Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday Training

Nice class tonight. We worked on combination moves for the most part. We started with the hook sweep from sitting/butterfly guard to mount, and then working the Ezekiel choke from mount.

One nice detail about the Ezekiel was how Rodrigo had us move lower and then up the body to help get your upper arm/shoulder under the guy's chin. I've always focused on keeping the guy's head straight with the Ezekiel, but it is much more important to get the chin up. The shoulder of justice does that.

The next combination move was hook sweep from sitting guard/butterfly guard to mount and then going for a basic collar choke. When the guy upas and turns to avoid the choking pressure, you switch to S-mount.

From S-mount we did the basic rear choke, the bow and arrow choke and the armlock.

All good stuff, and moves that I can definitely incorporate into my game.

Tatame wasn't too bad. We did some specific guard/guard pass work to start and I was doing a pretty good job of attacking with 101 and standing guard passes in general. I was doing a lot of Royler style attacks with my outside leg sprawled wide as I circled toward the head. That, plus going the opposite direction, should help me improve my guard passing over the next few weeks and months.

I also want to review some of the guard passes that Marcelo Garcia showed us in his seminar. There was a moment when I was in a situation that was identical to one in one of those passes, but I couldn't remember the details. I'll have to be sure to check on that tonight or tomorrow.

156.4 after class. A very, very good number this early in the week.

Taking the Back from North South

Here, from the mighty mighty Aesopian, is a great variation on taking the back from north/south. I like it much better than the traditional version that Aesopian refers to in here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pan Ams 2009 Black Belt Results

Courtesy of Gracie Magazine.

Pam Ams 2009 Black Belt Results

Monday Training

It's been almost a month, but ATM (Always Train Mondays) is back on track.

We'll see how far we make it down the rails. The last Monday training I did was on March 2nd, at the beginning of the week leading into the Revolution tournament. As I've said before, training on Monday really helps get your training week off to a good start. I suspect that when I train Mondays, I tend to make it to at least three classes that week. I've done a good job of training Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday when I've had to. But getting Monday under your belt seems to get the weekend cobwebs out of your game and make the training during the rest of the week that much more effective.

Tonight, Lindsey had us working on pulling guard and then working the omoplata sweep from there, switching grips on the sleeve and trapping the arm with the underhooked leg. I found the sweep to be most effective when using my legs more like a flower sweep, opening wide and swinging my hips out and away from the guy so that it made him more likely to roll than just collapse on me. Hooking the legs together like an omoplata, I don't think, gives you enough momentum to really bring the guy over - especially if he is resisting well or is a bigger opponent. It's a matter of preference, and I might feel differently if I had longer legs. But I like the physics of what's working for me right now.

In terms of what's not working, I need to tighten up my half guard, which I feel is getting a little sloppy with familiarity. I need, for example, to have a better response to getting flattened out - even if I remain hard to pass. I think the butterfly hook is what I need to focus on here. I also completely forgot to work the near arm drag from high half guard - a terrible omission that only underscores why it is critical to train on Mondays (in other words, I've got the rest of the week to make up for what I didn't do today!).

I also need to work the S-mount transition more aggressively. Rodrigo showed us that great solo drill and we've worked on armlocks from the S-mounts in class. I need to open up my options from mount, and the S-mount and S-mount armlock and choke attack (the "armlock and a dangerous choke", as Saulo puts it. A man cannot live on Ezekiel chokes alone.

Another thing out of the half guard space that is getting a little sloppy is my half guard passing. I've got a great half guard switch game between the Watchdog pass and the Royler pass, but I've got to attack with it. I've been too one-dimensional with the Watchdog pass, and not doing enough to keep my weight centered so I can do the necessary moves to pass the half guard.

I like the Watchdog pass and think it works. But the easiest way to pass the guard - at least the half guard - is by being able to go both directions. Like a good crossover dribble in basketball, it's almost impossible to stop when the attack is timed impeccably.

A little fat after training: 160.6. I probably had a pint or two more than I would have ordinarily over the weekend (blame the NCAA tournament) and in addition to the extra pair of cupcakes devoured on Friday, I didn't do anything physical Saturday or Sunday. So to come in around 160 isn't so bad. Hopefully, next Monday will be closer to 155.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ground Guard Passing Gold

No other way to describe it. Many thanks to Dutch Assassin BJJ, where I first discovered these videos of the Sao Paulo/Tozi/Wilson Reis passes.

First, the standard version.

Here is another version, in which you throw your weight back instead of forward.

And here is still yet another approach. Pure smash.

And lastly, here's a nifty move to counter the foot-in-the-hip attempt to gain control. Shift your hips and make it an opportunity to pass to the half guard.

I've pledged to make standing to pass the guard a larger part of what I do from the top. But at the end of the day, all I want to do is pass the damn guard consistently and effectively, and whatever ends up working for me is what I'll stick with. That was the way I discovered my half guard game (or, maybe, the way my half guard game discovered me), so I'm going to take the same approach when it comes to passing the guard.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Training

Managed to make it for the early class on Friday. The instruction part had us doing double underhook guard passes where you get the get to back roll. Some of the key details were:

1. Dive with both hands between the legs and up around the thighs. Make sure to keep low, so that your grip is tight.
2. With your rolling hand, reach under and grab the top of the pants. With your attacking arm (usually your right), make sure you grab high up on the collar by the neck. It should almost be a forearm choke/throat pressure.
3. Keep the knee on your rolling hand side up. This will help you get the leverage to roll the guy over.
4. As you get the roll, move to the back by clamping your attacking arm over the waist/hip, sliding your rolling side leg (usually left) wide in a circle backwards, and sliding the other leg, knee-first, into the guy's side to check his hip from the other direction.

We spent a lot of time on this move, enough to help it really sink in. We ended the instructional with a counter to half guard for the guy on the bottom getting his guard passed. The trick with the counter is to circle your inside arm back to block the guy from moving to your back. Extend your inside leg back also and sit on your outside leg. Assuming that he is still moving forward to take your back, he should fall right into your half guard (or guard), with you having a nice deep underhook and pretty good position to attack the outside and inside "corners."

Tatame wasn't bad. I rolled four times straight for a good 20-25 minutes of sparring. I got caught in a guillotine, but didn't panic and managed to get out of it with good technique (protect the neck, reach over the shoulder with the free arm, shoulder of justice plus pike up plus look up, switch your hips and back out toward crossbody ...) and managed to get a bow and arrow choke for the first time in months. I especially like how I fed the collar during the bow and arrow choke, a detail that Rodrigo has been emphasizing.

A nice week. I managed to get in four sessions after all and even though I'm likely to fall short of my planned minimum for March (12 sessions) by one, if you add back in the five classes I missed when I was out sick, then I'd've made my 16 session monthly goal, no problem.

I'm trying to hone in on a few things to focus on this next week. I'm definitely at a place where it makes a lot more sense to emphasize skill development over conditioning - especially given how much conditioning is already built into Rodrigo's classes. I was 153.4 on the scale after Friday's training - an incredible number and one that has me thinking about trying to make featherweight (149) for the Subleague event in early May. Subleague weigh-ins are day of event, so it will have to be a very real, hydrated, fed 149. But I increasingly think that, if I can do it, that's what I should do.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Training

No gi tonight. Cindy was on the mat doing some drills with Angela, which surprised me a little. She did warmups with us for a little bit also, but she's obviously giving herself time to recover from the knee surgery.

Rodrigo had us working on some techniques, the kimura from the closed guard and the switch off the kimura in case the guy postures out of the shoulder lock. The switch and take the back move is definitely something to add to King Crimson, which is the one closed guard attack/sweep series that I feel takes best advantage of my strengths and hides my weaknesses.

One great detail that Rodrigo showed was that (surprise, surprise) you want to create an angle on the arm you are going to kimura. If you want to attack to your right, locking the guy's left arm and shoulder, then you want to escape your hips away from that side (i.e. to your left). Not only does this make it easier to keep the wrist, but also it makes it easier to sit up and get that crucial chest-to-upper arm connect before falling back into the kimura from the closed guard.

The switch to the back is one I remember Rodrigo showing us before. It's a really great move if the guy postures against the kimura attack.

Some good tatame tonight. Nothing that really stood out, though it was good to talk with Nick about "the fade" that Saulo talks about as a way of escaping the basic side control pin. The Fade is such a nice tool for so many situations, including countering the Royler pass of the half guard. I need to practice it more often.

Actually, one thing that was really working for me was the handcuff setup for the passing the closed guard. I probably need to ban it from gi training (except maybe at tournaments), but I'm really appreciating it as a way of dealing with no gi closed guards. I had a nice instance where I had one wrist cuffed, lost it, and switched to the opposite wrist.

I think the actual pass might be the Wilson Reis/Sao Paulo/Tozi variation where you lean back rather than forward. When trying the basic Reis pass with the handcuff, I felt like I was dangerously off balance. When I leaned back and then fought the leg, I had better success.

It's just a matter of practice. But, again, I think I've found something that will really work for me when it comes to no gi guard passing on the ground.

155.8 on the scale after training. My cardio is not where I'd like it to be, but as I think about it, my cardio really hasn't been top notch for awhile. Maybe three or four weeks into my last 8 Weeks Out I might have felt like I had a motor running, but I still see my cardio high water mark being a year ago, right before my shoulder injury, when I was taking advantage of the early class pretty regularly. I don't want to make excuses, but by the time we started training tonight, I was entering my 13th hour of wakefulness. Not the most opportune moment for demanding maximum physical output. Veritible high noon on the longest day of the year.

But I'm getting better. I think the math works out that recovery to 100% takes half the time that you are off the mat. So if you miss two weeks as I did, it should only take a week to get back to the pre-break cardio levels. It might just be a mathematical conceit, but it sounds reasonable enough.

I've backed off the off the mat conditioning, aside from the MEP, for now. I'm taking to heart Marcelo Garcia's point that I blogged about at "On Being Better," that the way to get better at jiu jitsu is to train more jiu jitsu. That's not to say that I'm abandoning the off the mat conditioning for good. But I do want to hold off until I feel like I'm already giving and sustaining maximum effort in training. That will be the time to really augment my on the mat training with some off the mat work.

I plan on doing the 3T/LSD9 workout this Saturday, though. That's a perfectly fine part of the program to maintain.

I'm short almost two hours of sleep each weeknight. It's not a huge amount, but I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to see how I might get that hour, hour and a half, back. Ideally, I'd like to be able to get up even earlier and still clock in nine hours of sleep each day, especially if I bring back the off the mat conditioning full force. We'll see.

Last note: a shout-out and go get 'em to one of our blue belts, Nate, who is competing at the Pan Ams this week, and Athena, a white belt who trains mostly at Ballard. I'm sure it is going to be a great experience for both of them and I'm looking forward to hearing some stories.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Training

For the beginner class, we worked on a lot of the same material from Tuesday's training: mount to S-mount transition, armlock from S-mount, and the "jump" triangle from the closed guard.

I worked with Dominic, a blue belt I hadn't worked with before. He was a good new trading partner. One thing I had wanted to work on tonight was that sort of momentary "open guard" set up before launching into the triangle: collar and sleeve, pushing off the hip with the sleeve side or inside leg and, as you roll onto your sleeve side (inside hip), cocking your off or far leg back.

I don't know why I never recognized this movement for what it was. It is essentially what frees your hip to make a real, rolling, full leg attack on the guy's neck. I've still got to drill it - and even then I don't anticipate ever becoming a triangle machine. But having a halfway decent triangle is a must - and starting to really train that collar/sleeve/hip open guard position will go a long way in that direction, as well as a few others, I'm sure.

Tatame okay. About a C. I struggled to pass the guard during the specific training (then again I went up against Casey twice, Dominic and Jason/Garcia), but at least in the beginning I was doing some level changing. I think fatigue played a huge part, especially late when the sparring part of training was winding down. My cardio is still not back up to speed after missing two weeks; hopefully just another week will take care of that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday Training

Week One on the mat started tonight, Rodrigo's gi class. We worked on triangles from the guard, first the triangle attack when the guy reaches back with one arm to try and pry your closed guard open, second the triangle attack from spider or open guard (the entry out of closed guard is the elbow escape to shin block to moth guard).

One interesting wrinkle is that Rodrigo had us focus on attacking with a relatively wide, "bad triangle" first, then tightening and adjusting it into a good triangle. There were two methods, but the one that stuck with me was just grabbing the shin and using the off leg to plant and pivot into a better attacking angle.

Other than that, there were a couple of other emphasis points. The biggest ones for me were getting my hips up high off the mat when attacking with the legs and attacking as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Point two was especially important with the spider/open guard triangle attack, where Rodrigo emphasized attacking with the triangle as soon as the guy stands, not after he's already set, regripping your legs and beginning his own attack.

Rodrigo also had us finish with the armlock from S-mount, including the transition from mount to S-mount. This is a move I really need to master, insofar as mount is increasingly becoming my dominant top position (for better or worse). As much as I'm working the Ezekiel from mount, I need to make the armlock from S-mount part of the training rotation.

Tatame was fair - not bad for being off the mat for two weeks (six classes approx.), but nothing great either. I was terrible at passing the guard, but I did stand frequently when trying to attack, even resorting to the old PTMU against Clint. It didn't work. But at least I was working on what I need to be working on and not wasting training time. I also tried the half guard switch pass twice and it worked both instances.

From a certain perspective, considering the past two weeks, I'm almost tempted to give today's session a B-. With my cardio back over the next couple of days, I might be able to turn this into a decent six week run to the Subleague event after all.

One scheduling note, as they say: Thursday nights will now be all no gi. So between the early class on Wednesday and the Thursday class, there are two no gi classes each week - not a bad thing given the Subleague six weeks away.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Freestyle Takedowns

Some great stuff from Rudy Ruiz of UWM Wrestling and Wisconsin Combat Sports.

Here's a knee pick off the under/over hook pummel. The trick is to get the guy to step forward. I actually think Lindsey showed me something like this that he liked to use from the clinch.

And here's an old-fashioned double leg. I need to remember that the first step is the penetration step, the second step is the turn-the-corner, power-up step.

Grapplers Quest Gi Results

Courtesy of Gracie Magazine.
Grapplers Quest Gi Results Pro Division

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Day One: 6 Weeks Out

The first day of the camp for the Subleague event in early May was a light one: muscle endurance program (MEP) using tempo and explosive pushups from Joel over at 8Weeks Out. I had tried to do this program last fall, but my shoulder was still too weak from my labrium injury. So far, with the first routine done this afternoon, so good.

I'm doing Berardi/Beaster on Tuesdays and Man Makers on Thursdays, LSD9 on Saturday. The MEP is Sunday and Wednesday, with the final two weeks of the program having a Monday session, as well.

I'll be curious to see how I handle this camp compared to the last one. I definitely felt like I was breaking down after week six of the previous eight week camp. I was doing too much calorie restriction and wasn't getting the hours of sleep I should have. Times were pretty stressful, too, off the mat. And I can't help but think that contributed to the general malaise of late February.

But with spring in the air and fortune having at least reversion to the mean on its side, I'm thinking I can have a good run through the middle of the year.

I'm trying to fix the conditioning to the type of event Subleague will be (no gi, submission only, 4 minute matches). A combination of explosiveness (power and power endurance) and strategy are what will be needed to prevail. I have a four minute jiu jitsu Tabata that I may add to Saturdays before the LSD9 to get a feel of what that four minutes might feel like. With regard to strategy, I have my half guard for the bottom, and will spend the next six month focusing on taking the back.

As much as I want to improve my ability to take the back from half guard, there are a few other positions I want to master, as well. I'm liking, for example, the Rickson move that Saulo shows in his book (103-105) as "Closed Guard Overwrap" and "Overwrap to Back". I think both "rooms" go well with the Rap Star and half guard I've been working on.

I'm slowly working this cold off. Monday will probably be my first day back in two weeks. I've missed about 5 classes, but there's a pretty good chance that I can make up that time - and then some - in April during my 6 Weeks Out. One goal for 2009 is to average 15 classes a month - including seminars and competition/tournaments - which is 180 classes a year. So far I've got 14 for January, 13 for February and, hopefully, at least 11 for March. A big April (17-18) will go a long way toward my number.

I also want to do a better job of focusing on using both the move of the day and whatever I am working on for competition. In the same way that Berardi talks about meals as "feeding opportunities", I need to make sure I look at every sparring opportunity as a "continuing education opportunity." At the risk of sounding extreme about it, if I'm not working on something, I'm working toward nothing.

Grapplers Quest No Gi Pro Division Results

Grapplers Quest No-Gi Pro Division

Courtesy of Caleb of The FightWorks Podcast

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I've been suffering through a cold for about a week now. I felt it coming on Thursday morning, which is why I didn't train Thursday. And by Friday it was full on.

I'm still not out of Infirmity Alley. I've gone through boxes of tissues and enough Sudafed to put me on the Washington State meth-alert list. I've got a humidifier pumping apple cider vinegared water into the home office where I spent an ungodly amount of my time. I'm doing the Airborne capsules, the echinacea with green tea, extra cloves of raw garlic in my salads, lots of water, Gatorade, better than average sleep ... But I've not been able to shake it.

Fortunately, last night was the first night in a week that I've been able to sleep without either Sudafed or Afrin, which is a definite positive. I'm hoping to be better in time to get on the mat at least once this week, but I'll settle for being able to at least enjoy the weekend. I was really looking forward to getting back into training after the Revolution event. Nevertheless, as long as I can be on the mat by Monday night, I'll be able to start my six-week training camp in time for the Subleague event on May 2nd.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

And About that Carlos Santana ...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Training

"Off week" for me following the tournament will likely amount to a little more junk food than I should treat myself to and just two training days this week, Tuesday and Thursday. Next week will be a pre-week of stepped up training and some LSD cardio in preparation for a six-week training camp leading into the Subleague event in early May.

Tuesday night we focused on open guard - specifically spider guard - passing and opening the collar to take the back. There was a hell of a lot of spider guard on display at the most recent Revolution, and I can't help but wonder if part of Rodrigo's inspiration for this week's lesson were some of the epic battles between spider guards and Those Who Would Pass Them.

The passing technique here was a move similar to what I called the "Uptown." From the spider guard, you want to wait and maintain your standing base until one of the spider legs is extended. From there, with the opposite side leg, you want to step across and plant your foot on the mat right by the hip of the extended leg. Second, you want to step/swing around with your other foot so that you are perpendicular to the guy's body. The third move is to use your stomach to press into the legs, smashing them with your body and legs as you lower yourself, forcing the legs together and flat over to the far side.

This was the main pass. From here, the second half of the move was to take the back and, importantly, focusing on getting a grip on the collar to open it up for the choke. The idea was that when you pass the spider guard and begin to drop down, the guy might turn to his back or even try to roll. The trick is to spot the collar BEFORE you start to take the back. It's very easy to grab the collar as you are passing the guard, and then pass it to the other hand as you roll. It's much harder to try and grab it after you've already started to roll.

To grab the collar you want to use your southmost grip to grab the near collar as you collapse down, getting chest to back, after you pass. Make sure you are under the arm as you roll (this should be easy/obvious, but keep it in mind). As you roll, reach over the shoulder and around the neck with your other hand and take the collar as you pass it over.

I had to leave before the open mat got started. I had some pretty decent tatame with Andrew (twice!) and Rohelio (sp?). I'm trying to focus on basic closed guard armlock/cross choke/scissor sweep stuff whenever I'm rolling with white belts to try and bring that part of my guard game up. And of course, white belts are helping me work on my weak side half guard, too.

It's been a rough week off the mat already. I'm looking forward to training Thursday night and for the weekend, where it will be nice to have no obligations. This "Great Recession" has been hitting us pretty hard ever since the end of 2007 and it is very little consolation to have anticipated much of this mess years ago. I'm annoyed enough at myself for not shorting the f#ck out of this market when I had a chance. It's all the more frustrating to find myself on the rump end of things as the recession moves from the financial to the economic.

That's all that. It will be fun to get in a little no gi Thursday night. I've always thought of no gi as a little like jiu jitsu "dessert" and it's high time I treated myself to a little cake and ice cream.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sunday, March 08, 2009

On Being Better

Thinking a little about the next tournament, the Sub League event in early May, the kind of techniques I want to focus on and the kind of conditioning program I want to start, I stumbled across this interview with Marcelo Garcia.

A few interesting and relevant comments:
I'm pretty sure that if you're going to train Jiu-Jitsu, if you're going to compete in Jiu-Jitsu, then you only have to train Jiu-Jitsu. Because first you have to really really understand, and really dominate the techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It's not going to help too much if you just do half Jiu-Jitsu, and half work out. Most of the time you have to do Jiu-Jitsu. And that extra time, and that extra energy that your body has, then you can do something outside. But if you're going to do No Gi, work out with No Gi. But first, if you want to be a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter then you have to concentrate a lot on the Jiu-Jitsu training. You have to have a lot of hours of mat, of training on the mat. That's the most important. That's what makes my techniques good."

And this:
The only thing people have to do to be good in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is train in Jiu-Jitsu. Spend all of your time doing Jiu-Jitsu. One day, when you can not train more, when you can not have more classes of Jiu-Jitsu, if you still have energy then ok, you can say "let's go improve my cardio, let's go improve my muscles". That's what I mean, that's what worked for me. I think it can work for you guys.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

0-3 and the Dark Axiom

It could be easily argued that it takes a certain attitude toward one's limitations to see a tournament in which one loses three matches - one by 9-2 and the other two by submission - as a qualified good day on the mat.

But all things considered, I'm really very okay with my first purple belt outing. There was no point in any of my fights when I felt overwhelmed and bewildered the way I do when sparring with the Rodrigos, the Cindys, the Jesses, Joels, Andrews and Caseys of my own academy. I was outperformed to be sure. But it wasn't what I think I actually feared: the sensation of being a Little Leaguer trying to keep up with Big League talent - which is often how I feel when rolling with the best of my own school.

And the Dark Axiom again proved true: there is nothing but danger for me when I'm in someone's guard. If my jiu jitsu were a seafarer's Olde Worlde Map, its oceans would be labed "Open Guard" and "Closed Guard" and its furthest reaches symbolized by sea monsters and dragons. There is a not-entirely-crazy argument that if I had any confidence in my ability to stand and pass the guard, I would have won my second match and taken third place.

That, by the way, is not meant to take anything from the excellent armlock my opponent caught me with - it felt very much like Sauleh's lightning quick armlock back at the GB Seattle Invitational. But as the kids say, I'm just sayin'. Had the time consumed by my standing and him working specifically for a sweep surpassed 48 seconds, I think I might have won 2-0 with the sweep.

As an aside, I think one secret to standing to pass the guard is to go back and forth between standing to pass and passing on the ground. I saw Sauleh in particular do this, changing levels to try and take advantage of different situations. Like my plan to bring my right hip half guard up to the level of my left hip half guard, being able to attack "high" and "low" when passing the guard can only be a benefit.

Beyond my time on the mat, it really was an incredible day - maybe one of the best times I've had at a tournament in a way. The drive seemed to take about 10 minutes (and the idea to switch back to Mars Volta from Sepultura was inspired ...). I got to stretch and hang out with Clint, Angela, Stephen and a couple of other folks to help settle in. I got to catch up with Griff after missing him at the Feitosa seminar. I got to warm up with Stephen and it was especially fun was rolling with Sauleh for some warm up. I mean, really: it was the first time I ever rolled with Sauleh when it wasn't for points. How bizarre is that? It was very nice to get to warm up with him and not having to be "competing" with him for a change (and those of you giggling at my use of the word "competing" when it comes to my matches with Sauleh are forgiven).

Rodrigo also had a ton of positive things to say. I won't get into it all obviously. But it was the kind of thing that makes you all the more dedicated to a teacher and a school. People like to talk a lot of poop, as my old college buddy Dave Hamilton used to say, about loyalty and jiu jitsu. And everyone is entitled to their own opinions on the matter. But when I think about the first time I saw jiu jitsu in action back in the mid-1990s and think about the jiu jitsu I am learning nearly 15 years later, I couldn't be more grateful for being a part of Gracie Barra Seattle for the past three and a half years.

I told myself that if I followed my gameplan then, win or lose, I'll have something to build on. I pulled half guard in all three of my matches after a little work on the feet. None of them were perfect, but doing so gave me an instant "familiarity" edge that I know helped me compete. I also managed to hit my tackle sweep, Eddie Bravo's Old School sweep, on both the eventual second and third place finishers. I couldn't be happier about that. I train that sweep every single time I'm on the mat and it was nothing less than glorious for me to get those sweeps on the first try in two of the three matches.

Now, 0-3 means that there is plenty to work on, to be sure. But again, I'll go back to the Dark Axiom. I know exactly what to work on for the next several weeks between now and the next Revolution event in July: guard passing and my left hip half guard. Those two things need to be the alpha and omega of everything I do in sparring from now until July. With every white belt I roll with, I need to get on my left hip and learn Old School and the Twist Back from that angle - while making sure that my favored side gets better and better.

What can I say about passing the guard that I haven't said a thousand times before? One thing about today though it showed that the Dark Axiom really is the difference maker. I need to remember that what makes passing the guard possible is attacking the guard. I can see it clearly in other people's matches. The more the guard player fears that his or her guard is about to be opened or opened and passed, the less he or she will focus on submissions and sweeps and the more he or she will focus on defending his guard.

That is the circumstance I need to create, with coherent attacks, level changes, and better and better balance.

All in all, a day that I feel I can build from. Even in defeat against the purple belt LWs - and defeat it was - I felt like I belonged.

Friday, March 06, 2009


And is my new custom, the weigh-in photo of who I think will win the main event at UFC 96 a few sweet hours after The Revolution.

Once again, I arrive way under the 154.9 limit. Things were starting to get a little annoying on the hungry/thirsty side, so I was glad to get on the road shortly after 5 p.m. for the drive down to Kent for the pre weigh-ins.

I've started rehydrating with some Gatorade, and will eat in about half an hour or so. No reason to rush.

I'm split between watching some old Pride fights, a little NBA, a little soccer or Batman Begins to relax for the evening. Batman Begins is very inspirational for me, but it might be a little heavy. I remember trying to watch 300 before a tournament and it just made me all the more anxious.

So Pride now and English League Soccer from 8-10 are probably what I'll settle into - that's assuming I can tear myself away from the boxing on ESPN ...

The task for tomorrow is straight-forward. I have my takedowns. I have my game from the bottom. And I have my finish from the top. As long as I stick to the gameplan, then I'll have something valuable about the experience. If I don't stick to the gameplan, then win or lose, I'm not likely to learn what I need to learn in order to improve as quickly as I want to improve.

That's all for now. An aggressive but effective weight-cut goes into the history books a success. Take 'em where you find 'em.

Weight Cut Update

Four hours to go ... about 152-3 or so on my unofficial, needle scale, maybe even a little less. Looking good.

Deep Thought During Friday Weight Cut

Now even the glass cleaner smells like food.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Thursday Training

Last training before the tournament tonight. We worked on two basic triangle set-ups: one from half spider guard by way of moth guard and a traditional collar/sleeve attack. The half spider setup had you extend the spider legged arm and pull the other arm into the center in your lap or between your legs. As you do this, shoot the spider leg inside his arm, a sort of slide-by on the arm, and use it to attack the neck for the hook of the triangle choke.

We also worked on some attacks from mount: a take-the-back by way of S-mount and an Ezekiel choke.

One detail I liked with the take-the-back move is that you can grab inside on the biceps as well as the collar with your outside grip as you come around. I found that it gave me a little more control over the guy's body than grabbing the collar, which was still decent control. The key is keeping chest to back connection, not allowing the space that will make you have to pull with your arms instead of just holding him in place and having him controlled by your weight and body movement.

The details with the Ezekiel choke were about controlling the head. Rodrigo showed us how to use your biceps to attack the neck, using your shoulder to get under the chin and using your head to keep his head in place. The guy's head should be almost immobilized.

By pressing against the side of the neck with your free hand, you can create a very effective choke. Of course, you can always slide your hand around in a blade and get the traditional Ezekiel choke. What is most important is keeping everything tight (especially the head) and staying with the choke even if you get rolled back into guard.

After training, Rodrigo showed us an Ezekiel variation on the rear choke. In this one, you've got the harness but are having a hard time getting the choking arm around the neck. Reach as deep as you can with the crossbody arm. You want to be able to touch the opposite shoulder near the neck - lean in the direction of the arm if it helps to get more length. Then with your crossbody grip grab the cuff of your other arm and do an Ezekiel against the back of the neck. Fade to get your body behind the choke (i.e., if your slicing hand is your right, then fade to your left).

There's a lot of leverage in that choke. Rodrigo said it was the one that was used to finish Telles in a recent fight (I didn't recognize the name of the guy who did it).

Tomorrow is hungry thirsty day. I couldn't have asked for a better number after training: 156.4, only a pound and a half over with 24 hours to go. I need to get a haircut, and should probably get the oil changed before the drive to Bonney Lake also. And that will likely be the limit of my physical activity for the day. Martell says that the Friday before weigh-ins should be a no glycogen burning day.

That also means I'm going to be doing a lot of sweating it out while I'm working. In that, it sure doesn't hurt to work from home. I'll layer up and swap out when things get a little too productive. Martell recommends a sauna. This should do given where I finished tonight.

I don't like how fatigued I've felt over the past three weeks or so, more or less coinciding with the final three weeks of my 8-week training camp. And the fact that I don't feel more energetic in these final two weeks having stopped doing two-a-day workouts is all the more alarming.

A part of this is cutting down on the calories, I'm sure. And maybe even not getting the water intake up higher earlier. Apparently, future Revolution tournaments are going to move to an IBJJF standard where we weigh-in right before the match, which if nothing else will end this weight-cutting madness of mine once and for all. And it will not be missed.

Tatame was fair. Nothing spectacular except being able to do some decent wrestling - though late in the training I was able to get that Saulo style baseball choke from side control to work a time or two. That and the Ezekiel are going to be keepers, for sure.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wednesday Training

Tonight we did a lot of stand-up, given the tournament this Saturday. The warm-up, after the regular calisthenics, was back and forth ippon seionage (one-arm shoulder throw) which is one of Rodrigo's favorite throws. I've never tried it (of course, with my judo paranoia), but I'm training it so much - and it has so few obvious downsides for me physically - that one of these days I'm going to have to put it on the mat.

The other warm-up takedown was something that I really, really need to make a fundamental part of my stand-up game: pulling half-guard.

Rodrigo put the takedown in context of being locked up in that typical, sleeve 'n' collar tie-up with dual, defensive postures. While the uchi mata is a great option (my introduction to Sauleh back when he was a white belt and I was a new blue belt was tumbling to the ground courtesy of a Sauleh uchi mata), another option is to pull half guard and go immediately for the sweep.

The detail was in working your grip down the length of the guy's gi jacket. You want to work it down - don't let go and try to grab it again at the bottom. When you get to the bottom of the gi lapel and have a good grip of cloth, divert with a pull on the sleeve (at the elbow) which should get the guy to pull back. Then shoot in on the inside/near leg and pull half guard.

Make sure you pull a good half guard, nice and deep, with your chest connected to the guy's leg. Pass the gi lapel between his legs to our outside hand and pull tight.

If he steps forward, then your best bet will probably be a twist sweep, taking him backwards. If he steps backward, then the better option is a tackle sweep. Here, make sure that you keep the leg trapped between your legs as you swing your hips out and undermine his base. In both instances, be sure to follow-through, leading with your shoulder and your weight, into side control rather than half-guard.

Tatame tonight was definitely a defensive tale. I cut the fuel way down today, probably to make up for the pizza I had for dinner (3 pm) on Tuesday. I had some pork, cheese and salad for breakfast and fish with leeks for lunch. My snack was raisins and almonds and my water intake was good but not great.

The consequences were feeling far more fatigued early in the training than I would have liked. It was annoying given all the time I spent on conditioning in January and February. Future adjustments to my conditioning routine notwithstanding, I feel like my output should have been much better tonight.

But the fuel issue is likely part of the problem. I just don't think I took in enough calories to power a regular training session. It's tricky. I like training on an empty stomach first of all. And I'm paranoid about my weight. So it's hard to figure out just what to eat and when to eat it.

Fortunately, my weight is pretty much on track. Using Martell's strategy from his book, Greco-Roman Wrestling, I should be no more than 159.5 hydrated today. I hit the scale at 158.2 after training, giving me more than a pound of hydration allowance (that said, I had finished about 32 ounces of my protein/Gatorade drink so maybe I had officially rehydrated by the time I put that 158.2 on the scale).

Tomorrow I need to hit 158.8 (2.5% over), which is what I weighed in at on Monday. And then I've got a few games planned for Friday to help sweat out the final pounds. Martell warns against "burn(ing) glycogen" on the day of weigh-ins (with competition the following day and using a sauna instead. Hopefully, layers of sweatclothes all day and a heated drive to Kent will suffice.

Martell also recommends a small meal three hours before competing, which would be at about 7-7:30 am on Saturday for me. I think I'm going to caravan with everyone else (for the first time), which will have us leaving from the academy at 8 am, so a 7 am meal makes sense from that perspective, as well. I'm thinking a little chicken, a little rice, and some water for breakfast, with some raisins, almonds and the Drink for the ride south.

Andre Galvao on Movement, Agility and Jiu Jitsu

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Guard Passing Secrets

Same as they ever were.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Monday Training

Made it to Lindsey's class tonight. We started off with some light sparring to warm up, which was a very nice change of pace. I rolled with a white belt whose name I can't recall and got to play a lot of open guard. One mistake was that I should have taken the opportunity to work on my left hip half guard more. But it was a nice way to start training.

We followed that up with some stretching while Lindsey talked a little about competition and great tournaments past. I enjoyed hearing it. It was a perfect way to start the week leading up to the tournament. He talked about all the guys some of us have seen compete since they were blue belts. He even remembered that epic match Chris Cerna had as a purple belt, when he beat that huge guy in overtime with a sweep after pulling guard.

The instructional was a review of the guillotines from the seminar. Looking back on my side control blog notes, I see that there are some interesting variations on the arm-in guillotine that I've posted about before and am going to try and implement after the Revolution in preparation for the Subleague event in early May.

After that we did some round robin sparring. I got in about three or four sessions. It was exactly what I needed to start off this final week. Mostly, I focused on standing out of the closed guard - which is sort of the Alpha and Omega of my jiu jitsu life. If I have a minimum goal at the event this Saturday, then it is probably to attack and pass the guard. I've long had a strange, irrational fear that standing = falling when it comes to jiu jitsu. And while trying to stand out of Lindsey's guard didn't end up as well as I'd liked when we were sparring (he ended up in mount), with every one else I rolled with standing out of the guard gave me much, much more to work with.

Taking Tuesday night off and will be back at the academy on Wednesday and Thursday to finish off the pre-compete prep. Weight was good: 158.8 and I'd like to be well under that number come Thursday night. Friday will be the hungry/thirsty day and that night I'll drive down to Kent (wrapped up like a mummy!) to weigh-in.