Saturday, January 31, 2009

5 Things I Learned from GSP v. Penn 2

1. Great big guys beat great small guys

2. Hard work beats talent

3. Being on top beats being on bottom

4. Great fighters have great training partners, come from great academies, have great training camps and great coaching

5. Never bet against Gracie Barra

Congratulations to Georges St. Pierre!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thursday Night Training

Last night we spent time working on triangle attacks from the full guard, as well as the flower sweep. From the full guard, we worked a closed guard attack when the guy reaches back to unhook your ankles, as well as a spider/open guard attack with pressure on the bicep with the extended leg leading to a slip move and a triangle trap.

We also worked on the basic flower sweep. I can't remember if there was a particular wrinkle that Rodrigo was adding to the flower sweep. But later, when we did a 20% Live drill, he had us include the flower sweep along with the triangle attacks, so maybe I'm missing something.

For the no gi open mat I rolled with Andrew for about 20 minutes. I tried to bring some butterfly guard to the game, but often ended up reverting to half guard. I'm just not going to beat myself up about the half guard - at least not for a few weeks. It's my go-to guard and insofar as overall jiu jitsu expectations have gone up, there's nothing wrong with making sure my go-to guard game is as tight as it can be.

One thing I noticed is that I'm starting to lose the feel of the twist sweep from half guard because I have been focused so much on improving my tackle sweep. Being able to go both ways with my sweeps from the half guard will be a priority next month leading into the tournament.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thoughts on GSP v. BJ 2

With so many folks picking GSP to win in their upcoming fight this weekend - including more than a few informed folks taking GSP by stoppage - I thought I'd put together a few thoughts on how BJ might win this fight.

For one, BJ has a puncher's confidence. He believes - probably rightly - that if he connects with a strike, there's a good chance that GSP will be immediately in trouble. It happened in their first fight and it happened in GSP's upset loss to Matt Serra. Whether or not there is any chance that it will happen in this fight is irrelevant. BJ has every reason to believe it could happen again and that gives him an edge in the standup.

GSP in BJ's guard is the other place where this fight is likely to spend time. I think the fighters are effectively equal here. BJ's guard game, despite his flexibility, is really more about getting back to his feet or sweeping. GSP's ground-n-pound is good. But he was unable to finish Fitch with it. And in order to get the stoppage against Serra, he had to switch to a sort of turtle ride that I just don't see BJ hanging out in. Even Serra was able to roll back into guard a time or two before GSP overwhelmed him.

I also think that GSP might be under pressure to "do something" while on top in BJ's guard. Again, BJ doesn't get focused on trying to submit from the guard like so many other fighters. Returning to the feet and getting the sweep are both alternatives that I think he'll go for readily. I think GSP has a hard time defending sweeps, attempts to stand and submissions while launching his own ground and pound attack.

The most underrated part of BJ's ground game is his top game. The most interesting potential scenario in this fight is if BJ gets top position in GSP's guard. This could happen as a result of a BJ sweep or even from a BJ takedown (I think BJ was looking to takedown Sherk in the later rounds of their fight and may have a similar idea in this one). If this happens, I think GSP doesn't waste time trying to submit or sweep, but instead is 100% focused on getting back to the feet. That makes it easier for BJ to attack from the top.

GSP is rightly the favorite. Just as Matt Hughes was in his first matchup with BJ. And if GSP can play a "ground control" type of game - along with some long range kickboxing - he can win a decision. But there are a handful of fighters that probably should always be backed when they show up as underdogs: and BJ Penn is one of them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Night Training

In the beginner class we worked some very good guard pass drills. There were three, and all of them were based on the wedge break of the closed guard.

Rodrigo emphasized posture and keeping the guy's back on the mat with your post hand when you are in the guard. As you turn out to break the guard open, make sure to keep that posture and to actually turn away. Like being on your side when you are on the bottom, sometimes you think you are turning your body when you really are just turning your head or twisting your shoulders. Turn, lean back and guide that leg down to the mat.

One thing I need to do when in the guard (other than POSTURE!) is to make sure I'm keeping my knees wide. I'm not sure if it is a big mistake. But I know it is something I don't focus on, so I might as well start checking the next few times I'm in the guard.

Here's where the variations begin.

#1 was a sprawl pass. Pike up, keeping your weight on the leg that is down and keeping his hips pinned with your post and your elbow. Walk around to the knee-down side and slide into side control, hooking the head and blocking the knee with your south side leg.

#2 was the knee pin. In this one, as soon as you get the knee down, you pin his leg to the mat with your outside leg, your knee on the mat on the one side on the leg and your toes on the other side.

If you pin the leg above the knee, then you can go and do a tight pass, hooking the head and back-stepping. Here you want to use your pinning leg as a hip block as you turn your body into the backstep. Keep your weight on him and take your time - don't give space.

If you pin the leg below the knee, then you want to get as flat as possible to keep that leg down. Use your stomach to keep the pressure on the leg. If you don't, then the guy will be able to rotate his leg out of there and potentially back into a guard or half guard.

#3 was the step over into half guard. Put the leg on the mat and and instead of knee pinning it, step over it and slide into half guard. From here, hooking the head and shoulder (forward harness grip), use your free leg to help wedge your trapped leg free and look to pass to mount.

One point Rodrigo made is that if you are having a hard time getting your free leg up high enough to help wedge your trapped leg free, then lower your hips to bring his locked legs lower. That will make it easier to hook the foot of your free leg inside the half guard and wedge it open.

Very good stuff for the beginner class - another reason why I think I'll always attend two of these "basic" classes a week. They are always helpful and a great opportunity to learn and refine.

The advanced class was mostly specific: sparring starting from standing. I had to leave at 7:30, but managed to get two sessions in which wasn't bad at all. I sparred with both Steve and Lance and picked up a couple of holes in my standup and ground that I'll leave for Straight Outta Tatame this weekend. But it was good training - just what the doctor ordered a month out from a tournament.

I do think I need to work in more explosive work in my daily conditioning routine. I want to get over that system shock of initial contact when sparring - especially standing. I think the emphasis that Rodrigo is putting on this will pay off huge - especially for the lower belts. But adding Berardis to my weekly workout will probably be a good thing for the next four weeks to help tighten things up.

I still don't have an agenda from standing that I feel 100% comfortable with. I go from notion to notion, try this and try that. Nothing is really sticking. Admittedly, the more I train standup the clearer my options will become. For now though, the truth is that I'm still trying to figure it out from the beginning. Some of the things we do I just don't feel comfortable with using in training - its my phobia, having jacked up a guy's knee years ago during standup sparring (a white belt no less who had barely started). But I don't feel as if I have to "work through it". There are other options. I just have to learn and develop them.

159.2 on the scale. My calories were way down on Tuesday, which probably helps explain part of the four pound swing from Monday night post-train to Tuesday's post-train.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Night Training

Mondays are going to be beginner classes followed by an open mat format if I'm understanding Rodrigo and the new schedule correctly.

I'm actually writing this up on Saturday and I can't remember what we worked on Monday - though I remember rolling with Jesse and Saud, a blue belt who was traveling through the area. Good rolls. I was able to fight off Jesse's Royler pass for longer than usual thanks to that twist move that Saulo emphasizes in his new book. Saud was a very good guy to roll with, a little bigger than Benny but strong and hard to sweep. He did a good job of sprawling out of my half guard tackles (like Benny) which helped me see the need for adding a counter to the sprawl against the tackle.

There were a lot of interesting observations on my jiu jitsu that I picked up Monday night, some of which I'll probably write something about and some not. I'm still very risk-averse when rolling, and 1000x more when rolling with new people. I don't think it's a fundamental lack of confidence in my technique. Now that I've started to develop my half guard, I feel I have a "safe place" to resort to - or escape to - when things get difficult. But there is a certain lack of assertiveness that while only annoying in training, makes competition all the more difficult. Maybe it's time to brush up on that Rooney article Tommy gave me years ago, "The Mental Predator."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Let It Come Downe

Week Three begins tomorrow. The next four weeks should be the most intense in my prep for the event in March. Training four times a week is my goal, as is adding Tuesday morning workouts.

From a gameplanning standpoint, there are a couple things I really need to focus on. My half guard sweeps, for example, have to be more automatic, more "go." Rodrigo made a comment a few weeks back when we were talking about Demian Maia's fight against Nate Quarry (which I happened to see again last night). Rodrigo was emphasizing how Maia went directly for the sweep as soon as he got half guard, instead of waiting around. Whether Rodrigo meant it or not, I thought about my problems with "hanging out" in the half guard instead of being more aggressive. That's something to fix over the next few weeks.

There are a couple of approaches to passing the guard that I'm feeling comfortable with. And a couple that I want to try, especially the switch against knee block guards. There's a good argument that my success in March will hinge around my ability to pass the guard. Actually, that's probably true about my jiu jitsu in general. So this area is an area to tighten up.

From the top, as I wrote in the last Straight Outta Tatame post, I need to get back to controlling and attacking from north south. Working on the arm triangle from mount wouldn't be a bad idea - especially if I end up doing more no gi. But for now, focus on north south armlocks and kimuras.

The real key is going to be focused training. A lot can get accomplished in a relatively short amount of time if the focus is there. Four weeks should be enough time if I spend it right.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Straight Outta Tatame

A couple of things stand out this week:

With regard to things that are at the top of my agenda, I'm still not going to the overhook guard like I should. This was a priority for January and I've done a pretty poor job of going back to it. I've got another week before I'll consider the opportunity truly missed, so we'll see if I can do better in the last few training days of January.

A little bit better with the moth guard transition. I need to remember that it is all part of a flow starting with the half guard. If I get my underhook and hip control, then go for the tackle sweep. If there is one thing that has been working for me very well, it's been that tackle sweep out of half guard, by the way. I need to make sure that I'm getting my underhook low, right at the thigh, instead of across the back so I can get the leverage I need. But it's been a good sweep for me over the past three weeks or so.

If I don't get the underhook, then I need to be looking to transition to overhook guard, moth guard or turning over entirely and looking for the stuff sweep, kimura or X-guard options out of a more LHG (long half guard) approach. Obviously, the moth guard option isn't there for no gi. But the general idea of getting my outside knee involved more in the defense if I lose the underhook on that side still applies.

No real notes with regard to guard passing. I played a lot of guard this week, I guess. There are some fundamentals I need to focus on: putting pass-side knee to the mat with my weight instead of arm strength, switching sides with the Royler pass against the knee-up half guard ...

From the top, I need to get back to transitioning to north-south and attacking the arms. Mount is good for points, and I do want to continue working on katagatame from mount. But crossbody and north south remain my finishing dominant positions and I need to start working more consistently from those positions of dominance.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Night Training

A new change in the Thursday night class, due in part to the opening of the new Gracie Barra Bellevue next month. Starting tonight, we'll have a beginner's class, followed by a no gi open mat - instead of a no gi class.

I like the change. It was a little hard to get up for a whole second class after the Thursday night gi class. I'd started skipping the warm-up for the no gi class the past month or so and though the main reason was avoiding the impact of all that tumbling on my shoulder (and ankle and knee ...), I didn't mind a few more minutes "nothing" between the two rounds of instruction.

We focused almost exclusively on body motion in the gi class. Hipscapes, back2knees, and a move I'm calling the step slide that is another hip rotating/switching exercise/movement drill, sort of like a flat hip split.

I'm going to try and work some of that into my 3T routine, which I'll start this week as Week Three begins.

Again, no gi was open mat and I rolled with Benny for a good 20 minutes or so. Notes on my sparring in general in the weekly Straight Outta Tatame report.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday Night Training

Been under a bad sign all day, a sour times that kept me from my scheduled rounds with the dumbbells and treadmill. No hotel in Honolulu for me - and training some tonight was definitely worthwhile - but this is the kind of time off I can afford (and need to get out of my system) early in the 8 Weeks.

Wednesday's are Jesse's nights and we worked quite a bit of stand-up: double legs and hip tosses (both the kubi nage/head-lock throw and a counter to the body lock where you whizzer the side opposite the attacker's head, cup the elbow on the head-side arm and turn in the direction of the head to toss with a hip, uchi mata or trip-stle takedown.

Very well done. It was nice to get some standup in. I'm not one of those guys who thinks that you have to do standup every day necessarily - though I did think that Mamazinho's standup drills weren't a bad way to start a class. But it is good to do some sort of standing work at least once or twice a week. I like the fact that Rodrigo has made standup part of the warm-up for the advanced class.

Back on the mat tomorrow night. It's been a weird and wearying week. I'll be glad to get to the leisurely end of it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sympathy for the Cornea

of UFC fighter, Rich Franklin.

Franklin dropped a close, three round split decision to Dan Henderson last weekend. I haven't seen the fight (I'll do that later tonight), but it sounds similar to GSP v. Penn insofar as takedowns and wrestling edged out striking and a relatively threat-free guard.

Apparently, Rich will be okay. As he says in this post-fight interview - and I concur - the eye does heal very fast once given a chance to do so. And there's been an argument that in losing Rich will get to avoid both another stint on The Ultimate Fighter (which he was reportedly not looking forward to) and a return to the 185 division.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Night Training

My motto for 2009 is ATM: Always Train Mondays.

For one, Monday is a good advanced class. We tend to start off with some light standup for about 7 minutes. Then drill a particular technique for the majority of the class. From there some specific sparring, some regular sparring, and then open mat.

The technique we drilled had to do with ways of countering spider guard. There are a lot of ways to look silly in jiu jitsu, and not knowing what to do when you are up against someone who has a good spider guard is a sure route to one of those ways.

Rodrigo emphasized a couple of things. For example, you want to close the distance. Chuck Liddell has that great line about putting guys "on the end of your punches." Well, you don't want to be on the end of somebody's spider guard. That's where you turn into a marionette if you are not careful.

So either step far back (i.e., the Butler pass) or step deeply forward, in both cases bringing the guy's feet together as much as possible. In the step forward counter, you actually want to sit on the back of the guy's upturned legs and then work to get a knee between his leg and body on one side or the other, depending on how he resists your leg pressure.

The knee motion is similar to the triangle escape "C.C. Grinder", the triangle escape that Mamazinho showed us a while back.

A lot of what Rodrigo talked about had to do with reaction, feeling which way the pressure was coming from and using it to help you get to where you want to be.

You need to watch your base, but as long as you control the distance, you can really put the guy in the spider guard on the defensive. It's worth remembering to stagger your feet when you come in, and drop to the pressure knee as soon as possible to avoid getting swept by the double underhook sweep. But controlling the distance - in tonight's case mostly by crowding - really does eliminate many of the biggest problems with the spider guard.

Another point that's really part of the crowding point. You want to get the guy's hips up off the ground as much as possible. That's why you crowd deeply, so much so that you can go to one knee, which helps your base. Getting his hips off the ground further restricts his ability to pivot from side to side, making him all the more vulnerable to the pass.

Good stuff - and something that we all need to work on. Saulo talks about the spider guard in his book, suggesting that it's the kind of guard that you can really blow up if you approach the pass correctly.

One thing that I really liked about my training tonight, during the specific, the sparring and, to a lesser degree, the open mat, was the fact that I deliberately went to guard and worked spider guard a lot of the time - far more than I usually do.

One of my biggest flaws is that I forget to use the techniques I've been taught in sparring sessions, open or specific. That's the perfect time to see how new things might fit into your game - right after you've been drilling them. If they don't work for you, don't worry: next week you'll be focusing on something else.

So tonight I really focused on pulling open guard, escaping out to the side (left and right, believe it or not), dipping and wedging the knee to open the guard up, then transitioning to full open guard with sleeve control. I wanted to work on the open guard, sure. But I also wanted to give my teammates the opportunity to work on the same techniques and strategies that we'd just spent 30-40 minutes focused on.

I don't mind patting myself on the back a little. It's something that I've really wanted to improve on and tonight I was focused enough to follow-through with it.

We'll see if it was just a one-off tomorrow. But the fact of the matter is that I never played so much open guard before in my life and I loved every minute of it.

One thing I want to add, though. I suspect the fact that I'm starting to click in to my conditioning routine is helping. I felt a little fatigued after the first 10-15 minutes of specific sparring. But after a five minute breather, I was fine for the rest of sparring and the open mat.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ryan Hall and the FightWorks Podcast Interview

What is most interesting in this interview with Ryan Hall is how much his current thinking reflects a sort of "back to basics" movement, focusing on the essential jiu jitsu that has become somewhat obscured as the popularity of the art has exploded over the past five years or so.

I felt it when I read Saulo's book, Jiu Jitsu University. As Ryan does in his interview with the Fightworks Podcast, I've always said that the essential question for everyone who trains jiu jitsu is this: why is Rickson Gracie considered the best jiu jitsu artist of all time?

Father Helio said it was his "impeccable timing". Saulo answers that same question very early in his book, pointing to Rickson's fundamental understanding of the physics of the human body. I've long thought that if you could master those two elements - timing and leverage - your jiu jitsu would make surprising leaps and bounds.

So it is great to hear Ryan Hall - often criticized for his "special attributes" like exceptional flexibility and ability to master a single submission (arguably to the exclusion of other valuable techniques) - echo many of the things I have been thinking and feeling over the past few months.

I've always been a huge Ryan Hall fan - how could you not be? - and am looking forward to hearing and seeing his development in the art over the next several years.

Ryan Hall on the FightWorks Podcast

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday Afternoon Training: The Seminar

The seminar this Saturday was packed. One of the great things about seminars like this is how they give you a chance to see so many folks you never get to see except for the more stressful reunions of tournaments.

There were five different moves that Christiano and Fabiana showed us

1. Takedown counter to single leg
2. Lapel wrap choke from closed guard
3. Shoulder lock counter to mounted armlock escape
4. Side control roll choke (your lapel)
5. Side control switch choke (their lapel)

I remember #2 from the Marcio Feitosa/Kyra Gracie seminar awhile back. But I think the two that will stick with me, if I practice them, are #4 and #5. #5 was a particularly beautiful choke, a sort of brabo choke.

Both #4 and #5 start from side control. In #4, you feed your own gi lapel over the guy's neck (move a little into a scarf hold position if necessary to get better access) and reach under the neck with your north side grip to secure it. With your south grip, reach back and check the hip as you turn sideways, going completely parallel with the guy's body, holding the choking lapel all the while.

Depending on how tight the choke is, the pressure might already be enough to get a choke. To complete the attack, turn your head to look away from him and roll forward on your inside shoulder.

If you still don't get the choke, reach over with your outside grip and grab the back of the collar and pull down as you continue to pull on the choke.

#5 starts out in much the same way. Only instead of using your own lapel, you use your opponent's.

Pull out the opponent's gi lapel and feed it under his arm and under his neck. Get a hold of it with your north side grip.

You don't want the grip to be too deep because it will limit the amount of room you have to maneuver.

Check the hip with the south grip. Step up and over the head with your north side foot. From there, you switch up legs to go down on the north side knee and up on the south side knee.

Keep your weight down. Sometimes I had the arm trapped in and sometimes I didn't. The key was to keep your weight on the guy and work to bring the elbow of your choking arm to the mat.

#2 was also a nice move, something I need to remember to go to more often since I have a hard time breaking down posture in the closed guard - that, and the idea of more frequently going for chokes ...

A good time. I didn't get a chance to roll with anyone, thought I did stick around for a little while to help the guy I was working with do a few more of the moves from side control.

Weighed in at about 159.6 after the class. A good number going into the weekend, about 3% above my March limit.

Straight Outta Tatame

Lance: Didn't have much of a gameplan trying to pass open guard. Need to focus on a specific passing attack, instead of just floundering around out there. If I'm going to get swept, I might as well get swept trying one of the passes I want to master.

Got caught twice by the Saulo crossbody choke. Mostly a function of losing good position, at least the second time. Bigger issue is not having a better side control escape effort, not getting caught by the choke. Bad things happen in bad places.

Benny: Need to work the transition from half guard to moth guard. Also hesitated too often instead of trying the overhook trap tackle from half guard.

Stephen: Need to improve balance when standing to pass guard. Remember to switch sides when one pass attempt fails, especially against open guard.

Thursday (no gi):
Takedown KOTH: Too tentative overall. Good to be careful, but can't be so careful that I don't make effective attacks. Relax and focus on the technical aspects.

Mount KOTH: Forgot to chamber the leg and execute the technical escape. It was like the bottom dropped out and I just stayed on the defensive. I could use more work like that in the future.

Guard KOTH: Incredibly this is where I did the best. A little too "clinchy" without transitioning to Rap Star or a bunch of other no gi routines. Also would have been an excellent opportunity to work my butterfly guard. Some good Old School from half guard, though.

General sparring: Pat caught me in a guillotine choke. I need to be careful about ducking my head when going for my deep half guard sweep. If I monitor the choke threat - and maintain a healthy respect for it - I'll do a better job of avoiding it as I go for my attacks.

Also remember the basic guillotine escape: (1) protect the neck, (2) reach over the shoulder to the back to keep everything tight, (3) pike up and twist your outside hip in and down as you back out of the guard and move toward crossbody, where the choke will be practically ineffective.

I already mentioned the variation on the Fugitive that Steve showed me. I definitely want to work that deep into my open guard game.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Night Training

The focus for tonight was on passing the guard. I worked with a new guy, I think it was his first or second class.

The emphasis was on getting the knee in the middle. It's one of those drills that you can really make work for you over the long run if you abide by it. Rodrigo had us do a couple of different openers: the wedge, the Saulo, stand to knee drop ... all with the focus on getting your knee up and your hips connected with his hips.

The essence of all attacks is closing the distance. No different when passing the guard. It's why I need to start making sure I pin the leg to the mat when I attack with passes that require pressure on the leg. Pushing on the leg with my arms just won't do and I think I'm finally starting to feel the difference.

Cindy's no gi class had us working the duck under and a move where you stick with the basic clinch grip, but then chop the arm under the tricep as you turn into the guy, hanging on the head all the way. The result is similar to the duck under, only you often have the guy's arm trapped against his head as if in an arm triangle.

A variation on this takedown had us do a move called a Russian. From the chop above with the arm trapped against the guy's head, you step forward and underhook that arm with both your arms. The underhook is like you were carrying a large log or something.

Lean back into the guy's nearest shoulder as you drag the arm. This should make it easy to drive him to the mat with pressure that is very much like an armlock.

A good night. I got to train with a couple of different folks and, toward the end of the evening, Stephen showed me a way to generate both more momentum and better pressure with my Fugitive sweep.

The trick is to swing all the way into the guy as if you were doing a moth guard twist sweep. Underhook that far leg. Take your inside leg and kick it up to generate momentum, then swing it back down toward the mat. At the same time, instead of just pushing forward with the Fugitive, try pushing out, in the direction of his knee.

I'll experiment with it some. Somewhere between the traditional Fugitive, the Saulo version and this one Steve showed me is a sweep I think I can use with some regularity.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

About That Rickson Gracie

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday Night Training

More work from side control tonight.

We started off with the same move from side control to the mount. I felt pretty good with this technique - though I've done a lousy job of integrating it into my sparring so far ... Rodrigo added a very nice, very smooth near-arm armlock to this move that is also something I should practice and implement.

The armlock comes from the same side control-to-mount setup. You've got him all wrapped up. What you want to do from here is to grab the pants with your southmost hand and push his leg away, helping turn him to his side. Then, after subtly hooking your north arm around the top arm (the near arm) that you have bundled up, hop up with your south knee wedged right under the guy's armpit. Pull the guy into you with your hand grips as you push with your knee. Be sure to bring up your north leg on the other side of the arm/shoulder and squeeze your knees as you go for the armlock.

One aspect that Angela pointed out when we were drilling was the importance of getting a very high scarf hold. That is what will make it easier to fold the guy in half, turning him on his side, and getting a good angle for the armlock. The principle is pretty similar to the one in the choke/armlock attack from S-mount.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Night Training

This week the techniques are from side control or crossbody. Rodrigo showed us how to control the upper body and guy's arms so that you can easily take the mount.

From basic side control with your north arm hooking the head and the south arm hooking the near leg, you want to reach over the guy's body with your south arm and, sliding it along his body, underhook or cup his shoulder. It's a brabo type of move that has you turn your wrist out a bit.

With your north side arm, you want to reach down and move his near elbow, the one that is likely blocking you. To do this, you switch your hips as if moving to a scarf hold position. As you pull up on the guy's elbow, make sure that you use your body to push the elbow up and away.

This is a crucial step. Not only does it make it easier to move the arm of a strong or heavy opponent, but also using your body makes it easier to get the guy to turn more on his side - or at least his upper body will. This makes it easier to pin that near arm up (elbow above shoulder) and out of harm's way.

As you do this wedge, you should move into a very high scarf hold position. Your inside knee should be near the top of the guy's head.

Once you've got the near arm wedged up, reach with your north hand between that arm and the guy's head so that you are once again hooking head. This time however, you want to wrap both the head and the guy's far arm in your arms and seal it with a Gable grip.

As you do this, switch your hips over so that you are back to both knees. Do this buy bringing your back knee up to exactly the spot that your inside knee was. Again, you are switching from a high scarf hold back to knees.

With both the guy's arms bundled up tight, you want to twist his upper body away, bringing your elbows up. This will create space to wedge into knee on belly. Continue twisting to get all the way to mount.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

OTM BJJ Fighter of the Year: Cobrinha

No surprise here. Featherweight phenom Rubens Charles, aka Cobrinha is On the Mat's BJJ Fighter of the Year.

Straight Outta Tatame

Monday: Need to focus on specific guard pass strategy, was a little scattered tonight trying to work the knee-through Royler pass. Remember to work on the overhook guard, both the trap tackle and the stuff sweep (he hooks, I hook). Protect the neck first before adjusting body when being attacked with chokes.

Tuesday: Fought out of some tough chokes when trying to pass the half guard. I need to remember to look in the direction of the choke to avoid choking myself. I was trying to pass and the choke was coming from the guy's left arm and I was looking to my left too much. Face the attack.

Still not working the overhook guard out of half guard as I'd hoped. Maybe I'm still getting my mat legs back, because I do want to make sure I cover that aspect of the half guard before I get too deep into training camp.

Thursday: Keep working on the knee through pass. It's an ideal pass for a slow, heavy, tight game like mine. Knee through, leg rope and then toreano. Top game really seems to be coming back to where I left it in the fall of 2007. The double-leg swing out move from Saulo's book worked nicely to help get me deeper into half-guard, and I'm finding it easier to be aggressive and take the initiative.

Out of the sitting guard, consistently worked for the collar choke. I liked that and want to keep at it some. Pressed the collar choke all night and, even though I never really came close, liked the focus it gave me, the ability to set up a deception.

Slipped into moth guard for a little while to no effect, but good on me for going to it. Still don't really "feel it" when rolling live.

I like what I was able to do with the kimura v.s. straight armlock or keylock from crossbody. Threaten the kimura knowing that the reaction will likely to be bring the hand up. Be ready to attack it with either the straight armlock or the keylock as his forearm moves up.

Had a chance to try Saulo's snake defense against the knee through pass, but managed to fend it off by blocking the knee. I need to remember to let some of those attacks happen, so that I can practice my escape. I did like how I countered one successful knee-through with the body lock roll technique that is a counter to the scarf hold position. It was nice to see that work.

Friday: Three rolls, six minutes each. Starting to emphasize angles in guard attack, off the sitting guard especially. Need to make sure moth guard sweep attack is also at an angle, near perpendicular. Swing, swing, swing.

Don't get stalemated in the guard. Stand and risk the scramble. If you end up in guard then you get a chance to work your guard game. In this way, it's really a double blessing if played right. Take more risks on top in order to increase the opportunity to work on weak positions from the bottom.

Starting to see a connection between responses to my half guard and the options to switch to moth or Rap Star against low attacks and sitting guard or butterfly against high attacks. An offensive half guard can set up the transition to one of these other guard attacks, as well as a sweep straight off the half guard.

Worth pointing out that Saulo's double leg swing to get deeper into half guard worked very well. I'm starting to have more confidence - and success - with Old School and coming up on the knee.

Found some nice moth guard sweeps in the spider guard section of The Essential Guard that are making me more excited to work out of this position. There's also a breakdown of the basic twist sweep out of the moth guard that Rodrigo showed us (the "1" sweep).

Seminar with Christiano Oliveira

How to spend next Saturday.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Afternoon Training

Managed to get in some mat time late on Friday for about 20 minutes. I got a chance to spar with JM, Bruce and Andrew (I think that's right) the white belt who is impossible to keylock.

Tried to work some moth guard, as I did with Clint the other evening. Still not sweeping with it, but I'm seeing how it can be an option out of the half guard when the guy on top is pressuring me. When guys are in my closed guard, they tend to sit way back. But in my half guard, they tend to go for a smash game. I should learn how to transition out of closed and half guards into the other guards - the sitting guard and butterfly guards in the first instance and the moth guard and Rap Star in the second - that will allow me to maintain an advantage with techniques I'm comfortable with.

Got a little stalemated in the closed guard at one point. I need to be more willing to transition to a standing pass if things start getting too tight in the closed guard. For now, I'm going to chalk it up to "warm up week". But it's been a bad habit in the past. I don't want to bring it forward into 2009.

Post train number was great, 158.8. I've been losing weight on a little more caloric restriction than I should. But if I can get my diet back in place and remain below 163.4 for the next six weeks or so (5.5% above the 154.9 limit at the Revolution event), that should be fine.

A good week of training. Getting in a Friday session every other week or so will be a nice way to get an edge over my previous training efforts. Going from a constant struggle to average 2.5 times a week to a more consistent regimen of 4 times a week should pay big dividends in a even a few month's time.

In a year, someone who trains 2.5 times a week trains about 125 times. Someone who trains four times a week trains 200 times. To catch up in mat time, the one who trained 2.5 times a week would have to train another 25 weeks, another six months.

I also think there is a multiplier effect that makes it even better to train as often as you can. The crucial patterns become ingrained that much faster because they always remain just a day or two away.

I've always thought that the stretch from Thursday to Monday, three consecutive days off the mat over the weekend, was the worst thing in my jiu jitsu week. By making sure that I get in some time on Friday or Saturday, I keep the gaps to a two-day maximum.

To steal a line from the late great Richard Pryor, when it comes to jiu jitsu, "yesterday, is about as back as I want to go to remember it."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Cindy in the Seattle Weekly

A great story on Cindy makes it to the front page of the Seattle Weekly
It's a pretty good article - and excellent publicity for Cindy. I saw the guy who wrote the article a couple of times at the academy. I remember Cindy calling me to the mat for a quick roll to show the guy, as she put it, "that I actually know what I'm doing." It was a typical trip in the spin cycle for me, frantically fighting off chokes, armlocks, guard passes with everything I had. Much fun, as always.

Very in-depth article, too. I didn't know that Cindy had been married, though I'd read a few other good stories and interviews about her life (she gave a very candid interview to On the Mat a little while ago). I know that the free weekly thing isn't a big deal for a lot of people who never read them. But I've loved free weeklies ever since my friend Charles Howard turned me on to the Baltimore City Paper back in twilight of the Reagan years. I've always trust and respect those weeklies in any given city far more than I ever do the dailies.

The cover is excellent, by the way. I'm looking to see if I can find a picture of it to go with this post because I really think it does do Cindy justice. It's really nice coverage, and a pretty good story, as well. Props to both the subject and the author.

Thursday Night Training

Another good night on the mats. Rodrigo had us working on triangle chokes again, both the hip openers as well as the triangle solo drill.

I think I might have had another breakthrough, or at least half-breakthrough, on my triangle choke problems. I've solved one problem by making a habit out of catching my shin with my hand first, before adjusting the angle and throwing on the other leg to lock the choke in. I think it's a crucial move for folks like myself with relatively short legs.

The half-breakthrough was the importance of stepping on the hip and really rotating to a near perpendicular angle to attack with the leg. My closed guard is really very weak, and one of the reasons why is because I never adjust the angle of my hips. I have a terrible habit of remaining straight up, which makes my guard a lot less dangerous.

Stepping on the hip makes it very easy to get an angle. And stepping on the hip and using that momentum to both get your hips up and spin into the attack is a great, great way to get that angle. It's really something I ought to work on more consistently when sparring.

It helped most to think about getting my head over to the side, instead of thinking about swinging or pivoting my body, per se. They say where the head goes the body will follow. If it helps me develop a halfway decent closed guard, then I'll take it.

And as if Rodrigo were reading my mind, the second technique was the knee-through guard pass. I couldn't be more grateful.

The key elements Rodrigo focused on where:

1. the penetration step, a step with the same leg that will do the knee-through
2. getting the underhook on the side opposite the one you are passing
3. getting the overhook on the side that you are passing, cupping the elbow and lifting
4. using your inside shoulder to apply the main downward pressure
5. kicking through with the inside/knee-through leg and pulling up on your under/overhooks

We worked this pass both against the open guard and the closed guard when the guy sits up from a wedge guard break, for example.

The key is the penetration step and getting the inside shoulder, almost like you are a defensive end trying to outmaneuver a hulking offensive tackle (full disclosure: I'm watching the first quarter of the FedEx BCS Championship between Florida and Oklahoma on DVR, 0-0, life is good).

I found it helpful to focus on the underhook, but I think the danger there is that is might encourage you to be squared up against the guy instead of turning a bit so that your inside shoulder hits his chest before your chest ever does.

Sparring was good. I rolled with Clint and Benny, the blue belt from San Diego. More on that in "Straight Outta Tatame" sometime later this week. For now, suffice to say that I feel like my top game is very close to being back where it was when I was training regularly this fall. I've added some half guard elements that are also working. Not as much progress on moth guard or Rap Star. I'll have to keep looking for opportunities to work those guards. There was some surprising success with the sitting guard. Again, more on that in the weekly wrap up.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sherdog's Submission of the Year

Not only a great submission victory for Jorge Gurgel-trained Brazilian jiu jitsu blackbelt Dustin Hazelett, but also this Sherdog article shares some very interesting, pro "jiu jitsu in MMA" comments from the young UFC fighter as well. Props to Justin Breen of for a very well-written piece on Hazelett.

Dustin Hazelett v. Josh Burkman: Hazelett by Armlock: Sherdog Submission of the Year 2008
"I work really hard. I love jiu-jitsu and I want to make jiu-jitsu cool again," Hazelett says. "Back in the day, everyone wanted to do jiu-jitsu because of Royce Gracie's impact. Then guys learned defense, or jiu-jitsu guys couldn't get takedowns, got knocked out or lost decisions, and people were less interested in jiu-jitsu.

"For a while, everyone wanted to brawl, everyone wanted to see people bang. That's awesome, don't get me wrong, but now there's more jiu-jitsu guys doing well," he continues, with just the slightest sliver of boast in his voice. "The card I fought Tamdan [McCrory] on, almost every jiu-jitsu guy on the card won."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tuesday Night Training

Solid class Tuesday night. We did a lot of work on triangle chokes, building on the coursework from Monday in Lindsey's class. In addition to just working the basic choke, Rodrigo had us work on a basic hip opener in the triangle position (identical to one of my hip stretch exercises) which seemed to help. I am pretty much sticking to the strategy of grabbing my shin to help initially lock in the triangle. It may not make the triangle my go-to move from the guard, but hopefully it will make it possible to at least add the technique to my working inventory.

In the advanced class afterward, we started with some takedown warmups. I continued to work with Angela, who has more impressive takedowns than I'd realized, particularly hip throw, uchi mata and the ankle pick. She's not back to 100% with her knee, but was apparently okay enough to train some, which was good to see.

On a related note, Cindy was there Tuesday night with a massive brace on her leg due to a recent knee surgery. She'll teach Thursday night, but she's going to be off the mat with her knee problem for quite a while.

The instructional in the advanced class was a Rodrigo special. He had us working out of that moth/spider guard set-up a drill that was part balance drill for the guy on top and part sweeping drill for the guy on bottom. I didn't feel super comfortable with the guard and will definitely need a lot more practice with it. But just watching Rodrigo and Andrew work it - and Angela for that matter - I can see that it is an effective way to work out of both moth guard and a deep half guard.

We did some guard/guard pass specific sparring. I rolled with a tough blue belt named Benny who was visiting from San Diego. I'm still having a hard time breaking posture in the guard, probably because I still just use my arms and not my whole body. It's a huge, historic problem and one that I should move to the top of my list in terms of things to fix.

My top game is still pretty tight. I feel more deliberate and able to move slower and more decisively from the top. That's some good news.

More notes on the sparring tonight will be in the weekly "Straight Outta Tatame" report Friday evening (if I don't train on Saturday) or Saturday afternoon (if I do).

Monday, January 05, 2009

Monday Night Training

First night back on the mat in about two and a half weeks. In some ways, it seemed like a very long time. In other ways - the drive, for example - it was nicely familiar. I'll be glad to get my new cheap MP3 player. I miss Beaster on the way to train and my little four-song Temple of the Dog suite on the way back.

We did some warm-up takedowns. I stuck with wrestling moves mostly: arm drags, a lot of double legs including a double leg with an out-to-in trip, and went with a good-sized blue belt who was very good to train with, attacking with a lot of different types of throws and shoots.

We finished off the Monday skills session with some triangle chokes, building on what Lindsey had been teaching in his 5 p.m. class. I wasn't doing a very good job of elevating my hips, though I did like the way that I've made catching my shin with my opposite grip an automatic part of my triangle choke attack.

I may want to include hip elevations in my 3T jiu jitsu tabata intervals. I think I could have a pretty decent stealth triangle game against guys who aren't too much bigger than me.

I rolled with Shawn, who was one-armed due to a shoulder injury. It was interesting. He caught me in a very nice loop choke after some aggressive defense in his sitting guard. Pretty impressive for a one-armed guy - Shawn's movement reminded me of how much can be accomplished with just the right hip movement. It was a very interesting roll.

After that I rolled with Rodrigo for about 15-20 minutes (I thought it was more like 8-10). He put me in the shake 'n' bake bag more than a few times, and turned my halfway decent Old School attack into a desperate attempt to avoid getting mounted in a matter of seconds. Definitely one of those sessions that Saulo calls "survival."

That said, I did more scrambling than anything else. I did manage to "scoop" against Rodrigo's rear mount. But he already had collar control and was switching to an arm attack. Still, as far as I'm concerned, every time I do the scoop to avoid getting choked from rear mount, an angel is going to get its wings if I have to hitchhike to heaven and attach them myself.

A good night of training - a great night even. I got a good standup workout, spotted a major weakness in my triangle choke game, and got to roll with a brown belt (with at least three or four stripes) and Rodrigo for nearly 30 minutes total. Even with my morning workout (Berari/Beaster), I had pretty good energy - though I was working hard to try and keep active against Rodrigo. Post-train weight was 162.2, also pretty good for a Monday after nearly three weeks off.

By the way, I was reminded of the Nogimura (the reverse kimura that Minotauro showed as one of his techniques of the day for MMA Weekly many moons ago) during sparring tonight. I need to take another look at that technique. It could be a signature type arm attack that no one is using.

On the Mat, Off the Clock

I remain convinced that some of the best jiu jitsu instruction happens in the 30 minutes after classes officially end.

Here are my initial notes on the tackles from the moth guard. After Rodrigo and I rolled for about 15-20 minutes (one hell of a way to start Warm-Up Week after a three-week layoff), I asked him about possibilities for tackle-type sweeps from the moth guard. This is what I remember:
Moth Guard Tackles:

It looks like the cross grip is crucial to getting tackles out of the moth guard.

The leg momentum can come from a couple of different ways. From my typical left side forward moth guard, you can:
1. Kick straight up with your left leg (slipping the arm), and kick into side of his torso with the shin of your right leg.
2. Bring your left leg inside as if in quarter guard. Kick into the side of his torso with the left leg while kicking your right leg backward (side scissors). The motion is similar to back-to-belly, only starting with the outside leg up)

I'm having a hard time remembering if the cross grip was important in both. A part of me feels as if Rodrigo showed me a version that didn't require the cross grip - version #1, because how else are you slipping the arm with your left leg if you don't still have it? - but the ones with the cross grip are the ones I remember, especially version 2.

These are going to take some drilling. Not a lot, though. A part of the problem is that I don't feel the sweep yet, which would probably be solved with just a few sets of 10 between now and the end of the week. After that, it would just be a matter of consistent practice and visualization.

I feel like I should have started writing this as soon as I walked in the door. But I know the one sweep with the cross grip makes sense. That one I almost do feel and will probably be the one that I end up drilling the most.

Rei Diogo's Grappling magazine article still is out there, though, insisting that you can tackle sweep from the moth guard without a cross grip. I'll stick to developing one with a cross grip until I figure how exactly how to effectively sweep without it.

Jiu Jitsu 1, Pitbull 0

Boy Stops Pitbull Attack with Mata Leao"

A feel good story to help start the week!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Pre Week Starts Tomorrow

Tomorrow I'll start warming up for my eight-week "training camp" in preparation for the Revolution tournament, my first as a purple belt, in early March.

My goals here are to start getting into superior cardio shape, get my new priorities straight, and establish the habits that will hopefully prepare me to train at a high level.

It looks like I'll be able to train at least four times this week, and maybe five: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and/or Saturday. I'll need to pace myself, stick to my discipline/gameplan and remember to survive and escape when I'm not in a position (or condition) to advance my agenda. But it should be a thrilling return back to the mat.

This first week, one goal is to make sure I have as little wasted movement as possible. That means recognizing threats and obstacles, and knowing (or feeling) what is the immediate move to ensure surival (or control, if I am on the attack). For the rear mount defense, for example, it's Saulo's "scoop." For the mount defense, it's the hip frame.

From there I have a beat or two to make the next move. And here is where I want to make sure that I am proceeding deliberately, technically, so that I know and remember afterward what exactly it was that I was doing that worked or didn't work.

I think that 2009 can be a very good year for me, a year when a lot of the stray pats can start to come together. I think a little more awareness, more focus and deliberateness when I'm training - as well as more consistent training, of course - will be key to helping me become the sort of advanced jiu jitsu martial artist I can be.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Martell: January

William Martell's Greco-Roman Wrestling is one of my favorite books on combat sports. In fact, I'd put it right up there with Gene LeBell's Judo in the top ten books for martial artists and fighter/athletes. Not only are both books filled with great techniques and fundamentals for grapplers, but also the two share insights into the basics of what combat and, importantly, preparation for combat, are all about.

One of the features I like about Martell's book is its same programs: multi-year programs to build a combat team's training around, pre-competition programs for the final week and a half of training and weight-cutting ... if you're a planner like me, then it's some really good stuff.

I'm going to include Martell's One Year Program as part of my pseudo-Grappling Gameplan for 2009. He notes monthly goals that can help focus your training over the course of the year, including spring and fall fighting seasons.

Develop a new technique.
In addition to the other things I'm working on, I want to put a focus on Rap Star in January. It could end up being the basis of my non-half guard, guard game.

Build strength through heavy weight training for power.
Squat muscle endurance program begins in January. Pull routine 2x week (Monday, Thursday). Berardi/Beaster 1x week (Tuesday).

Develop body awareness and flexibility through gymnastics.
3T Flex 2x week (Sunday, Wednesday)

Teach some youth wrestling to develop your analytic approach to wrestling.
Regularly update and maintain "side control"

Friday, January 02, 2009

Ken Hahn and the Making of Mir

A fascinating, candid interview with Frank Mir's striking coach, Ken Hahn.

"Remaking Frank Mir: How Ken Hahn gave a BJJ black belt a striking game"

The interview covers much more than just strategy and tactics. It sounds as if Hahn played a sizable role in helping bring Mir not only back from his post-Pe de Pano lows but also to beyond his best levels as a rising UFC heavyweight contender pre-motorcycle accident.

Hahn has a lot of things to say about training that are well worth remembering, how to build confidence and develop technique, and his difference between a fighter and a martial artist (hint, he favors the latter).

The interview mentions Hahn's TUF era blog (Hahn was one of Mir's coaches during the most recent TUF). I should look those up and see what sort of insights Hahn was seeing in the various fighters months ago.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Jiu Jitsu University by Saulo Ribeiro

"Rickson Gracie seeded and molded all my philosophy and thinking regarding jiu jitsu. I am thankful not only for his technique and competition strategy, but for all his knowledge. This is what I teach today. My jiu jitsu is based on his knowledge of leverage.

Everybody talks about leverage, but few people use it in their jiu jitsu. Everything I show in this book relates to the efficiency of the lever and the fulcrum. How can I lift a man twice as heavy as myself? How can I armlock someone who is three times as strong? The answer is always the same - leverage. Keep this in mind when grappling. Always look for positions that multiply your perceived strength while minimizing that of your opponent. These are the leverage points that must be sought."