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.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday Night Training

In the first hour, we worked on a pair of techniques. One of them was the same counter to the mount from Watchdog that we worked on Tuesday. The other was the knee wedge to Watchdog move when you've passed someone's guard and they are trying to block your hip with outstreched arms.

I remember doing something similar with the knee before from a slightly different top position. Or at least I think I remember.

Anyway, I worked with Bruce. It was good to be working on some relatively familiar, straightforward technques.

In the no gi class, Cindy had us work on guillotines and guillotine defense, as well as that nice arm-stuff triangle move from the guillotine. I worked with Andrew and Bruce. It was especially nice having Andrew there to point out mistakes and such when Cindy was working with other folks.

Cindy also had us work on another technique from the guillotine in the guard. This was one she had shown us before, I think. You release the lock under the neck and hook the near arm. Reach over the guy's back with your other arm and lock in a gable grip. Hug your elbows tight against your respective sides and turn him over.

If you need to use a butterfly hook or a stepover to finish the sweep, that's fine.

A good class. Everyone who rolls no gi should have a good guillotine game. It should almost be mandatory, but I see very few top-rate guillotine games - even at the elite level, sometimes. Everybody who does jiu jitsu owes it to themselves to have not just a pretty damn good guillotine, but also a good set of techniques based on the guillotine.

In fact, there are so many mediocre guillotines out there, just about everybody is convinced that they can escape. A lot of the time, they are right. But if you work on it, you can develop the kind of guillotine game that always gives you good options from a fairly-easy-to-achieve position.

I only got one 5-minute roll - a smashing by Andrew. He caught me in two or three chokes. I started out inexplicably with butterfly guard, then switched to half guard. He's a great guy to spar with for most of the obvious reasons. But it doesn't thrill me to spend a week of training where all I'm doing in sparring is getting smashed two weeks before a tournament (even if it is just a friendly tournament).

But I've been pretty sideways all week, to be honest. Hopefully the weekend with Marcelo Garcia will help snap me out of my funk. These days there seems as if there is a chasm between the jiu jitsu I want and the jiu jitsu I have. Here's hoping its just a phase.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why I Compete

"“Art begins in a wound, and is an attempt either to live with the wound or to heal it.”
--John Gardner

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kyra Gracie: Judoka?

News that BJJ black belt Kyra Gracie is training judo in an attempt to make the 2012 Olympics has been received by a chorus of alternating "No way!" "Way!" in the online bjj forumsphere. My take is pretty straightforward: Kyra Gracie is going to be almost unstoppable in the gi after three or four years of training for the Brazilian Olympic judo team whether or not she actually makes the team.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

Missed Monday. Was a little too sideways to train. Truth told, I'm still feeling a little sideways. But I had to get back on track. And tonight was the night.

We started off with a basic warmup, then moved into some standup/foot work drills using reverse pivots and hip throws.

We worked two new techniques from the ground. The first was a counter to be used when you are pinned in side control and the guy switches his hips and moves to take mount.

The trick is to grab the guy's pants at the knee. You want to attack the near leg, the one that ISN'T going to swing over into mount. As he moves to take mount, you want to turn into him a little bit and, as you lift up on his leg, slide your inside leg straight out to the side, under and around the guy's trapped/trailing leg and put him in half guard.

One detail that Rodrigo emphasized was keeping your head tight against the guy's lead arm, the one that swims over your head as if to set up a kimura attack when the guy switches his hips. The best way to recover from this counter is to be able to reach back and hook your head. Keeping your head pinned against his shoulder as you do the counter eliminates this threat.

The other technque was a counter against somebody who has you locked up in half guard with your head and arm in a tight grip.

What you want to do is to reach and grab the collar, thumb in, with your outside hand (my left hand usually). Once you have that grip, dive down with your inside hand and grab the pants by the calf.

You are going to stiff arm the collar grip, pull on the leg/calf grip and escape your hips as far back and outside as possible. The goal is to create enough space to insert your outside leg - knee up - and replace your "crushed" half guard with a quarter guard or Z-guard.

I like this move a lot - and almost tried it in sparring but I found myself on the opposite side and couldn't coordinate my movement before it was time to do something else.

A good class. I sparred a little bit in the guard and then spent a lot of time on the mat with Rodrigo. He called me out for being too defensive, especially when he took my back. I have a bad habit of going into 100% "defend the choke" mode and tonight, with more than a little fatigue and confusion trying to spar Rodrigo, I relied on it too much.

I'm still feeling a little embarassed by it - as is my way. I know it's a problem that I need to fix - one of the big holes in my game, from some perspectives. I'll get at least another crack at it this week - though I'll include it as one of my goals for this 10-week training camp (now in Week 3).

Managed to get in a workout on Monday (Monday's Man Makers) and a 3T workout today. We'll see what I end up doing tomorrow.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Half to X, Half Sweep, Half Counter

Going into Week 3, I want to start working on transitions from half guard to X guard. Over the past two weeks I've been working to get deeper and deeper into half guard, which is good preparation for the next move to X guard.

I need to remember to use my far leg (left) to stretch the guy's leg out to make it easier to insert the inside leg hook (same side as X guard leg underhook arm - the right, in my case).

I'm looking forward to working on this for the next four weeks, adding some sweeps as soon as possible.

At the same time, I don't want to get too sloppy with my basic half guard sweeps (Old School and Twist Back). I'm noticing that I'm forgetting to use my outside leg as the primary hook when I'm attacking with either of those two keep sweeps. It is important in both but critical in Twist Back. With Old School, you just get in your own way. With Twist Back, not using the outside leg means that you'll get your guard passed as soon as you open up for the sweep.

I also want to tighten up my Watch Dog half guard "ballerina pass". Head down and tight against his leg. Weight on his hips but my hips on the mat. Rolling with Jaime on Thursday, he figure out a crossover sort of counter to that pass. But my mistake was simply in not putting my weight on him and starting to sit up. I still like the pass, a lot.

The best counter I've seen to it is the one that Saulo shows in his DVD set - a counter that is pretty similar to the one I remember Rodrigo showing Clint one night when we were sparring. Basically, you want to come up on your outside elbow as soon as the guy reverses into Watch Dog. With your inside arm, you want to reach between you and his back and grab his belt or pants below the waistline.

Trap the half guard with your outside leg.

The move is explosive. You want to pull on the belt or pants with a ripping, arm drag like pull. At the same time, you want to hipscape/switch from being on the one hip to the other. You are opening your hips up to the same side that you are pulling with the drag.

At a minimum, the move will give you the opportunity to re-establish half guard. At best, you'll be able to take the guy's back (which he has essentially given you by going to Watch Dog).


Another point about passing from the Watch Dog position. Remember that when you pass with Watch Dog and move to mount, there's a good chance if the guy is sharp that he'll work to put your other leg in half guard. Avoid this by doing up on one knee, planting the foot of the "other side" (other than the "step over into mount" side). When the coast is clear, switch back into regular mount.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Acid = Truth

Today's LSD treadmill workout was pretty typical in most respects. But I really spent a lot of time working on visualizations.

A lot of the time when I'm doing my LSD work, I open up a page in one of my jiu jitsu books and use a certain technique that I'm working on as a hypnotic.

But what I found out today was that I can really take this up to another level by working on my visualization without a visual aid. I started by visualizing the ankle pick, just as a drill. Then the uchi mata as a drill. Then I started imagining using both in competition: fighting for the grips, attacking with the drag and countering the reaction with either the ankle pick or the uchi mata.

When the workout started to get tough about a mile and a half in or so, I started visualizing escaping from mount or rear mount or side control or knee on belly. Focusing just on the 1-2-3, the pure technical steps for each escape, the critical parts that mean escape or continued struggling. I thought that when I was in need of those escapes, I'd probably feel about as tired as I did right now on lap 5 or 6, and that all I needed to do was remain clear-headed and have the will to do what was necessary to escape.

I don't think I'm going to add more than the one LSD session each week. But there's something about that monotony of 35 minutes on the treadmill that really lends itself to being able to do some other important work like visualization. It's really interesting how deep you can get.

Slugger v.s. Swarmer

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thursday Night Training

One thing I like about training when there is a tournament 30 days out is how focused the classes get. We really only worked on two different moves - the ankle pick takedown and the uchi mata - Thursday night in the first hour, with 50-count squats and wall-sits mixed in.

Some classes begin with a really hardcore warm-up, and then a nicely paced class. I'm always a slow starter, so those hardcore warm-ups, usually loaded with abs work, just kill me.

But when we do a light warm-up and a pretty intense class, I really feel like I rise to the occasion. I felt better doing the last set of squats than I did doing the first three.

I'm adding the wall sits to my occasional routine. They're a great way to build up leg strength.

During Cindy's no gi we worked some Rap Star moves: the triangle and some moves off the arm wrap when the guy pulls his arm out a bit.

There were a couple of highlights. Cindy helps secure the armwrap by hooking the wrapping hand around the side of her body. This isn't so important with the gi, but it was a nice reminder for trying Rap Star no gi.

Another big key was how far you hipscaped out in order to pressure the armwrap down at the guy's shoulder. You also want to throw the leg over the back of the shoulders or neck to help keep him down.

With the inside leg, use the knee or foot to pressure the arm bend. Shoot the leg past and attack with the triangle per usual.

The move off the arm wrap was especially interesting. You attack with the Rap Star. He dives down and tries to limp arm out of it.

With your inside hand, you reach between and armdrag the limp arm. It's just a simple move, and its a nice option to attack from the inside.

Other ways of attacking the limp arm are the kimura and the omoplata. Those are the traditional ways and they work just fine. Adding the armdrag gives you another option depending on how much space you have. If you have hipscaped back far enough, you can attack with the omoplata. If you've gotten some good but not great distance, the kimura is an option. If you're still closer than you might otherwise want to be, then the armdrag Cindy showed us is a nice alternative.

Another great opportunity to re-develop my Rap Star game. The next four weeks should be my max training intesity period - with the two-day Marcelo Garcia seminar in Olympia on the 20th and 21st and the GB Seattle "Friendly" on the 27th. I'll step up the conditioning an extra couple hours a week for the next month and start tightening up on the diet (starting Monday, that is, I have cupcakes waiting for me this very moment).

Thursday night weigh-in was 160.2. That's about 3% above where I want to be four weeks from now - a little over a pound a week. From there it's about another month of staying the course into the Revolution event in November.

Uchi Mata

One of the classic judo throws. Rodrigo had us work the combination ankle pick/uchi mata during Thursday night's training. It's a really nice one-two: if the guy takes the step when you drag him with the collar, then go for the ankle pick. If he hangs back and stays defensive, step in with the skip pivot and throw the uchi mata.

I've always been a little intimidated by the uchi mata, thinking that it was another "tall guy" throw. But Karo Parisyan is a pretty stock guy and loves the uchi mata. So it's probably time I gave it a second look.

Here are some uchi matas in judo competition.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

GSP and Gracie Barra

What in the world is a BJ Penn fan like me who also bleeds Gracie Barra red supposed to do when he comes across a photo like this?

GSP Goes to GB Headquarters in Brazil

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

A nice couple of hours on the mat tonight. Going in to things, it was good to see little Emmanual back on the mat after his injury last week (I think it was). If he sticks with it, he is really going to be something else. Of course, as my Dad once said when somebody said the same thing of me 25 years ago at one of those infamous high school football awards banquets, "he already is." Props to Pop.

Anyway, Rodrigo had us work out some half guard basics. These are the kinds of things I need to sear into my jiu jitsu brain if I'm going to make half guard my province, basics or not.

The first was his technique of cranking the outside leg and hipscaping out to get to your side when you get put flat on your back in half guard. This happens to me all the time and though I often get out of that situation fairly well, I don't have a good "go to" approach (like when I'm passing half guard). The point of that hipscaping and leg cranking is to both get on your side as well as create space so that you can shoot in your arm and get the underhook.

With your underhook, you want to shoot that arm high under the shoulder. The higher you shoot it, the more you are likely to move his body forward - making it easier to slip your head out and take the back.

I had a really hard time with this using my "bad" side (left leg as inside hook leg). My regular side wasn't perfect. But at least I was able to do the technique.

Rodrigo also showed us a sweep from this position. Say you try and get the underhook but the guy is just too tight. This would also probably work if the guy gets the underhook on you.

Reach over his back and grab his belt. Hipscape your hips back as far as you need to in order to insert a butterfly hook on the same side as your belt grab.

With your other hand, you want to control his outside arm, preferably at the elbow.

The sweep is a tackle type sweep. You want to pull on the arm, lift with the butterfly hook and - importantly - "stand up" on the inside leg as you look in the direction of the sweep.

Andrew, who I hadn't seen in a while and showed up about 45 minutes in, emphasized this last point. It was something I was doing a bit of - I think because I was reminded of that detail that Kesting talks about in his butterfly guard DVD, the idea that by pressing up on that one leg, you can get some nice elevation that makes the sweep that much harder to "balance" out of.

We worked those pretty much for the first half of class, then did some specifics out of the half guard, and then some general sparring. Tonight was kimura night for me. I managed to get one from the guard and one from side control. It's funny. I used to go for weeks without ever managing to submit anyone during sparring. But over the past few months I actually managed to get one or two a night.

I also got Stephen and Rodrigo to show me that one moth guard sweep that I was liking a few weeks ago. I couldn't remember where to put the inside leg. It actually hooks either under the leg (if the guy brings his knee up) or "backwards hooking" the side of the guy's body. Rodrigo emphasized the point that you can attack with this sweep in pretty much the same way whether the guy brings the knee up or not. Just attack and underhook that inside leg and use your inside leg as the lever to help get him up and over.

Stubbornly high 160.6 or so after training. I'm hoping to be under 159 after training on Thursday. But I'm not holding my breath. Then again, ideally, I'll gradually drift all the way down to 155 and not have to cut weight in November. So, I've got plenty of time to still do it the way I want.

Wow, I'm watching UFC 4. I've been watching the first few UFC events on DVD over the past few days and I'm almost as amazed now as I was 13-14 years ago when I first saw vale tudo fighting. I say vale tudo instead of mixed martial arts because the early UFC events really do show the difference between the two. In a perfect world, I actually prefer vale tudo. But that's another story for another day.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Monday Night Training

You've gotta love training on Monday nights. We do a quick warm-up and then get right to it. It's really a nice way to start the training week.

Mike was there Monday night. I don't think I've seen him since the spring. For a few months, it seemed like he was my most regular training partner. I can still remember sparring with him one night, Mamazinho rooting us both on. Mike had me in a triangle choke and I was trying to escape using an escape that Mamazinho had recently shown us.

For the record, it was the "CC Grinder" triangle escape. I couldn't get it because I forgot to control the hips with my free hand, so Mike and I were pretty much locked in place. After what seemed like five minutes, Mamazinho congratulated us both in our stalemate.

Anyway, it was great to see him again. It seems like the fall season is bringing back more than a few folks: I'm seeing more of Casey lately, and Brock has been around more and more it seems. Maybe it's just me coming to train more regularly. Who knows?

We started Monday night training with some light stand-up work. Mike worked mostly on reverse pivots. I stuck with double legs, ankle picks, arm drags and that nifty duck under move that Cindy showed us.

From there we went on to specific work. Mostly guard/pass guard. Then some sparring.

I did fairly well, executing another armlock from the guard (the only thing rarer for me would be a triangle choke from the guard) and a nice omoplata sweep. It dawned on me that the omoplata sweep Cindy showed us awhile back is very similar to the one Stephan showed a bunch of us a few years ago back at the Tully's building.

I'm feeling more and more comfortable working from the guard. I appreciate the point that Eddie Bravo makes about being good from the guard: it makes you more risk-seeking and aggressive when on top if you know that your guard is tight. I wouldn't say my guard game is tight. But between an evolving half guard game and a full guard game that I'm getting less fearful of rolling out when the chance comes, I'm a lot closer to "tightness" than I've ever been.

Friday, September 05, 2008

2nd No Gi Pan Ams, American Nationals

Events on the East Coast and West ...

2nd No Gi Pan Ams

American Nationals

Thursday Night Training - Coursework

Fortunately, my banged up knee didn't prevent me from training Thursday night. I worked in with Bruce and Jason on the wrestler's back control drill, switching from side to side, as welll as some counters to the butterfly guard sweep.

The key point about the counters was to let the guy take you in the direction of the sweep. But to sit down on that hip and use the northside arm/elbow to brace your upper body. You also want to lift your hooked leg as high as possible to make it more difficult for his hook to remain in place. With your other leg, you want to walk yourself backward, bit by bit, in a sort of crawling backstep.

You can practice the counter on your own - always a nice feature. As a matter of fact, it's probably a great drill to work into a 3T routine, along with the butterfly sweep solo drill that Kesting shows on his butterfly guard DVD.

Rodrigo also showed us a full pass from that position, a sort of variation on the ballerina pass that I've been relying on in the half guard. Another nice application of the General Theory.

A nice class. I always like how Rodrigo keeps the pace at a high level. Admittedly, it doesn't hurt that I'm in better shape now than I was a year ago. But considering we didn't spar, at all, it was a nice workout as well as instructional. In my Dream Future, when I'm running a jiu jitsu class once or twice a week, that is exactly how I want things to be: one solid hour of motion.

Cindy had us do a routine that was based on those same themes as part of the warmup to the no gi that followed Rodrigo's class. The idea, the Bulgarian Hustle I'll call it, is to just keep moving. Rolling, jumping, pivoting, spinning, reversing, sitting in, sitting out, you name it, as long as it's not sitting still.

Technique-wise, Cindy had us work on some basics, like the armlock from the guard. One of the things Cindy has always emphasized is the idea of stiff-arming the head to make it easier to get your leg around for the armlock finish. Another key - which carries over into the triangle, as well, is getting perpendicular, as perpendicular as possible.

We worked on the stuff triangle, the omoplata off the triangle defense, and the omoplata "barrel roll" sweep when the guy tries to put his weight on you during the omoplata off the triangle defense.

I had a hard time with the mount triangle finish that I've seen Cindy do before and saw her show us again Thursday night. One point she pointed out was that by leaning forward, planting your hand in front of you, you can create space to slip the leg under and secure the triangle.

Failing that, there was a transition to side control that certainly suffices for my purposes of ultimately finishing from the mount.

Not a bad night of sparring. I had to cut things short because of a recurrent cramp in my right leg, right at the base of my hamstring and to the inside. I figured I might as well quit while I was ahead. I'd like to figure out a solution to this new onset of leg cramps. I know I'm not drinking as much water as I should. But then again, if I'm training at a decent clip for 2 hours, should I complain that I can't push it out to 2.5 because my legs say "enough"?

My goal of getting in 21 trainings over the next six weeks is going to be a challenge. I got on the mat twice this week, which means I'm going to have to squeeze in more than a few 4x weeks between now and the visit from the P's. The knee thing is more distraction than anything else, because it is a reminder of my limitations, of what happened with my shoulder after five and a half great weeks of training this spring.

Then again, maybe earlier in the process is better. Injuries have a way of helping your train smarter, if only by making you less athletic, more careful. That's no argument in favor of the beating your body takes in jiu jitsu - at least not necessarily. But like losses, injuries can teach you well what needs to be done to make you better.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thursday Night Training - Injury Report

Scary knee pop in my left leg to begin tonight's training and another cramp in my right leg at the bottom of my hamstring finished things off.

The knee pop was avoidable. I was trying to do a cobrinha to get up after doing my first set of elbow escapes and make the mistake of going up on my left knee. The pressure was too much and I realized it instantly. I hobbled up, my knee throbbing, and stumbled around for a bit unsure of just how much I'd messed it up.

A few moments later, as I tried to move my leg around, I felt my knee pop - as in pop back in place. It felt sore, but better almost immediately. I hung around for awhile, trying to catch up with the warmup and, after I did, I went down to the locker room to get the knee brace I bought more than a year ago and strapped it on.

I went gently, but the pop-back and the knee brace seemed to do the trick. I was able to drill, and to do some no-gi sparring - at least until my leg cramped up.

It's just something - like my eye and my shoulder - that I'm going to have to pay attention to. I think it will help me be better, as I slow myself down to keep from getting myself into trouble. I'll probably take some Ibuprofen tonight for inflammation, but my knee already feels pretty close to 100%.

Maybe I should have recognized the omen. Emmanuel, one of the little guys in the kids program who I've seen compete, got dropped on his head a la Nog v. Sapp. Only Emmanuel didn't get the armlock and was instead out of commission for a little while. He seemed okay and Cindy did a pretty incredible job of dealing with both Emmanuel, who was hurting, and the kid he was rolling with, who was obviously devastated at the idea of accidentally hurting his sparring partner.

If they stick with it, it will be a great moment for all of those young kids. A "growing-up" moment, of sorts. I don't know how Cindy does it - but it's really pretty cool seeing all those little guys (and gals) go.

I'll save the coursework report for tomorrow. I'm not likely to make it into training Friday afternoon or Saturday - which is too bad because I hear that Saturdays are a lot like Mondays. We'll see. I can probably come to some arrangement where I can get in a Saturday training at least once or twice a month ...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

The training camp for Revolution 11 08 08 began yesterday, with a moderate LSD3 session on the treadmill (385/120). Tonight, was the first mat training of the camp.

A good night. Very Monday-like insofar as the warm-up was pretty much some hipscapes across the mat. We drilled for awhile: spider guard triangles, left and right, and one of Rodrigo's patented moth guard sweeps.

Here's how the sweep works from one side. From tight moth guard, slide your right leg across to the left so that your foot hooks back against his ribs.

Extend your left shin out to the side. You've got a grip on his sleeve with your left hand, and you're controling his right arm with that sleeve and knee/shin pressure.

As you swing your hips out to the left to extend the shin, dive and underhook his near leg with your right arm.

Extend the shin, lift up with the right leg "backwards" hook, and lift with the underhook to finish the sweep.

As with most sweeps, you want the guy to be coming in toward you. So wait to feel his pressure coming forward before going for the sweep.

We did some specific guard/pass guard work that is always nice. I wasn't as persistent in working my standing passes. But I did do a fairly good job of turning full guard passes into half guard passes. And I feel pretty confident in attacking the half guard. I've got a basic gameplan - nothing special. But I follow it like religion. And more often that not - and certainly against comparable opponents - it works.

Free sparring was a blast. 10 minute rounds. I rolled with Clint, Rodrigo, Stephen, Casey (who I haven't seen since the tournament in July) and then a good sized white belt whose name (Ben?) escapes me right now.

A black belt. Two advanced purple belts. One intermediate purple belt. And a white belt who had a couple of pounds on me to say the least. That's the kind of mix that's going to work wonders if I can keep at it for another 10 weeks.

I was thinking about that while I was in the shower after training. How many of my opponents in November train with - actually get on the mat and roll with - guys with Rodrigo's skill? Our purple belts regularly place at the local events - when they don't sweep the division. Do my opponents train against purple belts as tough as Casey, Stephen and Clint?

My bet is that they don't. Not regularly, not three times a week, they don't.

This is what I need to leverage. Not just the teaching - and certainly not just the endless hours plotting and planning my jiu jitsu. I train with some of the best guys (and gals) in the Northwest. I need to remember that when I'm thinking ahead, starting to get nervous about my imagined future opponents with their Aoki-like flexibility and Lesnar-like power.

There's nothing I'm going to see in November that I haven't seen done better right down the road in SoDo. Remembering that will go a long way toward keeping things in perspective as competition time nears.