Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: Year in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Dynamite!! Aoki Claims WAMMA Crown

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

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

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

Jiu-jitsu's still enough!"

Works for me. Parabens Aoki!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Better Not Pout I'm Tellin' You Why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mir Finishes Nogueira: Post Fight Presser

Monday, December 22, 2008

About Those Monthly Training Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mo' Sno'

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snowed In - Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thursday Night Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday Night Training

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Faixa Roxa

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

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

Friday, December 05, 2008

Demian Maia Highlight

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

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thursday Night Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Apropos of Nothing in Particular

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

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tuesday Night Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 01, 2008

Monday Night Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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