Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Feitosa Seminar

I got to the academy super early. I was pretty much determined to warm-up with somebody before the seminar started. As it turned out, I ended up with more than a handful in Joe, who hadn't trained in a couple of months. As far as I was concerned, he wasn't missnig much. He caught me in a couple of chokes, including a katagatame. I think we rolled for at least six or seven minutes.

Before that I was doing some agility drills, taking advantage of the space. I managed to work up a nice little sweat - imagine having a basement with that much mat space to drill and spar on! I'd take half, a quarter.

The seminar notes are next. It was funny to hear Professor Feitosa talk about having to fight so many guys that were bigger than him. He seemed bigger than Lindsey (who was my training partner during the seminar), who I consider a pretty solid welterweight. Maybe they grow them big in So Cal.

After the seminar I rolled for quite awhile with Jessie Chen (Chan?) from Bellevue. It was a very nice way to finish off the day. Joe provided a more than rigorous enough pre-seminar roll, so I liked being able to focus just on movement and technique in a post-semianr roll. I tried to work the butterfly hook game from half guard and even a little x-guard and the Fugitive guard. It was a nice opportunity to really open things up.

157.6 on the scale. A great number. Must not forget to register for the Revolution today - it's the last day to get your free t-shirt with your registration!

Single Leg Defense

Single Leg Counter to Guillotine

Arm in Guillotine

Questions from Students:

1. The Punch
Controlling the legs between the knees and the ankles with a fist grip.

2. Countering Spider Guard
One leg in and one leg out. Many problems when standing in the guard come from standing with feet parallel. Don't get your head out in front of your hips. Sit down into your stance to keep your hips low and your posture up. Use the elbow/knee connection to break one of the spider guard grips and then knee-on-belly smash or use your hips to bully the other leg forward.

3. Countering the Knee Through Pass
Similar to the point that Saulo makes, you want to use your knee to wedge in between you. Your other major point of contact was your head as you arched backward on your side (the fish move). Here the grips were a choke attack with your inside arm (usually left in my case) and grab the far wrist with your outside arm.

If he continues to press forward, then you'll eventually end up side by side on your knees, with you have much more control of him than he has of you.

If you are late and you can't get your knee in between, then you can put your knee under his butt and bump him forward, upsetting his balance. Depending on how he reacts to that (i.e., whether or not he posts) you will either be able to insert the knee and do the basic counter or wind up side by side if he doesn't post and tries to balance with his head or shoulder.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

3 21 09: GB Seattle Invitational

"The horror ... the horror!"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Training

The instructional starts at 5 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I got over to the academy on the early side. We continued to work the flower sweep and hook sweep against the leg, when the guy goes to stand on one knee.

One thing that is increasingly clear is how these two sweeps go together. In both instances, you are attacking the one leg. In the flower sweep, you are underhooking it and getting your shoulder behind that leg and undermining his base. That's probably why I like that sweep so much.

With the hook sweep you are doing a motion that is more like a traditional scissor sweep: loading the guy's weight on to you with a pulling motion and using your bottom leg to sweep out the guy's base. As long as you remember the load the guy's weight, this is a very good sweep.

I'm feeling a bit broken down, having trained for three days in a row. There's a chance that I'll get back on the mat on Friday, but it is possible that I won't be able to train until the Feitosa seminar on Saturday. I've decided to just attend the one day, take some time off on Friday, and then head into the final week with three or four good training sessions.

Another excellent number on the scale after training: 156.8. One thing I'm not impressed with is that I haven't made guard passing the focus it should have been for this 8 Weeks Out training camp. I've focused a lot on the conditioning end, which has been good and informative. But I've let my skills focus slip a little. I haven't been working my bad side half guard like I should, same with Rap Star, and the underhook guard.

Part of the reason for setting up the 8 Weeks Out camp was to really take a look at how I prepare myself for a competition - and in that it has been an instructive two months. I'll be doing a real review of all of that after the event. But one thing that is already apparent is that I haven't done as much focused, specific work on what will be the most critical part of my fights on Saturday: passing the guard. And I've got about three or four training days to do what I can to fix that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday Training

Tonight after the kids' class we continued to work on sweeps, both the flower sweep and the hook sweep off the opponent standing on one knee. The flower sweep is familiar, but the hook sweep is new, so it has been nice to work on it for two days in a row. I worked with Brandon this time, and he was going back and forth from side to side to help me focus on identifying the right sweep opportunity and responding with the right grips and movement.

Tonight, we did the flower sweep without the opponent standing on one knee - though the move is essentially the same, either way. The common thread in both the flower and hook sweep was taking the guy away from the up knee side, using that leg as leverage either by underhooking with the arm or underhooking with the foot.

One thing that I need to do is to get a better sense of where the "pause" is in the hook sweep. Generally speaking, if you want to use these sweeps, you want to attack that leg with a hook whenever you get the opportunity. I would imagine that you could pause with the hook sweep right before the push/pull/hook move to execute the sweep. The trick will be in looking for opportunities to use the sweep in sparring.

Tatame was pretty good. I had two standup sessions and two long ground/guard pass sessions. I'm still struggling with the Tozi pass, though I did manage to get it to work twice (another time I think I got my back taken or wound up in an omoplata-like situation). The trick is in keeping pressure on the one side of the hips with your shoulder, while keeping pressure on the other side of the hips by forcing the leg to the mat. My Tozi passes were a little more scrambly - but I was starting to see how the fundamental move of switching your hips makes it easier to pop the closed guard open. That may make it easier to improvise if I don't get some of the other details of the pass right.

Another nice number on the scale post-training: 157.8. It was another good hard workout today and I'm glad I've stopped all off-mat conditioning for the two weeks leading up to the tournament - I need all the energy (and rest) I can get.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Training

I had to get back on the mat and training as soon as possible, and after asking around about the possibility of a Sunday open mat, I made sure to make it to the academy as early as possible today.

My arm felt fine in the compression wrap. With a little caution, I was able to do pushups no problem, which was a pretty positive sign. It felt great to train with Brian again, who was one of my main training partners a year ago during the last time I felt my skills really surge forward. I got to roll with Stephen too, though I was pretty worn out by the time we got our five or six minutes on the mat and didn't make it as interesting for him as I would have preferred.

The lesson for Monday were two sweeps. The first was a straightforward flower sweep, with emphasis on getting the hips out, scissoring the legs and trapping the sweep side arm at the triceps. I worked with a good-sized white belt named Angus who was good to work with.

The second sweep also was based off the opponent stepping up with a leg. In the flower sweep, we underhooked the leg. In this second sweep, we used a sleeve and cross collar grip away from the up leg, step on the hip with the far leg and insert a butterfly hook with the near leg.

It is another scissoring sweep. Load the guy's weight with a pull on the cross collar, and make sure that you use your far leg as a block. Pull and load his weight, lift with the hook and scissor a bit with the bottom leg to get the sweep.

Had a good long roll with Brian afterward - a guard/pass guard specific. I did a lot of guard and was able to do some things I hadn't done before. I did end up bailing to half guard more than I would have liked. But with a tournament coming up, I'm not going to complain about working on my bread and butter stuff. Brian is on that list of maybe ten guys that are ideal for me to train with and it was really nice to get to roll with him again. I don't think he is far away from getting his purple belt, at all. In fact, with Professor Feitosa arriving this weekend, I wouldn't be surprised if he, Jason/Garcia, Tim and a couple of other folks found themselves walking away with the faixa roxa.

It was an excellent workout today also. I was 155.8 after training, an unbelievably good number. If I can loiter around these levels for a week and then slice and dice starting Wednesday of next week, then making 154.9 might be easier than I think.

One thing: I didn't get much opportunity to work on passing the guard today. No crime. But I need to be careful of going too many days without spending a good chunk of time trying to open and pass the guard. The reality is overwhelming. If I can establish a guard passing strategy, then I tend to do well. If I don't, I tend to end up tapping. I tried to work the Tozi pass on Stephen, but I did a poor job of controlling his hips. Poor as in terrible. No pressure. No weight. I still like the pass a lot as a way of dealing with my posture problem in the guard. But I definitely need to keep working on it. I remember that as soon as I fell into Sauleh's guard on Saturday a little voice said, "go for the Tozi!". It might have been the same voice that was trying to get me to pull half guard when I went to a knee during our standup.

In any event, I'm looking forward to training tomorrow. More Tozi, more guard pass, more "do well" for me.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Right Practice, Right Attitude, Right Understanding

1. Big Picture.
This past Saturday was the first competition of any kind in 2009. There will be still be four tournaments this year, and probably another two or three invitationals. So, all combined, some 7-8 events before the year is done. I have plenty of other chances in 2009 to do better than I did in the first event of the year and - truth told, it will be hard to do much worse.

2. Goal Planning.
The idea is to use the tournaments early in the year as building and learning opportunities for the final tournament of the year in November. While I'd like to do well in every event, the idea has been to focus everything toward a great performance in November.

3. Hole Fixing
My jiu jitsu is shaped like a donut. I have a giant gaping hole in the middle that represents my mediocre guard and guard passing game.

While there are still some fundamentals to be improved, the big problem is that I don't have a real gameplan from the guard or when passing the guard, nothing that I have trained and trained and trained to the point of feeling 100% confident with it. More than anything else, this is what is limiting my ability to improve and progress. Fixing this doughnut hole has to be my absolute top priority in 2009. Nothing is more important.

The good news is that I do have plenty of building blocks. But what has been lacking is the focus, the dedication to really understanding the guard from an attacking and a passing point of view. In the same way that I made the half guard understandable and familiar (both attacking and passing), I have to do the same with my guard game.

I can't overstate that point. It is absolutely critical to my development. In every single competition I've been in I either pass guard and win or don't pass guard and lose - often by submission. It might be the highest probability edge in my game.

Fighting Sauleh yesterday, when we were in the clinch I actually thought about pulling half guard so that I wouldn't have to deal with his guard. I hadn't expected him to keep it standing, so I thought I might throw him off guard by pulling guard. But I was indecisive and I think he ended up pulling guard instead. The rest is history.

My arm is still aching a bit. I bought a compression brace, one similar to what a lot of basketball players wear. I'll try it out tomorrow and see if it helps. I won't be doing any pushups or any pressing motions with my right arm for a little while. But if I can move around, hook and pull with it, then there shouldn't be any problem w/re2 competing in two weeks.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Demian Maia!

That is all.


GracieMag: Is Galv√£o your greatest rival these days?

Marcelo Garcia: No, I don’t feel feelings of rivalry in relation to anyone that has already lost to me six times.


Another Gracie Barra Seattle Invitational. Another embarrassing loss to Sauleh.

It is little salve to say that I saw this coming the moment Rodrigo said, "You know, Sauleh's submitting everybody these days. But he hasn't submitted you so far." He meant it in the most encouraging way, I'm sure. And it appears to have served its purpose: I came, I saw, I competed. But "competed" is putting it kindly. I never had an advantage for a moment, never had momentum, was never really in the match. It was easily my worst performance against Sauleh ever.

What is most overwhelming is the fact that he's getting better at a far faster rate than I am. The first time we fought, he won 4-2. The second time several months later I lost 10-0 or worse. And today he caught me in a armlock off a triangle attack in maybe 90 seconds.

There are a number of thoughts spinning through my head right now - most of them counterproductive. I will say that it would be nice to see Sauleh kick somebody's ass other than mine at these events. As Marcelo might say of his non-rivalry with Andre Galvao, I'm finding it harder and harder to see the point of fighting Sauleh, especially given the trend. I might feel differently if we trained together more often and I had some experience, some memory of success or accomplishment to draw on. Instead, all I'm left with is the memory of the last defeat, and the gnawing sense of inevitability every time we step on the mat to face each other.

Of course, if I'm going to play this out then my goal is to be Galvao. Whatever struggles Galvao had against Marcelo (I've still got three more losses to Sauleh to go!), there is no one who slights Galvao's skills on the mat. No one. And if I have to play Galvao to Sauleh's Garcia, then I'll be the first to admit that there are far, far worse fates than that.

A predictably underwhelming end to a really rotten week. Fortunately, it looks like there are some glimmers of hope in response to the truly ill news of the past few days. With any luck (and I do mean "any"), those glimmers will shine a little light on my jiu jitsu life as well.

Friday, February 20, 2009

On Readiness and Rumble

This man is ready to rumble.

Me? I'm working on it. Tomorrow morning is the Gracie Barra Invitational. Teammates from schools in Lake Stevens, Ballard, and Bellevue will be in attendance, as will some people from Foster BJJ in all likelihood. If I wasn't competing, I'd probably be looking forward to an exciting day of competition on the mat.

As it is, I'll be sweating it out on the sidelines waiting for my turn sometime after the white and blue belts finish up, I suspect.

I'd started to lose the "fire" (to use Clint's phrase) for this weekend's event a few days ago, as a cold and a completely unexpected calamity struck. There were probably a few other factors - some perennial - contributing the cold feet. But the fact of the matter is that come 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, I'll be getting my motor and my MP3 player running for the ride to Gracie Barra Bellevue.

I had a pretty good conversation with Rodrigo Thursday night after training. It wasn't much, but it probably had a lot to do with me deciding to go ahead and compete anyway. As much as I enjoy tournaments - and coaching competitors - I compete partly because I think I should as part of my experiencing jiu jitsu in its fullest, and partly because if I do well it reflects well on the school.

And that's really it. Sure, it feels nice to win. But honestly most of what I feel is a sense of relief once the match is over. I would much, much rather spend my time rolling for 10 or 20 minutes, constantly trying different things, maybe just rolling for the first submission whenever it arrives, than to feel parachuted into the six-minute panic room of contemporary sport jiu jitsu.

So it will be interesting tomorrow. It really felt as if the wheels fell of mid-week in terms of both my off mat conditioning and on mat training. Nevertheless Saturday will give me a chance to see where I stand - arguably, and at least in Rodrigo's opinion, against some of the best purple belt lightweights around. And in a more confident mode, I would be a bit better equipped to be appropriately grateful for that.

Strength and Conditioning with Demian Maia

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Night Training

The lesson class was a reprise of the moves to the back from in front of the turtle. This time, we went more directly to the choke, for example.

Rodrigo added a roll to the clock choke. Key to getting the roll correctly is to pull in on the wrist of your opponent and to dig your elbow in tight to control his body. You want to let go of the collar and grab your own wrist (the one that was controlling his wrist) so that you have a lock on his upper body before you go into the roll.

Another point with the roll is that it isn't so much a back roll as it is a side roll. It becomes a side roll as you move higher up and across the guy's upper body until you are almost perpendicular. As you turn into the roll, with the grips, the guy's body will fall right into your lap.

Definitely some moves that I can incorporate into my game - which really lacks much in the way of taking the back.

Tatame was all no gi, as is the way of Thursdays. Nothing spectacular, though I did manage an arm-in guillotine that fortunately was more choke than crank. That's a technique that I think will really come in handy in no-gi competition, and there are still very few people outside the elite ranks that are finishing the guillotine with the arm in.

Excellent number on the scale: 156.4. Admittedly, I've not been eating much for the past 24 hours due to recent events. But I won't pretend not to appreciate being a lot closer to that 154.9 number than I was at the beginning of the week.

Sour Times, Part 2

Sorry, forgot the video.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sour Times

A big fat dose of bad luck arrived Wednesday afternoon. I'm not going to get specific and I suppose we'll recover eventually. But for right now, I am filled with a pretty raw misanthropic disgust for the average human animal. You go through life hoping that, at a minimum, reasonableness will prevail. At least more often than not. What you don't expect to do is to go through life encountering people who will brazenly lie to your face.

It gets worse. Much worse. At this point, I'm feeling little motivation to do anything other than dare speeding cars to run me down. I didn't end up training tonight; I was literally 15 minutes before walking out the door when the news hit. But there was no way I was going to be able to focus on training tonight. Hopefully, Thursday will be better.

Not a good week going into the intramural event - and I'll admit that I've considered skipping it. I've been having a hard time getting into the flow, first with my conditioning workout starting to make me feel more than a little overtrained, then a minor cold, some assorted training bullshite, and now this new news.

There's an argument that this is as bad as it is going to get for now. I'm sympathetic to that way of thinking. I'm also sympathetic to Mao's great quote: "it's always darkest before it goes completely black."

Tuesday Night Training

I'm writing this up Wednesday night. I took off training Monday night so that I could be around for Rebecca when she got home from her first day of work.

The instruction was mostly in taking the back and executing chokes against the defender in the turtle position. #1 was the basic move of swinging the elbow over the back to trap the hip (or under the arm, I'm not sure), then the backstep to move to the side. #2 was the basic move, only Rodrigo added the step back with the other leg to complete the move to the side.

#3, if I remember correctly, was a version of the clock choke. Key details here included feeding the collar to your choking hand to get a good choking grip, and to grab the non-choking lapel and pull it tight to help set the choke.

From a body perspective, Rodrigo had us put all our weight on the guy's upper back and head, with your head almost on the mat. It was a little different from the typical sit-out method of finishing the clock choke but, as long as your balance is okay, then this new method seems to produce a pretty tight choke.

We did some standup sparring for the advanced class. I got to spar with Jeff from the Revolution tournaments, Stephen and Andrew. I'm still a little skittish starting from standing. But it is definitely the thing to do in advance of a tournament.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Triangle Choke from Front Headlock

Another building block in my snap seoinage takedown.

I like how he shows the traditional move to the back from the front headlock. The front headlock is one of the pure products of my snap seoinage takedown, and I wasn't sure of the mechanics involved in getting to the back.

So from snap seoinage, I've got a take the back move, an anaconda choke and now a triangle. We're good to go on that one.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Me, Wrasslin' and GSP

I wrestled for a summer or two as a kid. I can't remember if I was in elementary or junior high. I don't remember anything more than the fact that I was wrestling. Soon after I do know I ended up studying a "real" martial art in Korean karate, Jhoon Rhee's tae kwon do, which was a big deal in the Washington, D.C. area back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I trained for a little while as a 12,13, 14 year old karate guy, earning my tae kwon do black belt on April 21, 1981.

I've never had a problem with my TKD study. Most of the instrutors were professional fighters with the now-defunct Professional Karate Association. Joe Lewis, Bill Superfoot Wallace, Jean Yves Theriault, Benny Urquidez ... all of these were the fighters that our instructors - Michael "The Cobra" Coles, Rodney "Batman" Batiste, and my own personal instructor, Dan Magnus, the first professional athlete ever to successfully return to competition after open heart surgery, trained day after day to topple.

So my TKD was filled with the sort of kata that is now widely ridiculued in a post-vale tudo, post-MMA world. But there was as much if not more live sparring with gloves, footpads and headgear (for non black belts). In that way, it was half very traditional Korean tae kwon do, half sport kickboxing with live kicks and punches to the head.

While I've always defended by karate background, I've been much less vociferous in my support of my wrestling. In addition to my prepubescent stint as a young wrassler, I spent my senior year on the Dulaney Senior High School wrestling squad. Why it dawned on me to try out for the wrestling team in my final year of high school is something I don't remember. I had spent two average years on the football, lacrosse and track teams as a sophomore and junior (JV hotshot, varsity backup), and the notion to try my hand at wrestling came largely out of the blue (though I do remember being mesmerized by the wrestling, coming of age movie, Vision Quest that was out at the time.)

I was a pretty mediocre wrestler. I was athletic, and stronger than the guy at 136 who had been on the team for years. This meant that about half the time I would beat him in the trials to see who would compete at the coming tournament. Unfortunately, because my wrestling technique was horrible, I lost almost every time.

But I loved wrestling. It totally a "where have you been all my life?" kind of moment. It was a better combination of individual and team that I found in football and lacrosse on the one hand and track and field on the other. Wrestling also put me in better shape than any other sport ever had. It wasn't even close. I still remember coming home one day after practice - I'd been a latch-key kid since 2nd grade - and dropping down in the living room and cranking out 50 pushups like it was nothing. I had never been able to do anything like that before (or, probably, since).

Flash forward some 20 years ... When it comes to jiu jitsu, my love of wrestling is pretty damn apparent. My guard game is the most wrestling-esque in the form of the half guard. And my top control is clearly the most advanced part of my game. Whenever I doubt that I deserve the faxia roxa, it is my top game - particularly my top control - that I hide behind in defense of the belt I wear.

Unfortunately, my top-oriented, wrestling based jiu jitsu has one glaring weakness: guard passing. While my psychological hangups about takedowns remain a challenge, it is when I'm trying to open and pass the guard during which my purple belt too often starts to look a little bluer than it should.

This, more than anything else, is my top priority for 2009. Yes, I need to regain the feel of Twist Back. Yes, I need to get comfortable with the Rap Star suite. But the difference between having true confidence on the mat and wondering if I'm going to embarass myself in front of God, Rodrigo and everybody else lies in my guard passing ability. It has to be the alpha and the omega of everything I do.

I was reviweing an excellent little snippet from Mike Fowler's No Gi Made Easy series, where he talks about some passing guard passing fundamentals. They dovetail and amplify what I've been working on and thinking about in terms of locking down the hip and limiting the guy's mobility. I'm extremely anxious to get back on the mat and work on some of these techniques.

Like I said recently, I lack an "agenda" when it comes to opening and passing the guard. The closer I get to one, the better my guard passing will be - particularly against the rising crop of blue belts who whose footsteps I increasingly hear behind me

But more the point: if I'm going to be a "takedown, pass the guard, top control, submit:" kind of guy, then I need to make sure every link in the chain is tough. And right now the link that represents guard passing is more aluminum than iron. Over the next three weeks, that has to change. Lloyd Irvin says that it takes "21 days of straight corrective practice to break a bad habit." With the tournament three weeks away, that doesn't leave for much time.

So what does this have to do with Georges St. Piere? In short, that when it comes to me and jiu jitsu, I have a lot in common with the Quebecois champion. We are both athletes with traditional karate backgrounds who have above average wrestling despite sub average wrestling pedigrees. We both share a jiu jitsu that is more positional than submission based, and we are far more comfortable fighting from the top than the bottom.

Size differences notwithstanding, when I think about GSP v. BJ Penn, I think of all my fights against guys with great natural ability, flexbility and hip movement. Guys who are true kings of the guard: leggy, constantly luring you deeper and deeper into the trap of their submission or sweep. Sauleh, probably represents this better than anyone else right now of people I have trained with or competed against - though I think these qualities are very much the signature of the lighter weights.

What I need to do, and what my reflections on guard passing are reminding me, is focus on my strengths, to embrace the wrestling that is so obviously at the core of my sense of what grappling is all about and to use it to help figure out what my jiu jitsu should ulimately look like, what a black belt version of myself will ultimately look like.

That means recommitting to the kind of takedowns that am most comfortable with, fancy or not. And that means committing to passing the guard as a primary goal for 2009. Every single time I'm on the mat.. Every time I'm even thinking about jiu jitsu, I need to be asking myself, "Am I ready to pass the guard? Right this second, do I know exactly what I need to do?"

If I can bring my guard passing game up to the level of my half guard game - even if my half guard doesn't improve by a single inch - then I'll consider it a win for this year.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Demian Maia Interview on Tagg Radio

Talk about "getting what you need".

Tagg Radio spent 90 minutes with UFC middleweight fighter and top Brazilian jiu jitsu artist, Demian Maia, on Friday. The entire show was devoted to him, his background, and his upcoming fight with Chael Sonnen on the 21st.

Great jiu jitsu karma to put a better, finishing spin on this end of the jiu jitsu week!

Diego Sanchez on BJ Penn's Cardio

With all respect to Kenny Florian, a Diego Sanchez v. BJ Penn lightweight fight is something I think a lot of us would love to see.

Here are some interesting remarks Sanchez made about B.J. Penn in the wake of Penn's loss to GSP:
"After seeing BJ's performance against St. Pierre, man, I'd say it's a bad time for him to fight anybody right now," Sanchez said. "Man, that guy has zero cardio”and he goes into the biggest fight of his life with that type of cardio and endurance? I've never gotten tired in a UFC fight. I've never gotten caught tired in a fight. And to see this guy be that exhausted after one round? I know GSP is tough, but c'mon. He burned himself out in the first round just defending those takedowns."

Read the rest of the article at MMA Weekly

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Night Training

I suppose this is a bit of a rant.

I left training early tonight. Not ridiculously so, but early enough to feel a little shortchanged for the training week. I don't want to make it sound like tonight was a thoroughly shitty evening: it was nice to work on some details on the armlock from the mount and even after the class I got to help out a teammate which is probably one of the things that I enjoy most about training.

< Begin Rant >

But one thing that I really can't stand is being big-timed. I would argue that I spend as much time training in, writing about, reading about, watching, listening to and thinking about jiu jitsu as anybody. And in all this time I've figured out a few things. These things don't make me better than anybody else, or smarter than anyone else when it comes to grappling. But they don't make me a fucking idiot, either.

The long and short of it is this: I'm keeping my own damn counsel from here on out. I'm far too old and, quite frankly, work too damn hard to be treated like somebody's pesky little brother.

< End Rant >

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday Night Training

Wednesday nights are set-up a lot like Mondays. Class starts at 5 p.m. instead of 6, and we do a real beginners class before moving to specifics and then some sparring.

In some ways, it was one of the most complete classes I've had in awhile. Elbow escapes for a warm-up (+1 for that!), then some sitting guard retreats, backrolls from guard pass into sitting guard, and alternating S-mount switches. Very good stuff.

The coursework was the same as Tuesday night, though we focused only on #1: back bridging away from the elbow, walking your legs free and turning in with your weight and shoulder. I'm thinking about some drills that might help with the early stages of that escape.

We also did the spider guard pass - I think I'm calling it Gangster - with the Royler finish to scarf hold. It's a really good move, and makes me think of something else that was very apparent tonight. More on that later.

We did specific work, guard/pass guard. I did terribly in my first pass at passing the guard. It's the same bad habit of extreme over-caution when rolling with new guys. The "not-knowing" makes me extremely risk-averse. Things got better my second turn, when I got to work from the guard and spent most of my time working out of the half. But my guard passing remains the glaring weak spot in my game.

Rolled with Casey after the specific. He caught me in about four armlocks from the top. It's funny; I've been rolling with Casey since he was a blue belt and I was a white belt and here we are, brown belt and purple belt respectively, and he's still killing me every time we get on the mat.

But again, the glaring weak spot. I won't say that my half guard makes me able to hang with guys like Casey or Jesse, or any number of purple belts for that matter. But when I'm in the half guard I have something that I don't have when I'm trying to pass the guard, and that something gives me confidence to at least compete against these guys when I'm in my spot.

The something? An agenda.

I know exactly what I'm trying to do when I'm in the half guard. To be sure, many times I'm not doing it very well. But if I can stop myself for a second when things get weird in the half guard, there's a good chance that I won't make a really bad mistake and a halfway decent chance that I'll actually do the right thing.

Not so when it comes to passing the guard. Sometimes I do this, sometimes I do that. I've got a few tricks that I catch guys with like the handcuff. But like my keylock from the bottom, the handcuff should be like the old shotgun in the closet: a classic produced on special occasions alone.

But there's no sequence, no set of routines and subroutines that are automatic for me when it comes to passing the guard. The other evening I had my first Ezekiel choke submission, just days after breaking it down into steps. Doing that helped me focus on the key aspects, in this case, using your head to help keep his head in place for the choke.

I need an agenda for passing the guard, "something I do" that is as signature as my half guard sweeps are becoming. As someone who likes to work from the top, having such a 50/50 guard passing game really limits what I can do.

A few weeks out from the tournament, this is probably a good thing to realize, in part because it contains its own solution. I need an agenda, a sequence that can guide my fight to pass the guard 80-90% of the time. While I've got plenty of other things to work on, there's a very good argument that figuring out what this agenda might be should be immediately moved to the top of the list.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Night Training

Rodrigo had us work on two basic escapes from rear mount.

#1 was the strategy to drive the guy away from his preferred choking angle, which is to put his choking elbow on the mat. We trained the escape with both hands defending the choke to emphasize the body movement over using the hands.

A couple of key things. Rodrigo pointed out that the move I call "back2belly" is essentially the same way you want to switch your body before turning into the guy and driving into him with your shoulder. The order of the escape was to bridge as you turn toward the open side (away from the elbow) to escape the legs, then walk toward perpendicular as you begin to dip into the back2belly. Drive your shoulder into the guy as you put him on his back.

One thing I noticed as Rodrigo did the technique was that his head was always driving toward the far side of the guy's body as he drove the shoulder forward. It was a little detail and Rodrigo didn't make much of it. But it seemed to be one way to tell if you are doing the move correctly and positioning right.

I worked with Steve, and I could definitely feel the shoulder pressure.

#2 was in case the guy beat you to the point and managed to pull you down into his choking side. In this case, you want to do a version of the rear headlock self-defense escape, where you grab the arm with both hands, pull on the wrist and lift at the elbow as you look away from the elbow and, dipping down, stepping around to the back with your inside leg.

As a rear mount escape, you start with the same bridging hip motion to clear the legs, but then do the exact same escape move from the rear headlock self-defense escape.

I felt more than a little winded, as befits my first class of the week. I was 163.0 after a little standup training with Andrew and a long roll with Saud. Heavy, as expected, but not disastrous. I'll see what my next post-train weigh-in is before I start panicking.

Didn't workout today and instead will look to pick up Tuesday's workout either tomorrow or Saturday. I think it was a good idea to get in some extra time off insofar as the aches and bruises were starting to catch up with me. I've been sleeping pretty well, if not for as many hours as I probably should given the increased activity.

Some nice tatame tonight that I'll say something about over the weekend: a submission first that I'm extremely proud of insofar as it was one of four techniques I studied over the weekend. I think I've figured out a major potential training aid - rediscovered, actually. I don't want to push it. But if it can add some new techniques to my game this fast, then this should be a very productive stretch of time, after all.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lesson Plan for the Final Four Weeks

Here's pretty much what I'm working on for the final month leading up to the tournament in March. I'll get a chance to see where I'm at in about two weeks at the Invitational/Friendly on the 21st.

In some ways, it seems like a lot to work on. It's really a lesson plan for the rest of the year, insofar as I think this might end up representing the bread and butter of my game going forward (with a rear mount mata leao/armlock attack a la Werdum v. Lindland to be added in the second half of the year).


Bring Twist/Twist Back sweep up to par with Tackle/Old School
Develop overhook half guard or conversion to Rap Star from half guard
Take the back from half guard

Stand to Pass: Stagger Stance
grip, pull, step, stand, fade, break

Toreano passes
1. Wiseguy (formerly "the Butler")
2. Royler

far side armlocks from side control
1. walking armlock (trap, clear, crawl)
2. spinning armlock (trap, post, lean)

chokes from mount
1. Ezekiel choke (hook, head, punch, pull, grab, choke)
2. katagatame (hook, punch, walk, post, pass, choke)
Kata gatame / Ezekiel transition

Saturday, February 07, 2009

GB Friendly: February 21st at GB Bellevue

This should be a pretty exciting event given the huge number of both white and blue belts that are likely to compete. When you add Ballard, Lake Stevens, and Yakima to the Seattle and Bellevue mix, it seems to me that we are likely to see a lot of very good matches.

Not sure what they'll have in store for purple belts. I don't remember many purple belt matches at these intramural tournaments - though Jesse and John did have that epic advanced belt contest last time out.

Anyway, in addition to enjoying the competition and maybe honing my coaching skills, I need to make sure that I follow my gameplan of guard passing, pressure and movement on top. I've switched up my off the mat training to focus on power and power endurance this past week and I think my timing was perfect: Three weeks of strength work followed by three weeks of power work, along side the basic six week squat program.

I'm averaging about 3.5 training sessions a week on the mat since the first full week of January (3.4 to be exact). It's a good pace, and though I've felt myself dragging a little this week, I think the week ended well.

The next two weeks have me stepping up my off the mat training by another two training sessions each week: most likely adding the 3T Jiu jitsu tabata drills on Wednesday and Friday to top off my anaerobic training. They will be my main form of conditioning off the mat for the last two weeks of "camp" after that.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Professor Feitosa Seminar in Seattle

I attended a seminar with Professor Feitosa and Kyra Gracie a little over a year ago, I think. He went over the ankle pick takedown, as well as a few moves from the closed guard using the lapel, a choke and an armlock. Kyra showed a kneebar counter to the lockdown that I had a hard time replicating, but was an interesting technique nonetheless.

I remember being surprised at how tall Marcio Feitosa was, especially given that he competed at the 67 kg limit at Abu Dhabi in 2005. That's about 147.4 pounds.

I'm looking to make both the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon sessions. It will be a nice diversion from prepping for the Revolution event only a week afterwards.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Thursday Night Training

Taking the mount from side control was the focus of training tonight. Rodrigo had us work three moves from the hips-switched position, with the "shoulder of justice" as Frodo calls it, firmly applied.

Another detail he added to the "shoulder of justice" was gripping the far shoulder material in your four fingers and pulling toward you. I found that it was a great way to control the upper body when you were transitioning from one type of hip block to another.

#1 was the basic leg up and over from the hips-switched position. #2 had you go through a very low, tight knee on belly first, knife the knee all the way over to the mat and pivot in the direction you are moving to bring your hips down and keep your legs free. #3 was a version that looked a lot like Eddie Bravo's "Jailbreak" side control escape in which you grabbed your foot, pulled it in tight and then sort of shoved it across to the other side of the guy's body as you took the mount.

Good basics to keep working on - one reason why I plan on continuing to take the "beginner's class" for as long as I train.

For the no gi open mat afterwards, I got in one good long session in the gi and then rolled with Animal no gi for a regular sized session. During the gi roll, I got to work on Rap Star far, far more than I have all year, which was great. Nothing special in terms of submissions or sweeps, but it was very nice to start to try and get the feel of the position better.

Still not going after the twist sweep out of half guard like I should be. With two weeks before the GB Friendly Invitation event - let alone the Revolution event two weeks after that - there's plenty of time to get that groove back. But it needs to start happening on Monday. The tackle sweep, which I have been obsessively trying t perfect, still isn't half as effective as it can and should be without a fully developed and ready to go twist sweep if the guy gives me the momentum. Arguably, more than anything else, feeling as good with the twist sweep as I did back in December (and as I do with the tackle sweep right now) is an early February priority.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

About That Georges St. Pierre

Fighters and martial artists everywhere should listen to or read every Georges St. Pierre interview they can get their hands on.

To hear how he, Greg Jackson, John Danaher (Renzo Gracie top black belt) and the rest of his team dissected B.J. Penn's game and established an almost flawless gameplan is one of the most amazing things I've heard in combat sports. From their observation that B.J.'s "small shoulders" that helped with his superior hand speed would make him vulnerable to a mauling, wrestling sort of pressure that I found more reminiscent of vintage Randy Couture than anything else to their insight that B.J.'s much-heralded hip flexibility also physiologically meant that his "thoracic core" was relatively weak - thus leading to a striking focus on the body rather than at B.J.'s granite chin, it is really a thing a beauty to hear. I can't recommend it highly enough.

More than anything, it reminded me of the virtues of planning, of problem-solving, of testing and retesting. And it extends to the psychological, as well. GSP's point about how he has been helped by his sports psychologist to focus on the things he can control and not those he can't is a total rebuke to B.J.'s mocking of GSP's decision to seek professional help to improve himself mentally, not just physically.

Truly great stuff. Very, very impressive - and inspiring.

Partial Rep Squats

I've always thought that my hamstrings dominated my quadriceps when it came to leg power. Only when doing very quad specfic exercises like leg raises did I ever feel a real burn on the top of my legs. Even now, with my focus on squatting and inclines on the treadmill, I rarely feel significant stress in my quads while my hamstrings are getting stronger and more flexibile.

The problem is that I can instantly feel the burn when I do partial rep squats. When it comes to takedowns, especially leg attacks, being able to move around comfortably in this semi-crouch is crucial. It makes it easy to fake high and go low, for example, over and over again without tiring.

Here's an interesting article that talks about the partial rep squat and its relationship to what they call "springiness" in the legs.

Partial Squats: An Outstanding Exercise for Improving Your Strength, Stability and Efficiency
Runners who use partial squats find them especially helpful during speed workouts. They report that regular partial squatting makes their legs feel less tired during high-quality training sessions. Interestingly, this relief is often immediately apparent, suggesting that there is a strong neurological benefit associated with the 'pose' of the exercise and the balancing involved. You may safely carry out a high-quality track or other intense workout immediately after completing the partial squat routine - and expect to perform at a higher-than-normal level. Soccer and basketball players may also include partial squats as part of their pre-workout warm-ups.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tuesday Night Training

A good sized class for the Tuesday beginner session. We worked on toreano style guard passes after Rodrigo provided some good analysis on the importance of guard passing when it comes to competition. I couldn't agree more. In every match I've been in, the difference maker was my ability to pass the guard. If I passed, I ended up winning. No pass, I always lost.

The first pass was the one I called "The Butler." I worked with Bruce and Angela. While it is perfectly fine to work with a single partner, there is something nice when three people are working on the same technique because you get to spend one rotation watching the technique being done over and over. It also should make it easier to train at full speed since you also get an opportunity to rest. Just a thought.

The second pass - and we were working against the spider guard - has you do the same Butler move, only this time you get caught in half guard. There were two variations on this. In the first one, you checked the guy's far shoulder with your inside hand and pulled on his inside arm sleeve with your outside grip. Rodrigo described it as a push/pull.

Turn your knee out and slide your hip down as you Ichiro into second base, passing the guard.

The variation - the third pass - has you put up your inside knee as soon as you get the Butler snapdown. As you are snapping down, you are bringing that knee forward. Get your underhook and, tucking your head to the outside/pass side, lower your shoulder into the opponent's chest.

You want the grip on his inside sleeve with your outside hand, as well. If he's controlling your sleeves, this shouldn't be a hard grip to get.

Drive through Ichiro style for the pass.

In the advanced class we started with some full, start-from-standing sparring. I rolled with Brandon, the judo guy I haven't seen in months, and Jeff, who runs the Revolution Tournaments. It was a very star-studded sparring session. Sparring with them back to back, I started to fade around the 6 minute mark (one four-minute round each). Not great. But not a bad assessment with about four and a half weeks to go.

I later rolled with Rodrigo and Lindsey. Again, great training partners on Tuesday. I'm still afraid that I'm losing the touch to hit the twist sweep out of half guard due to my obsession with getting the tackle, Old School, right. But that's something I can fix Thursday night.

Lindsey also showed me some interesting things about how he forgoes posture in the closed guard, instead locking the hips with a wide base with elbow/knee connect, weight back and collar grips. I think it might be something for me to try out since I'm fighting a losing battle it seems over maintaining posture for very long unless I stand up.

Maybe that's the point: either get low in the guard or stand up and out of it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Monday Night Training

The new routine for Monday nights - with the Bellevue school opening officially tonight- is for Lindsey to teach a beginner class from 5 - 6 pm. Then a little sparring for about 30 minutes, then an open mat.

It's a nice way to ease into the training week - though Lindsey's warm-up was plenty rigorous and the sparring (first specific guard work, then the open mat) certainly got the blood flowing (and the pounds dropping, I was 160.4 after training, an excellent Monday number given that Super Bowl Sunday was a little over 24 hours in the rearview).

We started off working armlocks from the guard. Get the grip in deep, control the sleeve, foot in the hip on the target arm side, twist, lift and lock.

From there, Lindsey had us work on a sweep from the armlock if the guy defends by grabbing his arm. Here you reach under his near leg with your formerly-choking hand and underhook the near leg. Pull that leg in close to your head, and use your twist leg to help unbalance and topple the guy over into the sweep.

We also worked on some standup. Lindsey always talks about what works for him, which gives an added realness since students - especially white belts - will get to see him compete using many of the same techniques. The standup was the knee pick off the clinch.

Some of the little details included using your head as a wedge between the guy's head, neck and shoulder. This additionally helps maintain space and keep you from getting too winded in the clinch. It also helps lower your upper body, making it easier to get the knee pick.

Taking the guy to the ground off the pick, the idea is to step in and sweep the standing leg our from under him. As you take the guy to the ground, make sure to drop your leg over his near leg in a knee pin - and sit on it to keep it heavy.

From here Lindsey took us right into the guard pass. With the knee pin planted, bring up your other leg so that you are trapping his hips (legs up). With the arm on the opposite side of the pin, underhook the leg and dive your head down to his abdomen. This will help keep your weight down.

It might even help to tip your head farther over the guy's body, as if to put your face on the mat, if it makes it easier to keep your weight down. This is one of the main areas of difficulty I had in this pass, keeping my weight down. For somebody with a tight, smothering game, this is definitely something to work on.

Reach up with your other arm and hook the head. You are going to make the guy do the splits as you pull him tighter and then backstep, adjusting your knee pin accordingly so you can rotate into the backstep, and into passing the guard.

A very nice set of techniques and very similar to the way Rodrigo builds up a lesson for the day. Lindsey's Monday classes should be fun.

I missed last weekend's Straight Outta Tatame. In the event I fall short again this week, I'll just note that one nice thing about Mondays will be that I will get to roll with a lot of white belts and should be able to really hone my technique. I felt a little awkward Monday night and hence retreated to half guard during the guard specific instead of exploring moth guard or Rap Star. Like I said before, at least through the March tournament, I'm just not going to beat myself up over resorting to the half guard so much. That is the guard that will make or break things for me in March, so tightening it up in the 4-5 weeks before taking it "live" is hardly something to be ashamed about.

I did hear last week that the tournament will be in Bonney Lake, which likely means a day-in weigh-in for most of us who don't live way out. Not being able to eat on Friday, and then having to drive to Bonney Lake Saturday morning on an empty stomach does not thrill me in the slightest. It makes it all the more important to keep my weight down at or below 160 so that the dive to 154 during Week Eight will be as painless as possible.