guy on the bottom had to have both hands in his belt while the guy on top had to have one hand in his belt.

Great stuff. Real old school, forcing you to use your body instead of your hands and arms. Like I said, more Mondays like this would be just fine with me.

Nothing remarkable in sparring. I'm still working my Watch Dog half guard pass and feeling more comfortable with it. I need to try going immediately to mount after the pass (Jean Jacques calls this the "ballerina pass"), now that I'm getting better at freeing my leg - or even getting the wedge knee in.

Still having a lot of trouble passing knee-up half-guards. There are two options I need to start using. The first is to use a toreano style pass where I stand out of the half guard and pin the lower leg to the mat with one grip. Jean Jacques has a nice version or two of toreano passes that include this step. I'll pick one.

The other option is to grab his near sleeve and bring it up nice and high. With your other grip, I think you want to grab the pants near the hip. Stand up and out of the half guard and go immediately to a knee-through "Royler" pass while keeping a good hold on that sleeve.

It's interesting. I have two different types of ways of fighting the half guard. One is to reverse and go to Watch Dog (or "Crossbody" as I'm thinking of renaming the position). The other is to treat the half guard like a partially opened full guard.

We'll see how they work. A good night of training. I got a massive cramp in my left calf late in sparring with Stephen. It was a bad one. But it went away eventually and I was able to roll with Rodrigo later for good spell. I've got to make sure I keep my hydration up. Given the fact that I did my Pull resistance routine earlier in the day (and the hipscape/back2belly jiu bata before that), I really should have been consuming more fluid all day.

Post training number of 159.8. Not bad at all for a Monday. Bacon, cantaloupe and coffee for breakfast. Lamb, rice and salad for lunch.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Demian Maia: Rap Star Triangle

Demian Maia put on a Fight of the Night/Submission of the Night performance this Saturday against tough, UFC middleweight gatekeeper Jason MacDonald. Here he is setting up the Rap Star Triangle in the first round.

Maia would go on to win by rear naked choke. But it is great to see someone of his calibre using the Rap Star triangle. It's a reminder of how you have to go after a move persistently, forcing the opponent to react, rather than just trying it once and giving up on it to try something else. Give the guy a chance to make a mistake!

It reminds me of what I love about the Werdum v. Lindland ADCC match from 2003. You see Werdum with three distinct attacks in his gameplan. You can see them as clear as day. But he stays at them and stays at them and eventually Lindland makes a mistake and the fight is over.

The work Cindy had us doing with the arm stuff triangle helps me think about trying to bring my Rap Star game back on board. She emphasizes getting the hips up high and just getting the initial lock with one arm in and one arm out before methodically working to finish it off.

I've been thinking about Rap Star on and off for the past few weeks. This six week pre-Revolution Prep period might be a good time to see how far I can take it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Thursday Night Training

Gi and no gi tonight. Cindy led both classes. For the first hour, we worked on the arm stuff triangle and the omoplata transition if the guy defends by wrapping his trapped arm around the leg.

Working on the arm stuff triangle reminded me of the Machado Principle when it comes to the triangle choke. All you have to do is get your lock in with a trapped arm. From there, there are plenty of ways to break the posture and get the choke. Cindy also highlights another part of the Machado Principle by consistently grabbing her shin and pivoting off the free leg to get the proper angle to finish the triangle.

There's no reason to expect to land a picture-perfect triangle on the first attack. Get the lock, and then make the adjustments and reel him in.

The no gi class was mostly some crazy guard passes against the sitting guard/Cobra guard. A step-over pass, a knee-through pass, and a cartwheel/roundoff pass. Very "Cindy" like moves in the way that they are surprisingly efficient and straightforward. Although she has her share of fancy moves, Cindy's jiu jitsu is remarkably practical - the way she breaks down the triangle choke is just one example.

Some interesting times in sparring. I worked a pretty decent defensive moth guard, but when it was my turn on top I succumbed to a perfectly executed moth guard sweep - one of the very sweeps Rodrigo recently showed us and that I had told myself I wanted to start using.

No gi was a little more adventurous, getting to work some good mount and rear mount - the latter including a mata leao finish.

It was obvious what three days in a row of training have done for me. I'm starting to get a nice feel back, which is exactly what regular training will do for you. I haven't trained three times a week consistently since that great spring stretch from March 17 through April 25th when I got my shoulder injury.

In that six week stretch, I trained 21 times (average 3.5 times a week), and made some of my best gains in years. I'd love to be able to set a 3.5/week pace (3x weeks alternating with 4x weeks) from now until the November Revolution event. I can definitely feel the different mat time makes.

159.4 on the scale, post-training. A push.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wednesday Night Training

Rodrigo is still in Hawaii. I won't pretend not to miss him at the academy. But wishing someone returned early from a vacation is one cardinal sin I'm not going to commit.

In his absence we've had some solid jiu jitsu 101 (and 201) from Cindy and, tonight, Jesse. Jesse worked on side control escapes, both a full escape with the basic forearm-swim-back2belly and a guard replacement that was set up pretty much the same way.

We also covered a mount escape that Jesse's caught me with more than once. In this escape, used when the mounted guy is very high up with his knees in your armpits, you grab the hips, upa him forward and kick your legs back over your head aiming to put your feet in his armpits. I found that it was easier for me to pick a side and work to get at least one foot in the armpit as I did the backroll.

I got completely smashed in the side control drill we did afterwards. My side control from the top was very good and I did well where I should have done well. On the bottom, though, I didn't get a single escape. I came close in one situation. But I wasn't able to fully get away.

Rolled with Stephen afterwards and received additional smashing. Rolling with Stephen in 2008 reminds me of rolling with Casey in 2007. I lose all sense of what I'm supposed to do except for the most elemental "don't do that!" My goal is get to the point where I'm at least able to execute a losing gameplan.

Nice number after training of 159.6. I had pizza for lunch so I'm grateful for being lower by any amount.

Looking to get back on the mat tomorrow night. My shoulder has been acting up and I wonder if the time off was actually a bad thing for my shoulder recovery. If I can make it through tomorrow intact, then it will be nice to rest it up over the weekend. Ibuprofen and ice tonight. We'll see how things feel tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

Finally made it back on the mat tonight for a little over an hour of drills and sparring.

Rodrigo is still in Hawaii. So Cindy led the class. We worked on submissions from the guard: the "swinging" armlock drill from the guard, then a more deliberate armlock from the guard, and finally a transition to the triangle choke.

Many nice little details, especially with the triangle choke. Cindy is a big fan of the Machado approach, where you grab your shin to get the triangle in place rather than just relying on your legs. During drills, I also focused on another Cindy detail of bucking and raising your hips to help get control over your opponent's upper body and to more easily bring his trapped arm across the centerline.

Managed to get in just a little bit of sparring. Was very pleased with a half guard move to the back that I managed to execute, as well as my moth guard. I was also able to pull off my knee-stuff guard pass to side control twice.

Short, but sweet, and a post-training weigh-in of 160.4. Not bad to start the week.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Gracie Magazine's Special Coverage of the No Gi Mundial

Here are some of the articles about the No Gi Mundial that have appeared in Gracie Magazine as part of the lead-up coverage of the event.

No-Gi Worlds Warm-Up