Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More from Jacare

Armlock from Rear Mount

Home Again, Home Again Jiggity Jig ...

My quads are on fire like they haven't been in years.

My biggest gripe about my body right now (other than the collapsible shoulders) is my relatively underdeveloped quads. While this isn't as much a problem as I used to think it was when it came to things like hook sweeps from the sitting/butterfly/Cobra guard, weak quads are going to be a significant impediment to my standing guard pass game: the #1 theme for 2010.

While on my regular winter working holiday in Tucson, I put in a LSD9/Berardi cardio circuit and threw in some machine bench presses, lat pulldowns, rows and presses after-wards. I haven't had any opportunity to see what weight I would use if I had access to a real gym, so I could resist doing some traditional weightlifting stuff to get some sense of where I was.

I used a 90 second rest between sets and about 3-5 minutes between exercises. Most of the machine work was in the 60-110 pound range, three sets of nine (three of 18 on presses with palms facing and palms forward), scaling higher by about 15-20 pounds with each successive set. Didn't do anything with legs. But it is my legs - quads in specific - that are representing the whole of the workout's most productive reaction.

The key, I think, was the lunges in the second half of the Berardi coming about 10 minutes after the LSD9 work, which includes a mile at a descending 9-8-7-6 grade. I can't remember the last time a muscle group felt so activated and on-alert. I have no problem with squats, at all. But when I watch certain guys - particularly Rodrigo and Sauleh - attack the guard with these fencing-like, knee on belly-like lunges, the same sort of angle Kayron Gracie was taking in that guard pass he was using to great effect in this year's Mundial - I see the lunge as the key exercise - and key CBDP (circuit building deep practice) - for passing the guard from standing.

I don't remember feeling this in my quads so much when I last did this aerobic power workout at the beginning of the month. So there's also something to be said for the week and a half long, off the mat layoff (which feels even longer). But the fact that I'm feeling it where I'm feeling it says something given what I'm trying to get done in the coming year.

Thinking about the layoff, I want to remember to be careful coming back to the mat. This is the way cheap injuries happen and I don't want my enthusiasm for getting back on the mat to end up costing me a couple of weeks, especially with the 8 Weeks Out for the Revolution less than three weeks away.

One thing that will be helpful in this regard is matwork (TM) tomorrow instead of the aerobic power workout. That, some 360s (which I need to slow down on) and some hook sweeps, will give me plenty of work to help break me back in. It will also avoid focusing on my quads while I get the conditioning back on track as well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jacare Defeats Lindland at Strikeforce

I'm not complaining about the finish by katagatame - from a certain perspective, there is nothing better than win by choke. But I know I wasn't alone last weekend hoping that Jacare might finish "The Law" by omoplata instead.

'Jacare' Souza on Matt Lindland, Strikeforce Debut

Friday, December 18, 2009

Training Day: Friday

Felt great to be back on the mat on Friday. I joined the class right after warmups, and managed to do the stand-up drills with Jared. A lot of us were coming in on the 5-10 miinute late side: Jesse, Lindsey, Jared, and two or three other folks.

The instructional was scarf hold escapes. Rodrigo showed us three variations from the same basic defensive position. The immediate defense against the scarf hold is to hipscape out a bit and dig your inside elbow deep into your side. Rodrigo talked about even bridging a little to get the elbow actually under you to avoid giving the guy control (of your elbow and your ability to hipscape away).

With your outside arm you want to stiff arm the guy at his far bicep. This is mostly to avoid being crossfaced, and you want to make sure you stiff arm at the bicep instead of at the shoulder because the guy can still reach you if you stiff arm at the shoulder.

Once you have control of your own inside elbow, you want to grab the pants of the guy's leg that is nearest you - and as close to the knee as possible. A lot of this will depend on how well you hipscape away initially and the size of your opponent. But this is a critical grip through all the variations.

#1. Knee block. From the grips, continuing hipscaping until you create enough space to bring your bottom knee up between the two of you. There is a sweep from here that Reuben pointed out, controlling the outside sleeve and continuing to rotate your body into the guy with the pants grip. It has a little of the Twist Back feel to it.

#2. Underhook 2 Knees. This was probably my favorite. This is the option especially if you can't get your knee in between you and the other guy. From the grips, you want to continue to escape your hips back until you have enough room to swim out of the stiff arm and go for the underhook. Keep the pants grip, which will help you in the sweep and to avoid being put in the guard if you start to move to the top.

#3. Flat Out. This one is situational and requires timing and a sense of the momentum. If the guy in the scarf hold position sits back too far, there is an option to take him backwards. Here, the trick is to scissor your inside leg under you and go flat. It's very much a momentum thing - that and the leverage. Rodrigo pointed out that it will often show up as an opportunity when the first two options are countered.

Got in some good guard specific work with Reuben and Glenn - who was awarded his blue belt today. I'm trying very much to be in the Right Mind, part of my set of jiu jitus resolutions for Twenty-Ten, and today's rolls got passing grades in terms of focusing on what I want to focus on in the coming year: standing to pass the guard, working my weak side half guard, and incorporating the "Move of the Day" during the specific and/or sparring.

159.6 on the scale after training. I felt very good cardio wise during the training, my HR was around 130 after the standup drills and around 160 after the specific training, which is pretty much where it was a week ago. I've got my conditioning split up with one day a week of aerobic power, two days of static dynamics, and one day of threshold training making the week.

Both my knee and my leg were acting up a bit by the time training was done. I think my timing is good, especially with the hip/groin/pectineus thing. I figure two days off over the weekend will allow me to train on Monday. And if everything is okay on Monday, I'll be able to get in another training on Tuesday or Wednesday before leaving for Arizona for Christmas.

As much as I'll be looking forward to getting back to training, I suspect the spotty schedule over the next few weeks will probably do some good in keeping the hunger stoked. I'm really looking forward to 2010 in terms of what I think can happen in terms of growth and improvement and, holidays notwithstanding. In many ways, I feel as if 2010 has already started.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mini Interview with Minotoro

Courtesy of Marcelo Alonso and Sherdog:
Sherdog: What do you think about winning by KO in your UFC debut?
Nogueira: It was amazing. Not only did I debut with a knockout, but I won the prize of best knockout of the night against one of the toughest guys in that division. Cane is such a tough guy, but I trained a lot for his game and my boxing was really sharp.

Sherdog: Did you study his game?
Nogueira: I knew he is a great striker, so I trained my boxing a lot. I received a lot of criticism from Internet fans saying that I was just focusing on my boxing. But I knew “Banha” was coming to exchange, so I was ready for that. But I have to tell you I expected that the fight would go through the third round.

P is for Pectineus

So I'm watching video of the brown and purple belt "Best Fights" on Sunday. I notice that one GB purple belt has a strategy of pulling guard and then going for the basic underhook sweep when the guy stands up in his guard. He does a great job of this in at least two of his matches.

Since standing in the guard is my mantra for 2010, I got out on the carpet and started practicing how I want to move when that sweep attack comes. I had some really good experiene with a Ricco step over the head manuever that landed me in a sort of Flat Pass like position (as long as I reached down to get the underhook where the guy was formerly underhooking my leg). So I was working this move, shadow-guard passing, evading, dodging the guard, lifting my legs out of range and then POW!

I have pictured what I think is the source of the problem. It's called the "pectineus" and because mine is in bad shape, I can't lift my right leg more than a few inches off the floor (I can march but I can't climb stairs easily), and though it is okay in most other respects, I don't have any lifting strength or mobility on my right. It was bad on Sunday, got better on Monday, and then I re-aggravated it again Tuesday morning - which is probably the official "Time Out" signal as far as this injury goes.With any luck, I'll be able to get back on the mat by the end of the week - maybe Friday.

I don't have any interest in re-injuring it - especially since I'm going to be relying greatly on leg strength and agility as I build an advanced guard passing game. So I'm going to try and take it slow and see if all I've got is a little strain and not something more serious.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2009: That's All Folks

At about 1:30 Sunday morning, the "argument against" won out and my 2009 competition season came to an end.

I went to bed Saturday night with every intention of competing on Sunday. My bags were packed, my protein punch chilling in the fridge, and the directions to Fife High School in Tacoma were at the ready on my desk.

But the fact of the matter was that the longer I lay there trying to fall asleep, the worse the idea of competing sounded.

I won't get into the whole this-and-that of it - except to say that I'm glad I made the decision I did. There was too much of a chance that Sunday would have turned out to be yet another negative experience in a tournament and that was a risk I just wasn't interested in taking.

Over the past several training sessions, a few things have started to fall into place. To a large degree, I feel like I've eased out of the disphoria that had descended back in mid-autumn when the cold season began. I'm back to focusing on some key themes, particularly action/reaction and misdirection, when it comes to both the guard and the submission game. And I'm starting to be able to connect those themes to specific situations, specific techniques - and combinations of techniques.

Maybe more importantly than anything, I'm starting to feel more and more comfortable challenging the guard from the feet. It's almost the sort of feeling I got when the half guard started to sink in as a viable "first guard" for me. Not quite the same thing. But close.

And sometime between 1 and 2 in the morning on Sunday I realized that a bad tournament performance in a few hours might go a long way toward fucking all of that up.

If things go well, 2010 will be for my guard passing what 2008 was for my guard: a time of real insight and progress. In many ways, 2009 feels like a lost year, but "transition year" is probably a lot more accurate. I've told myself that being a purple belt feels like being at the top of one pile and the bottom of another - meaning that your sense of self really is a function of whether you end up spending most of your time looking up or looking down. I'm convinced that the passage to the "other pile" is the development of a Unified Field Theory of guard passing that works for you. And starting with that sparring session on Saturday with Ro several weeks ago and including a number of key moments along the way since, I feel that theory - or my version of it - starting to become three-dimensional. This past week or two was really illuminating on this score - both in terms of some new techniques Rodrigo has been showing us, as well as my own continued efforts to win gravity's allegiance in my conquest of the guard..

So right now, what I need more than anything else (except some drilling partners) is a bummer-free zone. I need a place to try and fail and fail and build where I don't have to see failure as FAILURE - which is inevitably what error becomes when the world is keeping score.

See you on Monday.

Interview with Cobrinha

Courtesy of Jiujitsu Kingdom Blog
JJK: When training and teaching Jiu jitsu, how important is it to spend time drilling the techniques learnt? And roughly what percentage of time do you spend drilling techniques verses live rolling with team mates?

RC: I cannot stress enough how important it is to drill technique over and over. I think this is one of the most common errors individuals make in training. Everyone wants to learn a whole bunch of moves but no one wants to spend the time drilling and practicing each one in order for it to become automatic for them. It is no wonder I see blue belts who are aware of many, many moves but unable to execute more than a handful in sparring or competition. They are just aware of the move – they often really don’t understand the details of the position, and they definitely do not drill it enough to be able to execute it without thinking. If they would spend 1.5 hours drilling just 2 or 3 positions … that would really help their game. In terms of overall percentages, I’d say that you should drill about 45% of your training time, spar 55%. If you are just a leisure participant in the sport or do it purely for fun or fitness, you can drill a higher percentage of the time.

Far Side Armlock from Braulio Estima

A classic technique with some nice details from Rei Braulio:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Penn v. Sanchez Today, Penn v. TBA Tomorrow

There is certainly something very, very unfortunate about scheduling a grappling event for the morning after a UFC Fight. With a wake-up call tomorrow morning around 6 am, enjoying the fights the way they are meant to be enjoyed is going to be virtually impossible - which is too bad, because the matchups - BJ Penn v. Diego Sanchez, Florian v. Guida and Mir v. Kongo - should be plenty entertaining.

I'm not sure why there was such a drive to put an event here early on a Sunday morning in mid-December. And if I hadn't already pledged to compete, there would be a pretty good chance that I would be still be in bed tomorrow morning instead of warming up on a grappling mat in Tacoma.

But what's done is done. I certainly don't mind the jiu jitsu. But if praising the virtues of the Almighty & Company doesn't get me up on a Sunday morning, it's more than a little odd to find jiu jitsu doing so.

8 am weigh-in. 9 am pairings. 9:30 am start.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Interview with Valhalla

Here's a good, in-depth interview with brown belt Valerie "Valhalla" Worthington of Prancing and Sucking. The interview is courtesy of the good people at Kombat Clinic, who have interviewed a few other women in jiu jitsu (or judo) of late, including Helen Currie from the U.K.
KC: I always ask this next set of questions to our interviewees. Who were your inspirations when you first started training was it you instructor and peers or did you look at other figures within the BJJ community? Have these inspirational figures changed much over the years you have been training and competing?

VW: I spent so much of my early training years not knowing a lot about the bigger BJJ world; I didn’t compete much, and when I did it was only locally. So the people I looked up to were the students and instructors around me, who were there every day, training consistently and generously giving of their time to help the newbie. Those people not only taught me how to do jiu jitsu; they also taught me how to be a gracious training partner and a better person.

Training Day: Friday

If ever a training could be short and sweet, Friday's training was it. I had a few things to do before I was able to get over to the academy, and ended up somewhere around the final third of the class, with folks working on the half guard specific. I got to work with Stephen (blue belt) and Bryan, who had already been hard at it for some time. I tried to be mindful of that, focusing on the "power-free" jiu jitsu I've been thinking more and more about since reading the Henry Akins interview from OntheMat (click here if you missed it).

Admittedly, "power-free" jiu jitsu got me clobbered at the last Revolution. But from a training perspective, I think it does have a lot to recommend it. I'm thinking that it's a good way to motivate my training through the end of the year and into the next (before tournament prep mode kicks back in).

Although there are times like Wednesday when I'm training with a guy like Benny (blue/white gi) when I think the last thing I want to do is pick up the pace, I'm wondering if there aren't some instances where I might actually have a cardio advantage. I'm no Diego Sanchez under any circumstances. But I do think I'm in better shape than I was earlier in the year - or even at midyear. Proof. Pudding. Eating. It will be interesting to see if there is an argument for actually increasing my pace - especially when it comes to passing from standing.

The little tatame I was able to do was very productive where it needed to be: SRO. My Project 2010 is to become 100% comfortable on my feet against any kind of guard, and I like the tentative steps in that direction that I've been able to make over the past few weeks. I was reading somewhere about a seminar with Raphael Mendes where Mendes believed that, for gi jiu jitsu, passing the guard in a sort of stand-squat is the best. This reminded me of what Rodrigo said about the guard passing skills and strategy of Marcio Feitosa. In a small way, I think I'm trying to adopt that - plus some of the key guard/half guard passing work that Rodrigo has emphasized over the past several days.

I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. But it seems that, in some ways, once you recognize a place between standing up straight and walking on your knees, passing the guard becomes a completely different, completely possible, endeavor.

I wouldn't have minded one more 8-10 minute roll. But time is always snug on Fridays. I'm as ready as I can expect to be for Sunday (no post-train weight, but 164.8 in the gi beforehand). Here's to being worth watching.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Me & My Meniscus

Twisted my bad knee last night during training. I was on top in half guard, working the deep half/deep half counter we've been drilling for the past week or so. The guy on the bottom grabbed my north leg high on the calf and pulled it toward him, forcing me to sit with my knee bend outward and my foot to the inside.

It's not a bad movement - on my other side, it probably wouldn't have been noticed. But on my left knee, it can be an issue. I let the guy have the reverse immediately, fearing that if I fought it too hard, I risked damaging a knee I know is not (and probably won't ever be) 100%.

Adrenaline and the thrill of training kept me from noticing much over the course of the night - though I knew something was up as I eased into and out of the car. This morning, the discomfort is definitely letting me know it is here. But it is hard to see how limiting this will be.

I'm taking tonight off and planning on training tomorrow. If I can get through a training with little problem. then I'll be fine to compete on Sunday. Otherwise, I'll end up calling it a season and looking for ways to help my knee speed the healing process.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Training Day: Wednesday

I've decided to take the same three day Fight Week schedule that I did before the last Revolution event: Monday/Wednesday/Friday. I overheard Lindsey and Casey talking about when they expected to have their last training before the tournament on Sunday and I think Thursday and Friday were among the consensus days.

After some hipscapes and standup for warm-up, we worked the counters to the deep half guard attack. There was the #1, the one I CBDP'd a little while ago, the sprawl switch and walk back. Here we had two more, both dealing with the shin block. #2 was the one that Casey seemed especially to like. Here you've got the leg lace on the upper leg. The new aspect was switching down knees so that your inside trapped leg is now standing. From here, stuff the guy's down leg (the one on the mat) and backstep into a watchdog side control (facing the legs).

Standing on the inside knee made mobility 100x better. It is much easier to shift the weight to your other leg (knee down - though I guess theoretically you could squat) from standing than it is from the knee where you have two steps in one.

That's what you get when you drill with brown belts (four stripe brown belts, at that). Critical, move-making details.

#3 was a stacking manuever. Rodrigo explained this one pretty thoroughly, but it will take a lot of feel to get it right. From the leg lace, you want to bob vertically, shucking the leg to try and straighten it and get the leg supported on your shoulder instead of your arm. This might take a few bobs (and if he doesn't go for it, you've always got #2). If you get the leg high on the shoulder, then you want to reach around with the arm on that side and get a cross grip on the collar by the neck. You can even reach for the shoulder near the neck as Jacare does in his first fight at the ADCC 2005 competition.

From here you stretch the guy out and go around the guard in either direction: into the stack or crossface and backstep the other way.

Tatame was very vigorous. I didn't take advantage of the opportunity to work my deep half guard as I should have. But I did work my weak side for one whole session which I've rarely done so deliberately. Benny was very tough on my strategy of continuing to pass from standing - he's another excellent guy to train with in the days before a tournament. I wasn't able to have success in passing from standing, but I managed to avoid getting swept and right now, that's perfectly fine with me.

156.8 on the scale post-train. I was 168 on the scale in the gi before class, which is another measure worth watching. I need to be under 169 Sunday morning come weigh-in time.

Pure Gracie Grape Juice

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Training Day: Monday

ATM in effect - at least for the past three weeks. If I show up the day after the Interschool, that will make it a full month of Always Train Mondays - something I definitely need to get restarted for 2010.

A very good session on the mat on Monday. I felt good cardio-wise as we worked on the same half guard passes we focused on last week. Among the major details I noticed was dealing with the shin block half guard. Rodrigo rocked back and forth with the leg lace and only put his hand on the knee to stuff the bottom leg when he was ready to attack. Otherwise you telegraph the move.

Also, I noticed that Rodrigo got both above and beyond the knee of the shin block leg before making the big switch. This made it easier to spin around the knee as you backstep around and into the guy's chest. It's a "feel" thing, of course. But it's good to have an idea of where I'm trying to go exactly when setting up the switch.

Here's a CBDP for the first watchdog style half guard pass. I don't have one for the shin block pass just yet.







I also did some of the best standing guard pass work I've ever done. This is another thing for 2010. Basically, I have been religious about using my legs to attack their legs, instead of worrying too much about my hands and grips. I'm also getting lower and lower in my squat, as well as trying to do a better job of attacking at an angle instead of straight-on and straight-down.

My go-to option has been to smash the leg, though ultimately there will be other options I'll have to use when guys start to catch on (or, preferably, before then). I've been focusing on moving my legs back and forth, in and out with my forearm connected to fight for inside control (a one-on-one with one leg between the other guy's legs). I also want to work the Crab attack from here - though that's a straight up attack and I very much need to focus on attacking at an angle.

Good training - I arrived early and stayed late as I've been wanting to do more and more of (and will next year). 157.6 or so on the scale post-train.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

About That Deep Half

Here are a few notes on what I recall from the Glover materials now returned to the safety and sanctity of copyright.

1. Attack the same leg. When you dive for the deep half, make sure to target the same leg that you have triangled. Glover pointed this out as a major mistake that most people attack the other leg, leaving them in a weird, sprawled out on your back position.

2. Leg on the shoulder, not the arm. When you secure the leg, it should be very high up on your shoulder, between your shoulder and neck. There are a lot of reasons for this: better control, better choke avoidance. But it is another important detail.

3. Look Alike. You should not only get deep with the trapped leg on your shoulder, but you should also be looking away from the guy - or in the same direction he is looking. You don't want to be looking at him, you want to have your head turned away, with the back of your neck/head in his lap. This will also help keep you from getting brabo choked.

4. Keep the legs locked. Keep both legs squeezed tightly around the guy's trapped leg. This is especially important if you are in the middle of a sweep. You finish the sweep with the trapped leg between your legs - THEN make your move from sweep/reversal to pass.

5. Your inside hand will tend to be either on the knee or behind it. Be on the lookout for the kimura attack on your inside arm. If he comes with it, slide the hand under/behind his trapped leg to deny him access to your wrist.

6. Basic Sweep: Homer Simpson walk toward the inside. When you get his leg near his down leg, you should start to feel his weight "sit" a bit, from here reverse direction, keeping the leg trapped, and roll back over into half guard on top.

7. Inside Hook to Back Sweep: Hook the ankle with the inside hook/foot. Swim under the trapped leg with the inside hand. You will lift him backward on to his back. Be sure to keep your hands low and arms wide as you attack with the double underhook pass.

8. Outside Hook to Take the Back: Hook the ankle with the outside hook/foot. Grab the belt on his lower back with your outside hand and check the knee with the inside hand. Lift with the hook and belt hand just enough to slip your head to the back (out the backdoor). Extend your hook to create a little space. Post with your other hand to help free your other foot and swing that leg around to put the other hook in place as you move to take the back.

Building the circuitry will be critical, of course. But unlike the elusive slingshot armdrag and sweep off the shin block half guard, I'm finding myself generally comfortable with the idea of the deep half, of attacking and disrupting the base directly. The slingshot definitely needs to be part of the toolset - in a sense, the slingshot armdrag and sweep are the other side of the deep half game. But for now, I suspect I'm going to have better luck with the deep half.

Jeff Glover: Deep Half Guard Gold

I've decided that I'm going to continue building my guard game from my half-guard base, rather than go in a wholly different direction with butterfly guards and cross guards.

I still want to work those guards in training, especially the cross guard. And I will definitely continue to create bridges from my half guard game to other guards like sitting guard and reverse de la Riva. But there's every reason in the world for me to add a deep half guard component to my half guard. And when it comes to the deep half, there are few better than Jeff Glover.

Interestingly on Saturday I tried to sweep Joe with a deep half sweep and wound up in a triangle just as Jeff warns. If this material turns out to be as helpful for me as the Flat Pass instructionals from Tozi and ChimChim were, then 2010 is looking better already.

* Update *

Well, that didn't last long. The videos have been yanked. Here's a link to the DVD.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Cross Guard Controls

I've started fooling around with this guard on and off over the past several weeks. I still don't have a reliable sweep for when the guy moves in the direction of his trapped arm. But I suspect that I'll be able to figure out some options beyond the roll-type, behind the back sweeps. Or at least, that's what I'm hoping.

Static Dynamics

Instead of the straight weight-lifting I'd planned to do between now and the 8 Weeks Out for the Revolution event in March, I've decided to take another page (literally) from Joel Jamieson's great book, Ultimate MMA Conditioning and use one of the anaerobic workouts instead.

I think I've done the right thing to focus on my aerobic conditioning over the past several weeks. Ultimately, having superior aerobic conditioning makes it possible to train longer and develop faster and faster circuitry. Aerobic conditioning is also a boon when it comes to competing. But increasingly, I think it's biggest benefit is in allowing you to potentially achieve technical superiority by being able to out-train the competition.

All that said, there is a role for explosiveness, for "feeling strong" and I think that some of the anaerobic conditioning routines in Joel's book are excellent in this regard. The one that has captured my imagination right now is the Static Dynamics method, which he describes this way:
This unusual method is one I first read about many years ago in a Powerlifting magazine but for whatever rasons, it never really caught on and I haven't heard much of its use in years despite its effectiveness for improving lactic capacity. Perhaps one of the reasons is that it's a very uncomfortable method when used properly, but this is one of the hallmarks of increasing tolerance to the fatiguing processes of anaerobic metabolism.
. I'm doing a variation on Joel's method, using a specific number of work/pause reps instead of doing work/pauses for 3 to 10 minutes at a time - which would probably be even more difficult. If all goes well this time around, I may adopt Joel's more rigorous approach next time.

That said, I'm pretty convinced that I will be adding tempo squats to my 8 Weeks Out for the March revolution. I spent a good amount of time working to pass the guard from standing and from a sort of squatting crouch that I think will be my hallmark from now through 2010. I actually remember Rodrigo talking about Marcio Feitosa's approach to guard passing, which is based on a sort of tight, walking squat. If I can find the moment over the next few weeks, I'm going to have to ask Rodrigo more about it.

Training Day: Saturday

Woke up late on Saturday and again showed up later than I would have liked for training. Truth told, I wasn't convinced that I'd be able to get in some mat time on Saturday. But the schedule was clear and - as much as I overslept - I was still able to get there for the last few minutes of the skill session.

The technique was the half guard knee block pass that Rodrigo showed us on Friday and earlier in the week. It was great to be able to work on the move one more time - it was also great to see Clint back on the mat, as well as Sauleh, who showed up in time for the free sparring session afterwards.

I managed to get in a three sparring sessions: one with a good-sized blue belt that I didn't recognize, then some time with Scott and his endless guard and then finished up an exhaustive roll with Joe. One of the things I did like about today's sparring was the way I moved to work some cross guard and did some good leg transitioning to get from my weak half guard side to my good half guard side.

About that cross guard: guys are starting to get vertical and hide the leg when I attack with the open hook. I need to start transitioning to a sitting guard when they do this insofar as they are pretty much giving me a single leg takedown. The key is making the quick transition.

A very good day on the mat. It was nice to hang out a bit afterward with Nate, Jesse and a couple of other guys just shooting the shiite. Among the numerous things I like about training is that it gives me a chance to slow the outside world down and spend some time on the "inside" world at my pace. Saturdays - like no other day of training - provide the perfect opportunity for just that.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Yeah, I'm From Jersey ...

You Gotta Problem With That?

Training Day: Friday

A pretty truncated session on Friday. I arrived at the tail end of the first skills lesson and had to make a mad dash for the door after my first and only sparring session with Lance

Rodrigo showed us a way to pass the shin-block half guard that I have been waiting years for. The pass has you leg lace the top leg at the ankle - under the ankle and then clamp on top of the thigh. With your outside hand, you want to control the knee. After you work some momentum back and forth, use his push as the moment to stuff the half guard hooking leg and back step to pass the guard.

If you end up shallow, as I did a few times drilling with Lance, then make sure you crawl higher up the guy's body quickly to avoid the Braulio triangle (the reverse triangle Gracie Barra black belt Braulio Estima used to defeat Andre Galvao). I've been caught in that a time or two and it's no fun to escape.

Rodrigo also showed us another half guard pass, particularly effective against the deep half. Here, as the guy shoots in for the deep half, you want to switch your hips into a watchdog position facing the legs. Here, in a variation on the watchdog half guard pass, Rodrigo had us control behind the back at the gi or belt and, with the other hand, control the far side (probably vertical) knee.

An important detail here was to clamp the elbow down dynamically to keep the guy's underhooking arm from helping him get control of your body.

The rest of the pass is that backing out, circling out motion that I've been working on. It's really a nice way variation, using the watchdog position instead of the crossface. What the two passes have in common is that backing out, with or without using the other leg to pry the half guard open.

We did some specific half-guard training, and then some regular sparring. I was crunched badly for time and had to leave after rolling with Lance. I felt a little frantic, still that overriding sense of chaos instead of a deliberate flow. There were instances of perception - pivoting my knee outward to pop the DLR guard, for example. But the incoherence is still there, like white noise drowning out familiar music.

I learned tonight that Dr. Ari Kiev died last month. I interviewed the famous psychiatrist and performance coach of Olympians and Wall Street traders several months ago for The Daily Planet. I remember a moment during the interview, as he was talking somewhat matter-of-factly about the process of self-analysis and reflection, when he stopped short and provided the perfect conclusion to our conversation.

... it's not as pollyannish as I'm trying to suggest. A lot of the conversations that I have with people tend to be brutally honest, because I think the task of a trading coach or a guide is to confront people, to wake them up, to throw cold water in their face to really get them to see how much they have decided to produce the results that they are producing. That the results aren't by chance, but they are because the individual has made a decision, conscious or unconscious, to produce certain results.

I've talked to a few people today who were not doing very well this year and challenged them in terms of are they willing to dig in and really change some of their underlying approaches - which haven't been working - in order to increase the likelihood that they'll be successful. I talked to one guy who is a deep value guy. And, deep value, holding stocks and buying more as they go down and buying still more as it goes further down, doesn't seem to be working in this market. To hold onto that philosophy when it's really not proving to be successful - which a number of people have done - may not really make sense.

But, you have to challenge the individual to say, "You're making a decision to hold onto this approach which worked a few years ago, but it's not working now. Are you motivated to really try to succeed? And, to succeed, you may have to rethink your philosophy."

That's not an easy conversation, because you're really getting in somebody's face and saying it’s not the market, they're responsible for how they're performing.

It’s a tough conversation and not everybody is willing to have it.

155.2 on the scale, post-train. InterSchool 9 days away.

The Ups, The Downs

Random BJJ Theory
There are really severe ups and downs in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Some days you can do almost anything you try, other days, you can’t do anything.

I have a theory about this. One that has kept me going in the times when you want to pack it in and go home.
I think there's something to this, though it doesn't really cover those instances when the ratio seems far more extreme than 50/50.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sensibility = Circuitry

On Circuitry and Sensibility.
The most interesting aspect of jiu-jitsu is – of course the techniques are great – but the sensibility of the the opponent, the sense of touch, the weight, the momentum, the transition from one move to another. That’s the amazing thing about it. You must allow yourself to go as an automatic pilot. You don’t know exactly where you’re going, until the movement happens. Because you cannot anticipate what’s going to happen. You must allow yourself to be in a zero point, a neutral point, and be relaxed, and connected with the variations. So you pretty much flow with the go. This is a point beyond knowledge. It is from years and years of playing around and sensibility.
--Rickson Gracie

This is what the drilling, the specific training does. What I need to be doing twice as much of. Guard/pass guard. Mount/escape mount. Not just techniques, but movements, repetitions, building the wiring, the circuits.

Decided to do some conditioning at the BTT HQ here on the Sound instead of training tonight. A 2-mile LSD followed by three Berardi circuits. I think I prefer doing the cardio first, both warming up and pre-fatiguing a little bit before having to do the shorter, more anaerobic workout (HR around 160). Something about that seems to better simulate what happens on tournament day: the low grade rapid heartbeat of warming up and anticipation that can last for longer than expected, followed by the need to explode in a measured but persistent way as you press your game when the match starts.

Or so I think right now. I've also decided to start throwing the iron around a little in the six weeks between now and the 8 Weeks Out for the March 2010 Revolution. With the planned weight category switch, lightweights will go up to 167.5 in the gi, which may mean a few heavier opponents. So a little extra strength will probably come in handy - if for no reason other than to ward off injury. I'm trying a 2-day, push/pull split, MWF, from now until mid-January or so. We'll see how it goes.

The Black Freighter

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Drill Baby Drill

One of the things about 2009 is how I've remained relatively injury-free - at least in terms of things that have kept me off the mat for more than three weeks. Leaving out the sick time (2-3 weeks a year it seems), I'm not missing a lot of mat time due to incapacity.

Which is almost too bad, because that would be one explanation of why I feel like I am, at best, six months behind where I should be in terms of my sensibilities and growth on the mat. If I had missed half the year due to some injury, and were rolling more or less like I am now, I think I'd be pretty okay with it. I might be more than okay with it, to be honest.

Right now, though, I feel like I'm grappling in mud: chaotic, inconsistent, uncertain. How much training it would take over the next few months to make me feel as if I'd closed that six-month gap if I'm averaging more than 3.5 times a week now? 4 times? Five? I reach my limit pretty quickly even in the best case.

I think I've said it before: I feel as if I need to take every class twice, that circuit-building for me is like drilling through coliche and unless the engineers bring out the heavy artillery, the crew is going to be at it for more than a little while every single time.

Training Day: Wednesday

156.4 on the mat post-train.

The FightWorks Podcast asked members of what it calls the "Mighty 600,000" whether they thought their jiu jitsu had improved over the past year. Without thinking too much about it, I clicked "yes."

My thinking was that at the beginning of the year, I wasn't convinced I deserved to have gotten my purple belt. Now, with a few weeks left in the year, I've gotten over that. But that might be the limit of it.

Honestly, it's been a very frustrating year - my most frustrating ever, easily. No point in catalouging the abuses here (again). But it is an indisputable fact at this point. And with the final tournament of the year less than two weeks away, the training I'm putting in on the mat - however voluminous from a historic perspective - increasingly feels worth less than the proverbial hillock of beans.

Tonight's training was more of the same in that regard. I feel like one of those long distance runners getting lapped on the stadium track. By the time it happens, there really isn't anything to do but feel sorry for yourself and keep running. Of course, one of the great things about running track, for example, is the PR, the personal record, that can make even a non-competitive performance in the field a valuable - and even goal-breaking - experience.

Jiu jitsu affords no such objectivity for measuring personal achievement - save for the tournament and, at this point, the less said about competing in tournaments the better for obvious reasons. Unless you are a superstar, a prodigy or even above average, you end up toiling away for years, if you are lucky, a little better today, a little worse tomorrow and hopefully stair-stepping your way to a level of accomplishment that makes you feel as if the effort was at least partially worthwhile. If you are lucky.

I remember probably two years ago there was this stretch of about six weeks when once a week, I'd end up training with just Chris Serna and Stephan. It was insane - like wrestling bears in a well. That was one type of paralysis, a more obvious kind, and different from what I'm feeling in my jiu jitsu right now. But the magnitude is comparable.

Interview with Henry Akins

Henry Akins, for those who don't know, is the third American to be promoted to black belt by Rickson Gracie. This interview is courtesy of On the Mat.

A Conversation with Henry Akins
GUMBY: So what was it like finding Rickson at that point?

HENRY AKINS: I walked into the academy and Luis (Heirdia) and Mauricio were the main instructors at the time and the guys were just so cool and laid back. At that time Jiu Jitsu wasn’t that big yet because no one knew what it was. I don’t even think the first UFC happened yet [editors note, the first UFC happened November 12, 1993] , it was to happen a few months later. Everyone was really cool. Rickson came in and I got to train with him, and at that time I knew who we was but you didn’t have an idea of how good he was until after you had been training with him for awhile and you could see everything that he could do. Even now days when I train with him it’s hard to understand how good he is, he treats everyone like a white belt.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Interview with Xande

In six parts.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Training Day: Monday

After last week's focus on the armlock from the guard, this week began with a counter and guard pass off the armlock attack.

The CBDP for the move was:

Hug / Step / Head / Pull / Clinch / Switch

HUG the head with the free arm. STEP up with the trapped side leg behind him to set your base - keeping your other knee on the mat and tight against his body. HEAD is a reminder to keep low and use your head to apply pressure to the leg so that he doesn't open up and transition to the triangle when you pull your arm free. PULL is the "jackhammer" motion to pull your trapped arm free. CLINCH refers to grabbing the shoulder with the now-free arm on the same side. SWITCH is to switch your hips to get in position for the pass. The easy way to think of it is that the knee that is up goes down and the knee that is down goes up. This makes it easy to scramble around, pass the guard, and get to side control.

I'm going to try and use this method for remembering moves as I learn them, instead of when I'm trying to recall them. Setting up a CBDP and then repeating it as I drill the move might be just what I need to better retain what I learn on a day-to-day basis.

Tatame was a mixed bag. Honestly, I put in an average performance - particularly for a Monday. I didn't feel as if I was able to focus on anything in particular - though I did a halfway decent "first day focus" on standing to pass the guard. I even had some success with that Ricco Pass, which I've never had before.

For now, my guard passing is going to be focused on standing to pass OR forcing butterfly guard and working my butterfly guard passes, mainly the Wallid and the Watchdog passes. I actually had some success with the Wallid pass today, which I mostly credit to being aggressive (something that Rodrigo has been emphasizing for the past few weeks - though mostly with regard to the guard).

That's another point. Rodrigo has been talking about being aggressive when pulling guard, of pulling guard to go for the sweep instead of just pulling guard because you feel "more comfortable" on the bottom. I think that's especially true for guys like me who are 90% sweep oriented anyway when it comes to the guard. I also think it's applicable to guard passing as well. You want to move to create opportunities - and then to jump on those opportunities immediately when they present themselves. This is part of what my practice in trying to force the butterfly guard is all about. But it is also a part of what I'm trying to learn about passing the guard from standing. What can I do to create those "green light" moments when the leg is low enough to drop my knee, for example - or high enough to be scooped as part of an underhook pass?

This I need to keep up as my primary project - not just for the next two weeks before the Inter-School but as The Project for 2010. For what it's worth, I do think that consistent guard passing - and a somewhat more diverse guard game - represent the difference between burien top team qua faixa roxa and burien top team qua faixa marrom.

Rodrigo incidentally showed us a very nice variation on the armlock from the guard - something I don't think I ever remember seeing him show us before. Essentially, it's a combination of the flower sweep (or windmill sweep or pendulum sweep or whatever, you know what I'm talking about) and the armlock, where you control the arm at the elbow, and dive under the leg with the other arm (this is from the closed guard). Kick your legs wide as if going for the flower sweep, but instead of kicking your arm-control-side leg back under you, you roll back over and swing the leg over the guy's head for the armlock (you've maintained control of the arm throughout and can bring your other arm into play to help finish.)

You never know what variation of a technique will suddenly make that technique work for you. This flower sweep armlock has made me more optimistic about actually having a coherent armlock from the guard attack than I've ever been.

156.6 on the scale post-training. Given that the weigh-in is IBJJF style for the Inter-School on the 13th (155-169 in the gi), I'm right where I want to be.

Renzo on Relson and the "True Jiu Jitsu"


Stop. Do not collect $200. Do not pass go. Go directly to this interview at the FightWorks Podcast immediately.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Relson Gracie on The FightWorks Podcast

This interview is on the same show as the Marcelo Garcia interview I posted about earlier.

If young guys like Ryan Hall are moving away from the guard, OJGs (original jiu jitsu guys) like Relson Gracie are keeping the faith. Here's Relson's take on Roger:
Roger’s the only one. Roger is the only one that keeps the Gracie style. He closes the guard, attacks the neck, sweeps, gets a good mount, and he submits everybody from the mounted position. You don’t see many Gracie Barra guys doing that. Only Roger. Because he comes from the old generation of Rolls’ students. The closed guard – that’s what Mauricao, his daddy, passed to his son. The guys interviewed me before the Worlds and asked me who was going to win, and who was going to be the open champion. I responded right away that Roger was going to be the champion because he’s the only one who plays closed guard and uses the pure Gracie jiu-jitsu.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Training Day: Thursday

Today's training was just open mat. Rodrigo opened up the academy from about 10 -12 noon for those of us who were looking to train on the holiday. I arrived shortly after 10:30 am and managed to get in a nice 8-10 minute roll with a big white belt whose name I didn't remember.

We ended up spending a lot of the time going over specific issues he was having trouble with. I didn't mind as we went from mount escape to side control escape to half guard sweep, with a few basic principles added in. He was an interesting guy to roll with given his size, and I was pleasantly surprised that I switched to a version of the Sauleh guard, with a collar and sleeve grip on one side and a foot in the bicep or on the shoulder on the other.

I've been meaning to work more and more on this guard ever since Tuesday, the second consecutive day of armlocks from the guard. I started to see a way that I might set up not only armlocks from the guard, but also even triangles (!) from the guard. The trick is that I do the armlock and triangle better in one direction, and the sweep and choke better in the other. So I need to do a better job of noticing what opportunities arise from the closed guard, pick a side, and execute the technique.

A good time on the mat. Lindsey was there, as was Jesse and Sonya. Pat arrived a little while after I did and I thought I saw him and Brock training at some point. Rodrigo was there with his daugther, who was making a lifeboat out of some of the striking equipment. Time really seemed to fly. I could have easily stayed at the school for another hour.

Both schools are shut down tomorrow. But it looks like I'll get a chance to get back on the mat this Saturday, which is great. I didn't get a weigh-in after training, but the 163 and change in the gi beforehand was a perfectly fine number for now.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Treat: Jean Jacques Machado v. Wallid Ishmael

An Old School Special:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Training Day: Tuesday

More armbars from the guard today. A big class, with more than a few new folks that Rodrigo worked with. Jesse was there to lead the warmup and teach the class, adding a few extra details to the move on to what Rodrigo and Lindsey went over on Monday.

One thing that Jesse helped me remember is that you are often going to have one side that really works and one side that is competent at best. I actually overheard Rodrigo making this point to Troy and his training partner a few days ago, so in a way the point was only more reinforced.

I don't have a very good armlock from the guard. But the movement to attack the right arm for the armlock is much better than the movement to attack the left arm. So more than just having one side that is not going to feel as good during drills, I also know that when I try to do the armlock in actual sparring and guard/pass guard specific drill, I need to focus on the attack on the right arm, that set-up and others that go well with it.

A couple of observations from the tatame: guys are all over my Flat Pass lately. It reminds me of what happened to my half guard awhile back as guys became more and more accustomed to it. I think the high point of my half guard came this spring at the Revolution when I pulled half guard in my first two matches to go up 2-0. Now is a good time to start to move away from it more aggressively and start to cultivate some other guards that will work for me at the higher levels.

The same is becoming true about the Flat Pass. Part of my disappointment at the last Revolution (a large part) was the fact that I was looking forward to testing the Flat Pass in competition and never really got the chance. Maybe that opportunity will come in December at the inter-school.

But even if it does show up and perform, the Flat Pass needs to go back on the shelf while I develop other guards, especially Scissorhands (given the work on the armbars from the guard), the cross guard and sitting/butterfly stuff, as well.

I like how Rodrigo has been emphasizing only pulling guard to attack with the sweep. I managed to get a couple of good hook sweeps in over the past two days based on trying to follow that thinking. One of the problems with my half guard game has been that I'd started to get into the habit of "Cadillac-ing", hanging out in a position I felt relatively comfortable defending almost indefinitely. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if part of my problems with my shoulder have to do with spending too much time on the bottom on my side.

One of the good things about the sitting guards is that you can't really hang out in them. You're either gaining ground or losing it. There's a little drill I've been trying where I butt-scoot forward quickly and shoot in the hook sweep, the kind of move that can be incorporated into a number of semi-scramble situations.

156.2 on the scale after training. This is about where I want to be for now. I'm looking to train Thanksgiving morning and again on Saturday which will give me a nice four-train week.

Fightworks Podcast Interview with Marcelo Garcia

What is especially interesting about this interview with Marcelo is the discussion about his new project Marcelo Garcia In Action, which looks pretty impressive so far - especially if you are a fan of Marcelinho's game, as I am.

Another interesting tidbit from the interview is hearing Marcelo say that he tries to set a new record each time for the amount of training he does before each competition.

Click here to access the interview.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Mo' Better Jiu Jitsu

Thinking about this line from this post from a couple of months ago.
The only downside is that you can get too much of a good thing very quickly. There are two sessions per day at the academy, then you get three small-group sessions per week on top of that. And you can get extra private lessons from academy black and brown belts. And there’s a covered, matted area at the camp where you can ‘just run through that move we did yesterday’ before lunch. Many people find that they do a week’s worth of training in two days, so if you don’t pace yourself it’s easy to overtrain and get ill.
This is from a guy who spent three weeks training at Gracie Camp in Rio a few years back.

What I would do for three weeks of two-a-days right here at GB Seattle/Eastside! In my imaginary perfect world, everybody who trains jiu jitsu would get to do at least a week - preferably two - of training twice a day once a year. Just a deep infusion of jiu jitsu to root out the latest bad mistakes and maybe even forge a few good "best practices".

How incredibly helpful would a week or two of that be? Jiu jitsu is such a skill-dependent art - you've got to spend hours hammering away at that marble in order to make a meaningful and lasting impression. I'd be willing to bet that the average Brazilian training jiu jitsu today is a lot like the average NBA-aspiring inner city kid who logs playing time by the truckload.

There's no making that kind of person out of most of us. But getting to enjoy one week a year doing nothing but training, sleeping and eating (in that order) is a goal worth working towards.

Training Day: Monday

ATM ("Always Train Mondays") is based on the theory that the first day of training for the week is about getting the weekend rust out. In that way, today's training more or less accomplished the mission.

There are days when I feel like I'm the worst purple belt in Washington (and even if I'm wrong, I've got the stats that support the argument). Monday's training didn't do very much to dispel that notion. In part, I'm sure it was because we were working on armbars from the guard - a technique I avoid like the plague - and my technique is both rusty and raw. In part, it probably has to do with the official "3 Weeks Out" before the December 13th tournament and the nagging anxiety that my preparation for the upcoming event will do me no better than my preparation for the last one. And in part, I'm sure it's because I could use a break, not from training jiu jitsu, but from everything else. Truth told, I'm not sure I'd know what to do with a full seven-day vacation if one gogoplata'd me from the guard (yes, that was a feature of tonight's training, as well, and during what is rumored to be my best guard pass, at that.)

I'm finding it harder than I'd like to ward off some of negativity of earlier in the month. It comes on less like a sense of frustration or futility (though there are elements of that, too) and more as just a sense of weight, or gravity, the kind of feeling you get sometimes when walking down the hallways of a hospital, the feeling that, for all the healing, this is a place of suffering, as well. And what is annoying is that for all the talk of jiu jitsu being an "individual sport that you do with partners" it isn't easy to imagine what could happen that would be so positive that it would sustainably counterbalance what has felt like my least productive year in jiu jitsu out of the four I have to choose from.

I'll tell you this: I have an appreciation for steroid users that I've never had before. Not that I would ever take steroids (I have enough bad habits without adding syringe-play to my list), but I understand the desperation of wanting to be better so badly that you'd take some significantly sized risks to make it happen. For better or worse, there is no jiu jitsu potion that would give me Sauleh's guard game or Casey's armlocks or Cindy's top aggression or Rodrigo's chokes. And maybe I'd have the self-dignity to avoid the temptations of such a concoction even if one did exist.

Everybody you ask, who knows better, says the same thing: talent is important, but training and dedication are what really make the difference. Coming from world-class talent like Rafael Mendes, that is certainly nice to hear. And I've taken this sentiments - expressed by every one from Rafa to Saulo to Rodrigo - very much to heart in 2009 by training more and more frequently as the year has played out. But as the year rolls toward a close, I can't help but wonder: what do you do if the difference you make still is not difference enough?

156.2 on the scale after training (169.0 in the gi beforehand). A perfectly respectable number to start the week. I did stay pretty late to work over some technique with Steve (always worth doing) and to ask Rodrigo a question about the S-mount transition to take the back (specifically, the issue of switching your hips and laying the back leg flat instead of remaining relatively high up in a traditional S-mount). We're going to be working more armbars this week - from the guard, from the mount - which is practice I could use. Right now, I'm slated to be back on the mat tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday for a little day session from 10 am to 12 noon. Four days in a row. Slumpbuster, where is thy sting?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Welcome to the UFC, Lil Nog!

How about THAT UFC debut? First round KO for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

More Thoughts On the Ryan Hall Interview

I've had the chance to get both Cindy's and Rodrigo's thoughts on some of the sentiments expressed in the recent Ryan Hall interview. Rodrigo's comments in particular resonated with things he has said before about the difference between many good American jiu jitsu artists and their Brazilian counterparts.

I thinik there are some parts of Ryan's thesis that are not supported. For example, the armlock and triangle from mount remain viable positions even if the risk is "giving up position" as Ryan says in his rejection of those techniques. For me, the issue is the risk/reward. If you have a good triangle or armlock from mount - if you are better from those positions than you are from the cross choke or transitioning to take the back, then it would be ridiculous to forgo your best technique out of a Unified Jiu Jitsu Theory that says you can not ever risk losing position.

It also begs the question - can't a person going for the cross choke from mount get reversed? Can't a person trying to take the back from mount (for example, using the S-mount transition Rodrigo showed us earlier this week) miss the moment and end up back on the bottom?

There are no inherently more or less "safe" techniques in jiu jitsu. As the saying goes, jiu jitsu is perfect, it is the human being who makes errors. Travis Lutter failed to submit Anderson Silva by armlock from the mount because he waited until the third opportunity to try - and even then Anderson had begun to disrupt Lutter's balance by the time he moved. It wasn't because the armlock from the mount - or the triangle from the mount that Ryan rejects but Demian Maia was able to use to finish Chael Sonnen - was in and of itself inferior.

Ryan's game came to represent an extreme version of jiu jitsu - and there's a lot of sense in his rejection of it. To the extent that he wants to compete against the bset in the world, he knows that he'll have to do more than try and lure opponents into the lethal octopus garden of his legs. And I wonder what the implications of Ryan's theory have on similar top American guard players like Jeff Glover.

In jiu jitsu, when the going gets tough, the not-so-tough often start thinking about wrestling ... I'm as guilty of that as anyone and it has been helpful - very helpful - this past week to have Rodrigo spend so much time on the more aggressive, back-tacking, pummeling, base-disrupting aspects of jiu jitsu. I think there's a little of this in Ryan's thinking, which as Rodrigo's training this week has shown, might be too affected by a "jiu jitsu = guard playing" hegemony (sorry I can't think of another way to put it) that he himself has lived - and succeeded with - for years. In other words, the antidote to guard playing isn't wrestling, it's a more balanced diet of jiu jitsu.

I don't want to sound overly critical of Ryan's view of things. I've along been a Ryan Hall fan and, to the extent that his view of things is his view of things, I wish him nothing but luck. But as an general analysis of what we're likely to see - or should see - as jiu jitsu evolves - I'm no more convinced than I was hearing Marc Laimon say many of the same sorts of things three or four years ago.

The greatest innovations in jiu jitsu are still coming from Brazil, in my opinion. And the recent performance of Brazilians at the ADCC 2009 gives lie to the notion that the gi is the only place where Brazilians continue to outpace the rest of the world. (Brazilians won 7 out of 8 divisions including women and absolute at ADCC 2009. In the men's divisions, two out of every final four included Brazilian competitors.) I don't have a clue what we'll see next. But my eyes are on the Mendes brothers, who seem to be at the forefront of jiu jitsu innovation right now in terms of both innovation and achievement.

From Tatame:
Who is the responsible for your technical changes so fast, besides your talent?

I think this evolution isn’t just talent, because if the person only has talent and isn’t determined, it will reach a place, but not the highest. If you have determination and talent, then you can reach the highest place of the podium. The most important isn’t the talent, but will, determination, overcoming, training every day, maintaining an intense training and the union of my team that is essential.

Not surprisingly, Rodrigo's been keeping his eye on the Mendes brothers as well. The other day after training, Rodrigo was showing Andrew and Stephen this Mendes Bros. move from the top of half guard.

Friday, November 20, 2009

South American Jiu Jitsu Championships Streamed Live

Don't think the gods train jiu jitsu? How else to explain the third major jiu jitsu/grappling event to be streamed live for free over the Internet this year?

South American Jiu-Jitsu Championship Online This Weekend

Here's the link to the website

Unfortunately, for those of us on the Pacific Coast, the stream will be happening at about 4 a.m. Nonetheless, this is a great trend in the jiu jitsu grappling world that hopefully will only continue to develop.

Training Day: Friday

Rodrigo has been emphasizing ways to take the back in the past few classes. As I've said, this has been an area I've tended to avoid, even though I've probably got better choke circuitry from the back than I do from the mount.

The technique was the switch, which he showed to us as a nice combination move or follow-up during a kimura attack from the closed/full guard. I should really add the switch to my King Crimson series (guillotine, omoplata, kimura, crossover sweep), a guard series I've almost completely abandoned over the past year or so.

There were a few little details that I picked up - almost more about the closed guard in general than about the switch in specific. Rodrigo talked about putting both hands on the shoulders as a prep before hipscaping out to create space to set up the switch. I want to remember that general idea of getting space before making my hipscape instead of hipscaping while I'm still too close - which is why I think my armlocks from the guard have been so ineffective.

Back to the switch: From here, you reach over as if attacking with a crossover sweep but instead of hooking behind the arm, reach between the legs and get a good grip on the inside thigh - the deeper the better.

Next, you want to shift your hips. I was doing an okay job with this - and making sure to plant my free arm to help get my hips out of the way to move to the back.

Definitely got better with this move over the course of training. The stand up training we did post-warmup was very nice and different - both with one behind the back grip on the belt - and a position I generally like. But after awhile it was murder on my right shoulder and at one point I got another stinger - something that's happening just about every other training for the past few weeks. It goes away after a minute or two. But it has definitely overtaken my eye as the injury I'm most preoccupied with.

At the same time, I'm training at a good clip and most of the problem areas like my thumb and my shoulder and my eye can be dealt with largely by prevention and precaution.

157 and change on the scale. A little heavy for the end of the week, but given Thursday night's post-training 162 number, I'll take it. In the gi, I was just under the IBJJF lightweight limit of 167.5 before training on Friday.

Got in two good sessions for ten minutes each with Rueben and Lance. I'm still working a little bit more out of the Flat Pass than I probably should at this point. I'm confident enough with it that I should either move on to some other passes or start working the Flat Pass more as a set-up for other opportunities. Not sure what those opportunities will be. But I will say that I haven't given up on the Saulo pass, with both the underhook and Fowler options.

I also need to work on my butterfly guard passes - particularly which side I want to underhook relative to the direction I want to pass. I have a tendency to want the left arm underhook when passing the butterfly guard. But as with the Flat Pass, it is the right side underhook that I'm more comfortable with. The problem is that my footwork still prefers going right (left underhook = pass to the right / right underhook = pass to the left). It's a small malfunction in the circuitry that is very fixable, hopefully, over the next few weeks.

I wouldn't have minded another ten minute sparring, but the clock was ticking so I had to get on my horse, as my Dad used to say. Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry that I drove off with my fully-loaded protein-Gatorade jug on the roof of the car. I heard a pair of loud bangs about 300 meters and 40 mph later.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Training Day: Thursday

Finally back on the mat for a Thursday night class. I tried just coming to the no-gi class at 6:30 because I was dragging a little bit and didn't want to rush into the 5:30 gi class. It's hard to say which I prefer better, both or only doing no-gi. I think the issue is more the 5:30 start, which I had a hard time with back when the Monday class was at 5:30, also.

We worked on moving from side control to scarf hold to north-south and attacking with the kimura. The second move was a counter to the guy's escaping his head from between your legs (you should have his head and shoulders virtually pinned). Here, Cindy emphasized keeping that kimura grip ("the best grip in jiu jitsu" she called it) and using that to maintain control. One of the main options was to stand up and pull the guy toward you, either to reset your legs in the north-south control or to step over and attack with the armlock.

Got in a little roll with Benny - it was a pretty small class with Brock and a pair of guys I didn't quite recognize. It was nice getting back to working my standing guard passes - especially against an active no-gi guard.

Benny was doing a good job of blocking my Flat Pass by using his elbows to move my head off his chest. That was a new counter I hadn't experienced, so I'm pretty grateful. I think it is signaling that I need to get my head all the way over to the mat and not necessarily try to work it from the chest to the mat, where the motion can be easily blocked as Benny did with the elbow.

Pretty heavy on the scale after training: 162.2 (I had predicted 162.1!) Not a big deal, except insofar as it represents in part slacking in my off-mat conditioning. I signed up for the December 13th event after training and just didn't feel comfortable signing up for the 154 and under given the day-of, Sunday morning weigh-in. That would mean spending the weekend cutting weight and I'm just not going to do that.

So I'll be with the bigger boys this time around, up to 170 - where my fortunes historically have not fared any better than they have of late with guys my size. More on this in a separate post. But it is a little weird trying to calibrate my expectations in this space that is supposed to be "beyond winning and losing." At this point, it is a little more Zen than I'm in the mood for.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Training Day: Tuesday

ATM has taken a beating over the past several weeks, prompted in part by more training (and competing) on Saturday than usual. With the holiday season kicking in, there's likely to be more training schedule re-arrangements. But as long as I keep my average up, I'll be happy.

I've averaged almost three and a half classes a week this year, and my training pace has increased every quarter (3.17/wk in Q1, 3.33/wk i Q2, 3.67/wk in Q3). My goal for 2009 has been to "feel" like a purple belt by the time the year was up and, despite my epic fail at assorted jiu jitsu scoring contests, I think that goal has been more or less met.

I think the breakthrough night for the year was the night a few days ago when I was able to hit tripod sweeps out of the cross guard and Simone sweeps out of the "smother" guard. That circuitry "shouldn't" have been there, but it was.

This is probably part of the secret to Rodrigo's exhortation "You've got to TRY." For me, a lot of jiu jitsu at this point boils down to the Jump Program, as I've said before.
And even if I'm not leaping back and forth between the tallest skyscrapers in the city, there are times when I feel more than nimble enough to make it across the rooftops of the average urban architecture in one piece.

Tuesday training began with a solid warmup - jumping jacks between squats, pushups between chokes and obliques - and the current leg pick/sprawl takedown drill. The instructional was about taking the back from mount. It's more very good work for me because I almost 99% of the time abandon the back for the mount. This had me going the other way.

The setup was the pinned guy turning sideways and pushing on the knee to escape the mount. From the top you want to do a sort of S-mount style dismount, but one key detail Rodrigo included was an intermedate step of going flat and long with your back leg as you make the switch and put the heel in the stomach to block the hips with the other leg.

I missed this detail during the drill. But I think that going flat helps you stay low behind the guy's back. One thing I noticed was that I tended to get up a little too high on the back because I was going straight from mount to S-mount. The problem with doing it this way seems to be that you make it harder to get your leg free when you go to take the back. Often your knee is pinned.

I'm looking forward to working this one tomorrow or Friday. For me, I'm noticing that the most important thing to remember is the footwork. Going long and flat makes sense as I think about it, because if the guy on the bottom goes to his side, going long and flat behind him will allow you to stay chest to back. But I wouldn't mind seeing it done properly one more time to make sure I'm remembering correctly.

Good to see Bruce back on the mat. It felt as if I hadn't seen him in months. Fairly small class tonight, but at least two new guys. It seems like there are a lot of new guys stopping by these days. It's strange to think of being one of those folks myself, a little over four years ago. As much as I knew that I really wanted to study jiu jitsu, I don't think I ever really had a sense of myself two, three, four years down the line - though I know that I assumed that everyone who started with me - Mario, Big Mike, Jeff, Arnell, just to name a few - would always be training.

A little heavy on the scale post training at about 159.6 or so. If the limit is 154 or below, day-of for the tournament on December 13th, then there is a good likelihood that I'll be competing at the heavier level 155-170, anyway. Getting down to 154 for a night-before weigh-in is one thing. A day-of sub-154 number - on a Sunday no less - is something else entirely.

Anaconda Choke from ATT's Ricardo Liborio

Courtesy of Sherdog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Women in Jiu Jitsu: Hannette Staack Training for ADCC 2009

Interview with Ryan Hall

A great catch by Griff (Towtruck) e-mailed to me this morning. I've already torn through the article and made it mostly through the actual transcript of the interview that article came from.

Lockflow Interview with Ryan Hall
The whole key is saying, ‘Look. I don’t want to beat regular people. I don’t want to beat guys that are kind of good. I don’t want to beat hobbyists. I don’t want to pull out a sweet highlight reel full of backflips and wacky nonsense.’ You know who has a sweet highlight reel? Roger Gracie. If something doesn’t work against the top 1% of competitors, I don’t want to do it. If you fight for a living and you have a lower standard than that, you have to be out of your mind ...
My suspicion, as I wrote Griff in a thank you e-mail, is that Ryan is mean reverting with a little more velocity than he might otherwise, having been so supersaturated with guard play for so many years. It seems like jiu jitsu guys go through phases from time to time in which the typical virtues of "wrestling" seem to outshine the virtues of "jiu jitsu".

Ironically, this is playing out a little bit in training as Rodrigo has been working us especially hard on the physical aspect of grappling: more butterfly guard, more back-tacking, more pummeling. About a week ago, while we were in the midst of the drilling fury, Rodrigo was pointing out that he wanted us to avoid going to our backs too eagerly, to be more ready and able to fight for top position.

Of course, it's all jiu jitsu, the wrestling v.s. jiu jitsu divide becoming less and less apparent everyday. But clearly there are aspects of jiu jitsu that are being called upon with more and more frequency these days and those aspects do seem to increasingly favor guard passing and taking dominant position over submissions from the back.

A very good read, especially if you've followed Ryan Hall's jiu jitsu career since his days as a the provost of Ryangle University (I bet he would groan out loud if you said that to him today!)

A last look at the "old" Ryan Hall? Here he is in competition with another top up 'n' coming American, Joel Tudor.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

CBDP: Slingshot Armdrag to the Back

Circuit-Building Deep Practice: Slingshot Armdrag to the Back

Slingshot Armdrag ...

1. Wedge
2. Kick
3. Grip
4. Pull

... to the Back

1. Lat
2. Post
3. Hip
4. Hook

An Interview with Gordo: Father of the Half Guard

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Training Day: Saturday

I am always amazed at how much jiu jitsu is lurking in the half hour or so after class or open mat ends. Sometime after one o'clock on Saturday, I found myself in the company of black and brown belts going over technique - including a pair of attacks from side control (armlock and back take) and a pair half guard passes involving trapping the guy's leg triangle by grabbing a foot and doing a shoulder roll, both of which lead to back takes.

Saturday training was a pretty full course - even Sauleh stopped by to train with some of the higher belts. By the end of the day, we had at least four black belts on the mat and two or three brown.

We worked on our standup/sprawl drill, then some work freeing our butterfly guard from a guard passer who was trapping the hips and pinning the hooks. Rodrigo has been emphasizing some of these jiu jitu strategies for dealing with aggressive and strong opponents, and it's nice to see how some of the basic movements - extending the hooks, backstepping with the underhook - are perfectly capable of dealing with the typical "wrestler" style opponent.

Jeff and Gina stopped by to award Rodrigo the trophy for both the Gi and Overall titles for the November 2009 Revolution event. Both Rodrigo and Jeff said some pretty positive things about teamwork and teambuilding that were nice to hear - it was a sizeable class, somewhere around 26 folks, and a lot of them either relatively new or visitors, and I appreciated them getting to hear a little a bit about what our jiu jitsu community is all about.

Got in some tatame after a big group picture with the twin trophies. I rolled with a blue belt from the new Gracie Barra Buckley academy who at least twice took advantage of my bad balance to reverse me out of side control. It felt very much like the kind of barrel roll out of north/south that I've done in the past and was a good reminder to make sure I've got my base in place.

Old School continues to work from half guard. I'm doing a better and better job of really forcing the other guy to make a decision about that sweep before making my counter. I'm still not working in the Slingshot, which is a big problem because now is the perfect time to be trying everything I wanted to add to my game: slingshot guard, cross guard, butterfly guard, Roger Gracie from Mount (RGFM), Rap Star guard ...

I've give myself half a point for the nine-count slingshot armdrag Deep Practice maneuvers I drilled slo-mo before class started. Anything to get even the most initial circuitry in place. I know that the slingshot armdrag and sweep will be big winners if I can ever get them into place. It's funny that compared to the tripod and "Simone" sweeps I was able to hit out of the blue earlier this week, the work out of the slingshot guard has been that much more slow in coming.

A nice day on the mat. 154.6 on the scale post-training. I felt a little more fatigued than I would have liked. But that might have been owing mostly to the apple I had for breakfast. A little more fuel might have given me another 10 minutes of sparring.

That said, the post-training session was great. Two new ways to not only pass the half guard but to take the back from the half guard pass. Rodrigo said that some of these moves he was picking up were from the Mendes brothers - the ones who unleashed the feared 50/50 guard on the world. It was fun to feel as if I were a part of the laboratory - a jiu jitsu extension officeworker in Seattle - helping build the art one experiment at a time.

Thanksgiving schedule at GB Seattle: Open mat on Thursday 10 am - 12 noon. No training Friday. Open mat on Saturday 11 am - 1 pm. I'm angling for a MTRF week next week. And if I'm lucky, a MTWR week leading into Thanksgiving to keep my 4x/week training pace.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Training Day: Friday

Managed to make it to training today after taking Thursday off. I figure that my regular schedule will be MTRF, with TWFS being the occasional alternative (like this week). The idea is to train two days in a row twice a week, with a one-day off and a two-day off period separating them. I'm not entirely sure how the off-mat conditioning will fit around all of this. But insofar as the point of any off-mat conditioning is to support my on-mat training, I'm not too worried.

Today after the warmup we began again with the same standup training we've been doing this week, emphasizing on sprawling and knee/ankle picks. I'm focusing on closing the distance and blocking the shot. I figure this will make it easier to get the grips I want - something I failed to do at the tournament. I'm also trying to get practice in changing levels, which is key to both blocking and attacking.

Most of the instructional was on taking the back and avoiding the back take. We actually spent quite a bit of time working on this, which was nice. We went from just trying to take the back (or end up in side control if the person refused to give you his back) to taking the back and attacking with the choke. I had far more success with a clock choke than I would have liked - call me (Wallid) Ishmael - but the training was good - especially for someone like me who tends to avoid taking the back in favor of side control or mount.

Tatame was good. It was pretty impossible to repeat my guard performance from Wednesday, but it was good to get a chance to attack a little with the cross guard. I need to remember to drop the hip leg to the floor and underhook that same leg, turning over more on my side in that direction and putting my off leg in the armpit when the guy goes to move toward the strong grip side.

Another thing I need to remember is from the guard passing end of things. I'm doing an incrementally better job at standing in the guard, dropping to the combat squat, then standing and opening the guard. From here, I'm trying to work the one-on-one and then the Saulo. But it is very slow going. One thing is that if I can't get the leg down easily, there is always the underhook pass that Rodrigo was drilling us on for weeks a little while ago. It's the perfect compliment so I need to be on the lookout for it.

I also don't want to get too far away from the butterfly guard work that Rodrigo had us drilling earlier in the week. My Marcelo sweep - retitled the Simone sweep - is based on breaking guy's posture. If guy's start to react to that by posturing extra tall, then switching to the butterfly guard/sitting guard is a great counter. Surprise and aggression are important in making the transition - there's nothing mysterious about a hook sweep from the butterfly guard. So I need to practice taking the initiative when the opportunity for the transition appears.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scarfhold Submissions from Aesopian

Given that my best half guard pass - the cross wedge - tends to leave me in scarfhold positions (to say nothing of my renewed emphasis on hook sweeps from sitting/butterfly guard), I couldn't be happier to see this new material from long-time favorite, online jiu jitsu guy: Aesopian.

Modified Scarfhold Submissions

In terms of non-GB Seattle instruction, Aesopian's work was instrumental in helping lead me toward both the half guard and the Marcelo Garcia style sitting guard. I'll be curious to see if I am able to incorporate any of this into my game, as well.