Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday Training

A smallish class tonight. And rather than additional instruction, Rodrigo devoted the entire class to specific work.

It is really one of my favorite types of classes to have every now and then. I worked with Travis as we did specifics for side control, rear mount, mount and closed guard. I think we did three minutes rounds, with each person getting to work from both positions twice.

We followed that up with some long sparring sessions, more than 7 minutes in most cases with two or three minutes rest in between. I can't remember all of my sparring, but I know I got in at least four separate rolls before calling it a night at quarter of seven.

I was checking my HR after each session, routinely clocking in between 120-140 bpm which is right in the aerobic zone I should be focused on in my LSD work. After each session I laid flat on my back which I read is the best way to lower your heart rate in between conditioning events. One of the things I've learned from Joel Jamieson over at 8 Weeks Out is how important a simple measure like your HR can both help you see exactly where your conditioning is and help you know adjust your training intensity to achieve conditioning improvements.

Technically speaking, I continued working the toe grab sweep from low half with good effect. The more I work out of the high half, the more opportunity and space I seem to have to shoot in for the underhook. My high half remains nothing to write home about. But already I'm starting to see it as enough of a distraction that it is giving me opportunities to transition to the low half and even the deep half.

The pass by crossover from low half is also something that is working well. I want to try it on some tougher guys. But it is a sweep I don't remember seeing anyone do at the academy over the years, so there's a chance I'll be introducing something newish to the GB Seattle jiu jitsu "construct," so to speak.

My mount and side control escapes are still on the rough side. I've got my techniques down, actually, I just need more mat time to get them nice and soaked into my muscle memory. Classes like tonight are great for that.

Not sure if I'll train tomorrow or Friday - or maybe both. April's target was 18, which would require training tomorrow night. But we'll see.

I am starting to feel the benefits of the increased training frequency. Including tournaments, I've trained at least four times a week since late March, which is a great pace considering I've managed to avoid even the fleeting injury (and yes, I did just knock on my wooden desk). I'm not doing anything incredible, and I still wish my conditioning were about 50% better (my goal is to get my in-between sparring HR down to 100-120 bpm by the first week of June and between 80-100 bpm by the first week of July).

But I'm starting to get used to being on the mat, a feeling I haven't had in earnest since the spring of 2007 (the great days of training with Bryan and Steve three times a week ...). And that's only likely to lead to good things.

157.6 on the scale. In the same way I always wish I had just one more hour every day, I'd love to be consistently about five pounds lighter than I am. My Monday night weigh-in goes from 163 to 158 ... Tonight's goes under 153 ... Considered that way, putting in the extra effort to "permanently" drop 5 pounds seems more than worth it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sub League Competitors List

The competitors list for Sub League is out.

Fun facts: The division that Stephen will compete in (Advanced 150-169) has eight competitors in it. That was likely the division I would have ended up in.

Had I been able to make it down to 149, I would have shared the Advanced 149 and under division with only two others.

Makes me think a little bit. Not about not competing in the event this year, but about how much sense it might make to try and work my "walk around weight" lower by about 5 or 6 pounds over the next several months ...

I also noticed that Griff is on the list. I haven't seen Griff compete in a long, long time. I'm not sure if I'll be able to swing by and see much of the competition; we're doing team-building back at the Mothership. But it's great to hear that he'll be going for no gi hardware this Saturday.

Tuesday Training

Today we worked again on a half guard replacement from the turtle position. This was the one where you stiff arm one leg at the knee, straighten your leg on the same side (shoot it straight back) and then sit out as if you were doing a wrestler's switch, using the grip at the knee for leverage.

We also did a guard replacement after side control escape. The side control escape was the same one that Rodrigo showed us a few days ago: legs bent and together, swing into the guy for momentum then swing your legs away, plant your feet and bridge from a 45 degree angle or so ...

Rather than do the drop step move to the knees, Rodrigo had us do this guard replacement. What you did was swing your farthest away leg up and over the guy's head so that it lands on the far shoulder, with the crook of your knee on his shoulder. With your inside leg, you want to tuck it in between your body and his, hooking your foot on his side with your knee pointing out (sort of a reverse knee block, a shin hook ...).

Your grips from this position are to grab the pants at the knee on the same side that your knee is pointing out and to grab the sleeve at the elbow on the other side (the side with the slung knee).

It wasn't the easiest guard for me to get into. But there is a lot of control from this position and a ton of sweeps. One that Rodrigo showed Stephen and I that was especially nice had you do a cross grip (release the elbow and get the sleeve at the wrist on the knee side) and bow out, kicking with your shin hook and pulling with your grips. You have to go almost face down to get the sweep. But if you keep your grips and just walk your body backwards after the sweep, you're likely to get a nice top position.

Some good stuff. Tatame had two features that really stood out. One was the lapel rope counter to the knee cross pass against my half guard. I did this three or so times in one spar late in the session and managed to avoid the pass every time. I think I even got a sweep in an instance or two. The lapel rope counter is something that I saw in Saulo's book - only Saulo was showing how to avoid it. Reverse engineering that example, I think I've found a major keeper for my half guard.

I've been working on the far side with the half guard, trying to get chokes, maintain a nice frame with the high half to keep the guy's weight off of me. It's a real work in progress. But one thing that worked very well today was to pass that far arm (sort of the Aesopian kung fu move toward the outside leg) and then reach over with my inside arm and get a good grip around his back at the waist. From here, I can essentially do a sort of crossover sweep, pulling with the grip and rotating my hips. I ended up in a watchdog half guard position on top. Another major keeper.

I'm also starting to see some success with the Flat pass, and doing better about avoiding getting caught in half guard. That said, I'm trying to make sure I take opportunities to stand against the guard and work on my balance and pass "approach."

Back back on the cardio bandwagon today before training. We'll see how it works out, but I'm going to commit to getting back on the treadmill at least twice a week. I'm doing 30 and 45 minute sessions with my heart rate in the 120s - which is exactly what my resting heart rate was at the end of training today. It was foolish to abandon it last fall. Hopefully I'll stick to it this time.

158.0 on the scale after class. Much more like it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Case for Cardio, Part 2

From Grapplearts' Stephan Kesting:


As discussed in Cardio for Martial Arts, conditioning sessions can be long or slow, easy or hard. Most MMA and jiu-jitsu conditioning experts currently advocate HIIT, consisting of short bursts of high energy exercise and/or some form of circuit training. According to this school of thought, grappling matches and MMA rounds are essentially sprint events; the old school boxer's long hours of roadwork are counterproductive and only condition fighters to run long distances, not to fight.

I know I am in the minority here, but I think that doing some LSD or aerobic work is very important, at least for me.
And there is this from Kesting's classic article,"Cardio for the Martial Arts":
Cardiovascular training can be a confusing topic and there are many different and divergent views on the subject. Different reputable sources inform us that you don't need to do cardio - just spar really long rounds (for grappling), or that you should spar twice as many rounds as you are going to fight (boxing), or that you should do sprints, or do long runs, or lift weights for muscular endurance, etc. With so many 'experts', it is no wonder that the answer isn't cut and dried.

I have my own beliefs and they seem to work fairly well for me. I noticed a couple of years ago that my techniques worked best and my sparring was sharpest not when I was stronger but rather when my 'cardio' was at its peak. Because I wasn't getting winded in sparring, I was able to think and make coherent plans throughout the match. At the time I was running 3 or 4 times a week, for 20 to 50 minutes at a time, in preparation for the fire department entrance test.
Looks like Kesting is one the side of the good guys when it comes to the "conditioning for fighting" debate. It's nice to see.

Monday Training

Today we worked on specific guard work, focusing on strategies for attacking with and passing the open guard.

Lindsey focused on sleeve control from the bottom, coupled with foot in the biceps and hip. From the top, he talked about the importance of either driving the legs together and going around them, or splitting the legs and using your knee to press one of them to the mat. Described this way, passing the open guard becomes a manageable game of either/or. He also talked about stacking by bringing the legs together and driving them upwards.

It was a really nice class. Sometimes you get too much instruction, too much to keep in your head every class. Every now and then, it's nice to get a few basic concepts and then the time to play with them a little bit and get a feel for their application. A good way to start the training week.

Tatame wasn't bad. I was a little lazy with the low half game, but I did manage to avoid being crossfaced. I'm starting to redevelop a nice feel in the relationship between the tackle and twist sweeps from the low half, and am doing a fairly decent job bowing out against the knee cross pass.

One thing I need to add to that "bow" maneuver is the moth guard sweep when I rotate back after inserting my knee and stopping the pass. I'm not sure, but it seems like a natural 1-2 and if that's the case, I'll get a lot of opportunities to use it because the knee cross pass is the number one attack against my half guard right now.

Very fat on the scale after class as I feared: 163. I did Week 5A part of the MEP pushup program earlier today and was completely blasted, with 50% of the sets being broken. I do Week 5B tomorrow and Week 5C on Thursday. 6A the following Sunday and 6B that Wednesday and I'll be done. I also did a 20 rep solo jiu jitsu series (the 3T) to start working my way back to a full 3T by the time my "Road to Revolution" begins next Sunday.

I'm also bringing the LSD back into my off-the-mat conditioning. It was crazy to stop. Tuesdays and Saturdays are slated to be my roadwork days

Leo Viera and the Half Guard

Some great stuff from Budo Videos and Leo Viera. The very first pass is one that I know I will be working on over the next few weeks.

Leo Viera Half Guard Transition Series.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Interview: Raphael Lovato Jr.

Here's an interview with top jiu jitsu competitor, Rafael Lovato Jr., with some interesting thoughts on the role of competition in helping accelerate progress and learning.
Competing is the best way to get good fast and get to the next level, for the reasons that I just mentioned earlier. If you are just training for fun, you may not really look in the mirror and work hard to fix your weaknesses the same as someone who just lost at a big competition. But, if you are a good student, you train regularly, and you do your homework, you will get better, there is no way around it. I love to see the guys who don’t really compete give the young competitors a tough time, it just shows the beauty of jiu-jitsu – anyone can do it.
I think just enough competition is ideal for developing your jiu jitsu. For me, that works out to 3-4 times a year. Too much competition, in my mind, leads to a jiu jitsu that is too limited, too focused on "what works". Too little competition and you get potentially the problem that Raphael talks about, a jiu jitsu that doesn't self-examine enough. I think this point is a little less relevant at the lower belts, when you are constantly training against purple, brown and black belts who will readily expose your weaknesses. But for advanced belts, it becomes increasingly important to test your skills - not obsessively, but consistently - against both the best in your own area and the unpredictability of opponents that you've never trained with before. At least if you want to continually improve and refine your game.

That said, much credit to blue belts like Steve and Benny who have recently played no small part in helping expose some holes in my treasured half guard!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Case for Cardio

This pretty much sums up most of what I've learned from Joel Jamieson over at his website, 8 Weeks Out.

I found myself looking back over my training logs for the past several months and I'm wondering if the problems I've been having with cardio in training of late are simply due to the fact that I haven't done any serious cardio work since early last fall?

I'm sure there are a lot of factors involved. But I was a little shocked to realize how little emphasis I've been putting on pure, LSD type cardio.

I think I've been confused about how limited the anaerobic energy system is. There's a nice thread over at 8 Weeks Out that talks about this in connection with mixed martial arts. But I think a lot of the conversation is applicable to jiu jitsu, as well. As one poster notes, the anaerobic glycolytic system generates max power at the one minute mark and by the five minute mark has been cut in half.

In two out of the last four competitive matches I've been in, I've been ahead on points with a few minutes left (sometimes 45 seconds!). I'm increasingly convinced that the reason I lost those matches was because I was just too tired. Too tired to think, too tired to act, too tired to prevail.

Reminds me of that great Dan Inosanto quote: "If you are tired you’re not strong, if you are tired you’re not fast, if you’re tired you don’t have good technique, and if you’re tired you’re not even smart".

So part of my return to the drawing board that has me tightening things up with my half guard (i.e., introducing a "high half" component with chokes, sweeps and the kimura), I want to get back to twice a week LSD, treadmill cardio for the next several weeks.

And given the fact that I've been able to keep my weight under 160 without this kind of cardio, I'm curious to see what happens with some additional, pure fat burning cardio sessions added back to the mix.

Friday Training

Friday's instructional was all about escapes: escapes from side control and rear mount.

The side control escape was based on two things, one that was new and another that was a reminder. The new aspect was swinging your hips to the outside, away from the top guy's body, so that as you bumped (upa'd) you were doing it at a diagonal or 45 degree angle to his control over your upper body.

One easy way to set it up is to lift your legs up together, bent at the knees, and first swing them into the guy, using that momentum to swing your legs away from him, plant hard down on the mat, and bump into him, bridging with your upper body.

The second part was the role of either walking away or doing that dropstep move that Rodrigo used to emphasize a lot as a drill. It's the basic back2knees move, but you want to be as perpendicular to the guy's body as possible when you do this switch to make it that much easier to escape and take control. So if you have to take a step or two to get over there before doing the dropstep to knees, take them.

The other escape was from rear mount. Here, we're countering a bow and arrow type choke set-up. You want to defend the neck, of course and get rid of the top hook on your thigh.

But the escape comes by taking a big step out of the hook with the freed leg, and reaching with your free hand (the top hand not involved in choke defense) and grabbing his lapel, or gi at the shoulder or arm. Then you want to turn into him, pulling on your overhead grip as you rotate your body forward using both your head and your shoulder to drive the guy flat to his back. Ultimately you want your head to move from below his head in the choke defense to above his head and cross his body in the counter.

I've seen Rodrigo do this escape a few times and was always focused for some reason on the big step he took out of the hook escape part of the escape. Now I realize why it always looked like he was running inside a big wheel, turning in a circle from the beginning of escape all the way through to gaining top position in side control.

One drill that will help this is the alternating hipstep drill, the one where you can turn it into spinning around into sitting guard. It's a good hamstring move that would probably be a nice compliment to backstep drills: the hipstep extending forward and the backstep extending backward.

Pretty good tatame. I'm struggling with half guard passes lately, and will look to tighten that up next week as a focus. What I'm going to just call the Low Pass is working fairly well, especially with the adjustments from the Justin Garcia mini-instructional. I want to continue bringing it up to speed, but not at the expense of the Saulo and the 101, as well as the Leite passes Rodrigo showed us a little while back.

I did feel as if i redeemed myself a little from my woeful King of the Guard performance on Wednesday. I actually got the moth guard sweep to work, which is a sweep that I think I really need to rely on as part of my post-half guard game. It flows very well out of a strong half guard pass attempt, especially if you have to bow out and bring in the knee to stop a knee cross type pass.

A little heavy on the scale for the end of the week at 158.8. Probably has a lot to do with not training on Thursday. Still, as long as I'm under 160 consistently, getting down to 155 won't be a problem.

It's funny. I used to think that three days on the mat was a pretty full training schedule and that two was a reasonable minimum every now and then. Now, four days a week is starting to feel like the new normal.

*Note: I knew there was an escape that I was forgetting. The third escape that Rodrigo showed us was replacing half guard from the turtle position.

The key to this escape was to grab the leg near the knee of the side you are going to turn to. Ideally, you should design the escape so that you end up on your best half guard side, which for me is my right hip. So from turtle, I would reach down with my right hand and grab the pants at the knee.

The trick with this move is that you stiff-arm the knee instead of pulling it toward you, which will be your first instinct. You just want to keep the relationship between that leg and your body the same (maybe a little greater, but certainly no closer), so that you can spin around to the outside, putting him in a sort of sitting half guard.

As you turn, you want to bring your elbow down tight against your body. Depending on how tightly he might be holding you around your waist, you might actually be able to get a shoulder lock as you clamp down with your elbow tight against your body and turn (outer, stiff arm side, shoulder to the inside).

It's a great guard replacement move and anything that puts me back in half guard is something I'm going to appreciate.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ground Passing Platinum

Took Thursday off from training. I was feeling more than a little worn down and probably unduly traumatized at the prospect of Rodrigo's potentially broken thumb. With any luck I'll be on the mat Friday to make my four mat appearances for the week.

If my last post on the Tozi/Wilson Reis/Sao Paulo pass was "ground passing gold," then how what does that make this excellent breakdown by Justin Garcia of Jungle Gym on the same guard pass series, which he calls the Chim Chim pass? Ground passing platinum?


Works for me. Justin points out a couple of key details that I was missing in my execution of this pass.

1. How to do the "dive" portion of the set-up in three easy steps (inch, walk, sprawl).
2. What is necessary (and not necessary) in getting the underhook and keeping your shoulder pressure heavy.
3. The best way to actually open the guard using your trailing knee based on the way the guy has his ankles locked. A key point here was to keep a grip on the ankle (slide your grip down the leg to get to the ankle) and then to use your trailing knee to wedge the ankles apart. You'll either bring your trailing knee inside and push back against the locked ankles or bring your trailing knee outside and bring it forward to pop the ankles open.
4. A last point had to do with actually clearing the legs. Justin calls it the step and hook, and it was definitely something that Tozi pointed out in his instructional. With your grip on the ankle intact, you want to step over the leg with your trailing leg and then, as you come up on your other knee, swing your calf over as your rotate on your knee and pass the guard. Again, the idea is to avoid getting put in the half guard.

Anyway, incredible stuff and enough to make me convinced that I'll be making the Tozi/Wilson Reis/Sao Paulo and Chim-Chim pass part of my competition gameplan for 2009.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday Training

The main instructional part of today's training was another nice takedown move: the ankle pick.

The basic ankle pick comes with your reaching out and grabbing the same side lapel and pulling hard to get the guy to step forward with the foot on that side.

Keeping the grip on the lapel and stiff-arming that side, you go down to your opposite knee and with your opposite hand, reach across and pick the ankle.

As you stand up, using your outside leg as the main driver, bring the ankle with you and push forward with the stiff-arm.

It's an excellent takedown, and really one that I should move to the top of my game. Even if you don't get the ankle pick, your same side grip on the lapel makes it easy to transition to other attacks, including pulling half guard.

That brings me to another point. Rodrigo confirmed tonight something I have been thinking about for the past few days. I need to spend more time in high half-guard and less time fighting with the underhook. I think that's part of what's wearing me out in training so much these days. It's allowing guys to put their weight on me, making me work a lot harder than I should.

Rodrigo's recommendation was to push on the far shoulder with the underhooking arm. That alone might give me enough space to shoot for the underhook. If not, it should give me enough space to slide my knee in and reset the high half.

Which introduces yet another point. I need a sweep or two from high half. Actually, in my page notes, I have a point to work on chokes from the high half, both the basic collar choke and the loop choke if he tries to go low or duck under the grip at the neck.

The high half should also be an entry to the half butterfly and butterfly hook sweeps as well as the underhook sweeps and deep half game.

Another attack from the high half is an exaggerated two handed kimura attack. That will get the guy to open up and expose his hips some as he leans back and postures away from the kimura attack. That should open up an opportunity to attack the outside leg from the inside as well as provide a nice angle to shoot the underhook.

Last on this: guys are starting to move lower on my legs to avoid my basic half guard attacks, the better guys bear hugging and working a pass from there. I did a fairly good job of remembering which direction to push the head. But my hipscaping was poor. I didn't turn into the guy as I pushed the head back into the passing body, escaping my hips backward and using my knee to either moth guard the guy's top arm or wedge my way back into guard.

Wore the competition single jacket tonight and definitely felt more fatigued than I had the previous night. We'll see what comes of it. I did do the math and it will be cheaper to buy an official GB gi than it would be to buy an HCK and try to buy a patch kit off of ebay. I tried to bid on one today and dropped out after the bidding topped $45. When you add in the price of shipping and getting the patches sewn on to an HCK gi by a professional who'll do a good job, it just isn't as cost effective as it used to be.

One scary note: rolling with Rodrigo he tried to post and one point and hurt his thumb badly. I didn't hear it, but apparently half the people in the room heard him palm the mat which is when the injury happened. While I am glad it isn't anything worse (read: neck), I cannot describe how much I hope it's just a bad hyperextension or sprain and not a break.

All for now. 154.6 on the scale (I had predicted 154.3). My half guard is still too sloppy, but I have a gameplan for fixing it - certainly in time for the July revolution if not sooner. I'm actually a little relieved at feeling "permitted" to keep focusing on my half guard instead of trying to develop a full guard right now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday Training

Tuesday we continued working on counters to the butterfly guard hook sweep. This time, we focused mostly on the spin/walk pass, where you overhook their underhooking arm, then step out with your back leg, pressure their inside leg at the knee with your stomach/hip, and reach through and check that inside leg with your rear and as you walk around toward the back, pressuring them lower with your shoulder.

One key detail was to make sure that you stay as horizontal as possible as you move around toward the back. One of the mistakes I was making a few times was to turn on my shoulder, moving to the back sideways. This, as Rodrigo pointed out, makes me vulnerable to getting pushed backward.

We also worked a variation if the guy managed to free his arm from the underhook as you move around to the back. Here, the assumption was that he rolled away. To counter this, you reach under the guy's far arm and grab the far lapel. This will help prevent him from rolling over. You want to make sure that you pull the lapel tight across his body; your fist/grip should almost be under his armpit.

To really get a good grip and control, you go bellydown as you pull the lapel under the arm. Your head should be on his shoulder. From here, you have good control and can actually transition into an armlock by bringing up your nearest leg (mine tended to be my left) behind the back and stepping over the head with the outside leg. The armlock is there. Don't rush it.

We also did a lot of specific work. We did some rear mount/rear mount escape work and then some mount/mount escape. My scoot was working pretty well in the rear mount escape position, and I managed to work the bow and arrow choke from the top. I got a nice collar choke from mount and was able to work a little bit on my mount escapes as well, focusing on getting to my side, wedging in the bottom knee and doing a sort of Fugitive move to reverse.

A good night on the tatame. I was 156.8 after training which is an excellent Tuesday number. I also felt very good cardio-wise. I'm starting to wonder if part of my problem has been the weight of that HCK competition single jacket I've been wearing. I wore the standard single tonight and actually think the lighter jacket might have helped. We'll see when we go back to the competition single tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Butterfly Guard Tips from Stephan Kesting

The stars must be aligned! More butterfly guard help from the proprietor of Grapple Arts

Can't Get Underhooks in Butterfly Guard?
I often like starting in ANOTHER position with the underhook already secured and then moving into the butterfly guard.

One excellent position to do this from is the half butterfly guard. Start there, pushing your opponent away with your butterfly hook (or move your hips away) and end up in the butterfly guard.

All the while you've maintained your underhook while moving everything else into position. And when your legs finally get there - boom - you're ready to sweep him!

I've got Kesting's butterfly guard DVD. I really need to think about getting this one, as well.

Monday Training

Made it to the early class today. Two weeks in a row for ATM.

We worked on three different counter to the basic butterfly guard hook sweep. The basic defensive posture is to counter his belt grab with an overhooking belt grab of your own. Bring your elbow in tight and cinch your arm to get a good grip.

1. The first counter was a pass to the side. Here you went from on both knees to plant your left foot out and to the side. As you put pressure with your shoulder grip, walk around backwards to that side. Check and shove the blocking leg inside either by grabbing the pants, the foot, or leg lassoing to reach under that leg and grip the other.

The trick with this pass is to open up and begin the backing movement early. If he gets control of your free hand, then you won't be able to do the pass.

2. The second counter comes if he is able to get the sweep going. Here you want to balance on your head and overhooking arm (release the grip a little bit to get mobility). Cut your trailing knee across to the pass side, under the guy's leg, and crossface to get the guy flat as you work to the side. It's a sort of Ricco switch pass, but you don't have to go too fast.

3. The third counter was the one I practiced the least. But working with Bryan, he was able to hit it pretty frequently. Here you're being swept, and can't cut your leg over. This is often because the guy's knee (of the hooking leg) is outside rather than inside, blocking your leg. In this situation, you want to maintain your balance/pike position and kick your leg back over backwards, sort of in a backstep. As long as you keep a tight shoulder/overhook grip, you should be able to maintain control and get to the top.

It was good work to start the week, even though I felt as if I were in a bit of a fog until we were well underway. Even being on the bottom was a nice opportunity to work the hook sweep out of butterfly guard - a move I've been wanting to work on for months.

Got in a pair of rounds for tatame before I had to skeedaddle out of there. Focused on countering the cross face when on the bottom in half guard and seeing how it opens up opportunities to get to deep half (though there is the Aesopian sweep also). From the top, the Ezekiel was working, mount armlocks were not, and the cross wedge half guard pass was a winner on the first try.

Mondays are still Mondays. A day for getting the cobwebs out of the system. I'm not sure if I'll get on the mat on Friday. But I'm planning to make it at least a four day training week. Since it looks like we'll be working the hook sweep for the instructional, I ought to focus on the hook sweep from half guard and maybe even my kimura/stuff sweep, which has gotten sloppy.

159.0 on the scale, post-train. Fair enough. Felt fatigue after the drills, but was pretty okay during and after sparring. I'll have a better sense of whether the project is working a week from now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Lemonade, That Cool Refreshing Drink ..."

Adhering to the advice I gave Glen earlier today as the GB Seattle Eastside Invitational wound toward a close, I will say that I liked the way I was able to maintain base during my Tozi pass in my match against Jeff Bourgeois. And I did some pretty decent coaching in a couple of matches - at least the guys I coached thought so.

The temptation to dwell on what did not work, what isn't working, is pretty significant. But only psychopaths forget their failures. So, I'll point to some changes I'm going to make in my training over the next several weeks - at least through the balance of April, through Subleague and (hopefully) all the way to the July Revolution event.

First and foremost, I'll be training every day - "every day" meaning Monday through Friday. That's the surest route to technical improvement. I feel as if I'm in a bit of plateau position which, given my ambition, increasingly feels more like I'm losing ground even if in reality I'm maintaining it.

I've been on the mat four days a week for the past four weeks - as good a training/competing clip as I've had. Yet rather than make gains, I feel as if holes are being exposed. I wonder if that's how it is: periods of achievement and success punctuated by stretches where the discontents of that achievement become apparent, the counter to your new favorite sweep, a detail you've started to ignore or take for granted in what used to be your most effective submission ...

Two things have been exposed in my half guard game over the past two times on the mat - one exposed by Benny and the other by Jeff. One, I need to pay more attention to my paw grip side. I've been so obsessed with the underhook and half guard leg games that I've totally neglected everything but the most basic paw grip defense work. I remembered last night that I used to hit Americanas from half guard with some regularity. The way I play half guard now, those attacks are impossible.

Worse still, I'm getting crossfaced far more often than I've ever been. Benny crushed me with the crossface Thursday night - I couldn't move. That's what the sticky paw is for. I know this game. Time to get back to it.

Two, from the top, and this has been a growing problem that was really magnified in my match with Jeff. If the guy gets to his side on the bottom in half guard, then my best attack is to stand up and treat it like an open guard knee cross pass opportunity against the sitting guard - pretty much what we have been working on in class this past week. Rodrigo didn't explain it that way. But I noticed how similar the positions can be.

Standing out of the half guard changes the game and the direction of the pressure when you're trying to pass. Instead of trying to "out sideways" the guy if he gets to his side in half guard, pike up and begin putting pressure on his far shoulder as you drive your knee up and into his body. Keep your outside leg wide for base and to give your hip room to twist and get your leg free. At the same time, keep strong pressure on the guy's far shoulder, which will help flatten him and make it harder for him to move.

Again the theme of changing levels when passing the guard, the same way you would change levels to keep someone off guard for a takedown ...

The other training change will be to bring back 30 minutes of hard conditioning in the morning. I got a little disillusioned after my last conditioning program in advance of the March Revolution event didn't seem to give me the conditioning boost I'd hoped for. I'm going to make a few changes, making the conditioning more ground agility and anerobic oriented, for one. Diet has been good, but I'm not even consistently getting seven hours of sleep a night.

We'll see how this works. I feel like I just need another four weeks to help take care of the holes in my half guard game that have started to appear over the last four weeks. I'm also dedicated to adding a deep half guard component to my half guard over the next four weeks, as well as becoming more effective with the Twist Back sweep. That would give me at least three solid options from the bottom in half guard, all of which compliment each other well.

As "successful" as I was with the Tozi guard opener today, I want to make sure that I keep working the Saulo and the 101, as well. With regard to passing, I still will focus on the Leite style that Rodrigo showed us recently, with the knee cross and switch options that Saulo talks about in his book.

The bottom line is that I feel myself wanting desperately to be better. Ari Kiev, performance psychologist for Olympic athletes and billionaire traders alike, told me in an interview several months ago:
A lot of the conversations that I have with people tend to be brutally honest, because I think the task of a trading coach or a guide is to confront people, to wake them up, to throw cold water in their face to really get them to see how much they have decided to produce the results that they are producing. That the results aren't by chance, but they are because the individual has made a decision, conscious or unconscious, to produce certain results.

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

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

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

It’s a tough conversation and not everybody is willing to have it.
So let's have at it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Training

No gi night tonight. We started with some extended pummelling after a warmup, then spent the rest of the instructional period working on knee cross guard passing from standing against the sitting guard, especially when the guy has wrapped his arms around your leg.

It was very good work, focusing on fighting for the underhook from on top, sprawling your outside leg wide for balance and to give your hip room to twist and your knee room to turn outward. And on the bottom, it gave me further excuse to work deep half guard, though to much less effect than during Wednesday's training.

A couple of things leapt out about Thursday's training that are worth noting. For one, the sloppiness in my half guard has mostly to do with the fact that I've become so preoccupied with the underhook game on the trap side, that I'm not paying enough consistent attention to the sticky paw and double paw grip defenses on the open side.

A part of this had to do with the fact that so many are using knee cross passes against me, or moving lower on my legs, so I'm focusing on trap-side ways to deal with this. But the consequence has been a very bad neglect of my paw game. Thursday night I kept getting crossfaced and pinned down in side control. I know better than this. Even my move to focus on the deep half guard taking the back game will draw attention away to the paw game, and I can't let that happen.

The guys on the European half guard instructional almost go so far as to say that you can work your half guard with out the underhook, but if you get hit with the crossface, there are going to be problems. So I've got to tighten this up.

That said, if I lose the underhook, then I need to create some space and go to double paw and the hook guard. When I lose the underhook, guys are able to put their weight on me much more effectively. As soon as I lose the underhook, I need to hipscape out and counterhook, lift him to create some space and turn over more to my side (face down side) and go for the double paw.

Certainly some good things out of Thursday's training. My katagatame was working very, very well. And I missed a spinning armlock that I think I might have actually caught had we been in the gi. Side control escape - even from the really tight grip - was subpar and uncoordinated, a lot like my mount defense against Stephen on Wednesday.

Not sure if I'll train on Friday. I like the idea of keeping energy expenditures low the day before a tournament - even an intramural one like Saturday's. If I'm feeling like I've got the juice, then I'll do it. Otherwise, I'll look forward to treating Friday like Friday.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday Training

Today we worked on maintaining balance while standing against the sitting guard.

Some of the details included fist-gripping the collar to help drive the guy's outside shoulder back toward the mat. If he goes for your far leg, you can grab that reaching arm and use that to help keep him flat, also.

Good stuff, especially for me. It is my latest paralyzing paradox to have decent balance when it comes to defending takedowns, but very mediocre balance when it comes to standing against the guard. I tried to focus on my lead leg, the knee pressure into the chest, to help create opportunities. I think it was pretty worthwhile.

What was even more worthwhile, though, was Rodrigo's tip on taking the back from deep half guard. I was actually doing a halfway decent job of getting to deep half guard, and was trying to hook the leg as Saulo recommends. But Rodrigo pointed out that if you snake your hand inside between your body and the hooked leg, and use that hand to assist the hook, you have a better chance of controlling the guy and actually getting the superior position.

From a certain perspective, it was a gold mine. Taking the back from deep half guard is actually on my List of 9 to work on for the second quarter (April, May, June) in preparation for the July Revolution. I need to make deep half guard in general and taking the back from deep half guard in specific top priorities from the bottom.

Nothing too remarkable in terms of passing the guard. I got caught in a Clint triangle, but I don't remember the set-up so it might not necessarily have been a matter of me wandering around in the guard without a plan. Then again ...

Not a great night of training, but a good solid 90 minutes on the mat. No gi tomorrow and maybe a class on Friday will wrap things up before the intramural tournament in Bellevue on Saturday.

I'm trying to do for guard opening and passing what I've done for full guard attacks like Rap Star, King Crimson and Scissorhands. The trick to jiu jitsu is to reduce everything to a technical argument, a matter of physics in sequence. From there, it's just a matter of coloring by numbers.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Training

ATM back in effect today as I made it to Lindsey's class today.

After about a 20 minute warmup of mostly vertical conditioning, we worked on taking the back after sprawling to avoid a takedown.

Some of the key details involved making sure that you got your knee wedged between the guy's arm and knee so that you've got room to control (either with a grip or a hook). Another detail Lindsey pointed out was making sure that your head is down near the other guy's head. This will help keep your back control tight, chest-to-back, especially as you work for either the choke or the roll.

The second half of the drill on Monday was the forward roll to take the guy's back. Lindsey had us work the roll both from a choking grip and from a "seatbelt" grip. The choking grip is nice because, as you dip your forward shoulder and roll, there's a good chance that you'll wind up in a perfect position for the choke. The "seatbelt" grip is nice because it works with or without the gi, and provides for great control.

Tatame was so so. I had some halfway decent movement, but nothing really at all for Conner, for example, or for Jim (i.e., Jimmy Lee), who I worked some guard/pass guard specific after class.

My problem with passing the guard is that I really don't have a routine, a set of procedures that I can attack the guard with confidence. Again, my success with the half guard (such as it is) is a template for what I should be doing with the guard pass.

Right now, I feel that there are only a few bad things that can happen when I'm in half guard and most of them are things I've seen or am familiar with. But when it comes to passing the guard, it seems like there are a million things to think about, worry about, prepare for, defend against, watch out for, etc.

Clearly this means that I am not dictating the game and, instead, am merely reacting to whatever game is imposed on me from the guard.

What I need to develop is an attack theory, a notion on how I'm going to apply pressure to someone's guard so that they are the ones thinking, worrying, preparing, defending, etc. instead of me.

I've narrowed my guard openers/passes to three that I want to focus on: the 101, the Leite/Saulo, and the Tozi. I think the trick will be to learn how to flow between these different high/middle/low options to keep the guy on bottom off guard and, hopefully, eventually, one step behind.

Weight was fine, 158.0. I'm increasingly thinking that trying to make 149 at Subleague is a bad idea. It would just be something else to worry about for one and, for two, I don't think those fast little guys under 149 are going to be any easier than the bruisers under 170 - at least not in the advanced division where I plan on being.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another Guard Opener/Pass

Pike to Combat Base ... Log Splitter ...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

GB Seattle Invitational

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Training

Managed to make it on the mat for a Friday training today. It was good to see some of the folks you never get to see during the late class like Bryan and Elliott, though there were plenty of night owls there too, like Brock, Andrew, JM ...

We worked on the same techniques that had dominated the week's instruction: the single leg and the single leg counter/escape. We didn't do the roll counter, but instead did the Leite pass, palming the upper abdomen as you take a penetration step between the legs, then stuffing the leg in between yours up and inside, while either backstepping your trapped leg out and sinking into a watchdog-type side control or backstepping out just enough to switch stances and go right to knee on belly.

The Leite pass works very well with what I've been trying to do against the open guard using that stance that Saulo talks about. I should have the option to knee cross or to drop into the hammer and backstep, along with the Leite pass. It's really something to focus on over the next few weeks.

I also noticed that I might actually be able to do the Leite pass easier going to my right than my left. This would mean attacking most guy's weaker side. Again, the proof of the jiu jitsu is in the mat time, so I need to make sure I try this out and see if it sticks.

Tatame was short but sweet. Nothing especially impressive from my end, though I am continuing to be vulnerable to guillotine attacks when I get lazy in (not-so) deep half guard. When the guy puts his hands down to choke, I need to grab on of them and use it as a yoke to get the sweep. That, and keeping my head tighter against the body, my arm lower around the leg not the waist ...

A pretty good, workman-like practice. Sort of "getting my hours in" type of training. I'm going to spend some time this weekend working on my gameplan, trying to get some of my technical focus back. My cardio is starting to improve, thankfully. But I don't feel like I'm getting the sort of technical improvement that I should given the amount of mat time I've been putting in (4x/week for the past three weeks). Then again, considering I'd been out sick for the two weeks before that, maybe I'm right where I'm supposed to be (2.6x/week for the past five weeks).

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Thursday Training

The most memorable part of Thursday training was the lagoon of sweat the mats became with about an hour of training left.

I'd never seen anything like it. But you could hardly step anywhere without stepping in one pool of sweat or another. It was like a slip and slide you'd see in somebody's yard in the middle of July. While it didn't inhibit grappling per se, it was certainly dangerous for anybody who tried to do any standing. Pretty amazing scene.

Rodrigo showed us a guard pass that was one used by recent Pan Am standout Lucas Leite. It is similar to a pass that Marcelo Garcia showed us in his seminar, as well as one that Saulo points out in his book as a "popular new pass."

The idea is to palm the stomach as part of a penetration step into the open guard. You want to drive forward with your knee and really put the pressure on him directly in his abdomen/lower chest.

With your outside leg you want to step up so that your feet are roughly parallel. Your weight should be on his abdomen/lower chest, with your palm hand putting a lot of pressure and limiting his movement.

You have to push the guy's leg that you have between your legs UP AND IN. If you press that leg down, it will only make it easier for him to roll to his side and block your pass with his other leg/knee. Push his leg in at the knee.

As you do this, you want to kick your penetration leg back and out. There are two ways to do this. I had an easier time passing to my left (the guy's right, most guy's stronger side) when I switched to a knee on belly with my inside leg as I cleared the leg. But working on the move later and passing to my right (jab step and palm left, pass to guy's left, most guy's weaker side), I was actually doing a better job of the backstep that Rodrigo seemed to prefer.

I should drill that. I think that one of the huge keys to being a great guard passer, one of the easy things that anyone can adopt, is to be able to pass to both sides. Very few people are automatically able to defend a quality guard pass from both directions. Being able to pass to the left or right is like being able to dribble in basketball or soccer equally well to both sides. There are very few professionals who can do that, let alone amateurs.

So we'll see. Tatame was pretty good, nothing that stood out particularly. I was able to work the Tozi pass a bit better, though I still want to focus on standing solutions to getting out of guard. No gi is a bit of an exception, and may be a place where the Tozi pass can actually be the #1 or #2 passes.

Still not satisfied with my half guard passing. I do feel that I'm only about a month away from fixing my issues there, at least if I focus on it. I feel pretty confident in the mechanics of my half guard passes. I just to start linking them together in a coherent half guard passing attack.

Another half guard note. With the Old School/foot grab sweep, it really pays to attack the toes, not the instep. That extra four inches of reach you don't need, coupled with the control you get by grabbing the toes, should make the sweep that much more effective.

I also noted that if you get the grip low enough around the thigh, instead of the waist, you're already in pretty good position for a single leg takedown. Change the angle a little to get more behind them and drive your shoulder into their abdomen. Worst case scenario is that it turns into a standing single leg attempt.

Looking forward to training on Friday, at least for a little while. It will be nice to get my four days in. 156.0 on the scale.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wednesday Training

I couldn't help but feel a little demoralized after training today. My cardio is just not where I want it to be, at all. I've backed way off my off-mat conditioning, focusing on just the Muscle Endurance Program (pushups) and the 3T jiu jitsu drills. But I'm not sure. Maybe the weight I gained over the past few days put that much of an extra toil on my conditioning. It's hard to say.

I'm also frustrated with my guard passing. To be sure, there's every reason to believe that a month from now my guard passing will be significantly better and that by the time the next Revolution event arrives in early July, I might actually be (shudder) happy with my guard passing. But right now, it just feels like a war zone of confusion and wasted effort. I go from the 101 to the handcuff to the Saulo to the wedge to the Tozi ... never really sure of where that point is in a guard pass (as is the case with sweeps for example) where you halfway feel like your effort is too much and the other half of you feels like you are just about to pull it off in another moment or two.

The trick is to figure out one basic pass, a variation or two, and then just attack with it over and over again. That's how I got my half guard up to speed. The same thing should work for guard passing - or so I hope.

Instruction was the same as Tuesday night, single legs, the counter/escape and the counter/takedown. One thing about coming early enough to take the beginner classes is that you get to work on some of these things over and over to see how they might fit into your game. Sure, by the time it comes to sparring, I'm often running on fumes. But I'm hoping that too will pay off in the long run.

That's it for now. Props to Nate, by the way, for bringing home the bronze on his first trip to the Pan Ams. Apparently, Athena got a concussion a few days before the event and wasn't able to compete. Jeff Bourgeois from Foster BJJ also did well, picking up silver in the Masters division purple belt featherweight.

A C session. I need to focus on the "parts" of passing the guard, the fundamentals ... that and be patient. If I work it, it will come.

Oh, 157.2 on the scale after training. Much more like it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tuesday Training

What do you get when you're off the mat for four days in a row? A post-training weigh-in of 162.4.

I've been binge-ing it up, starting relatively strong but fading late in the day into fast food and even faster desserts. For me, sudden eating jags almost always mean anxiety. But I really can't spot the loci of any particular panic. The Subleague is a month away. The wife's new job is going well one week in. My gig is actually getting better in some ways though, as Ms. Rosanadana would remind us, there's always something ...

I had a great week of training last week - four days in a row - then a great Saturday working in the backyard helping transition into spring. So maybe I'm just having a little let down. I felt sloppy during the tatame, as if I weren't really able to commit to any move. Again, as I told myself, this is why ATM is so important: if nothing else, it's an opportunity to get some of that rusty water out of the pipe.

There's still a good chance that I'll be able to get four trainings in this week. What's equally important is making those training sessions count by working on some of the specific issue areas. To be fair, I did get the walking armlock from side control at one point, a submission I don't think I've gotten more than once or twice before. And I was trying very hard to figure out a way to set-up King Crimson and some arm drags from the closed guard. But my partners were having none of it, and that is a credit to all of us.

One of the most annoying things - almost a Code Red - is my passing of the half guard. I do think I'm seeing very clearly what I'm doing wrong, steps I'm leaving out due to impatience and laziness. But if the half guard is going to be my special part of the ocean, then I need to master attacking from the half as well as attacking the half. Watchdog to Ballerina Pass. Watchdog to Knee Wedge. Over/Under to Knee Cross. Over/Under to Switch Wedge. Work the passes, one after the other after the other.

The lesson for tonight was working from standup. We did single legs, a counter/escape to the single leg, and a counter/takedown to the single leg.

From collar and sleeve, Rodrigo had us pull up sharply on both grips, then dropping to the rear knee and scooping up the front leg for the single leg. He emphasized keeping your head to the inside for this single leg attack. Bear-hugging the leg and bringing your legs together as you drove your shoulder into the guy or tripped him completed the takedown.

The counter/escape had you first push the head down and away from the trapped leg. If there is space, then you want to slip your near/inside arm between his arms and chest and grab his far collar. While pushing down and away on the head, pull up on the collar, bringing your elbow up.

At the same time, you want to take your leg and hook it around the outside of the guy's leg so that he can't control it between his legs. From there, angle the knee on your trapped leg away from him and kick your leg down and free. In some ways it is similar to the motion of the Knee Cross.

The takedown was a roll. In this instance, you want to work the guy's head to the outside (he may have it there already). With your far hand, stuff the guy's forwardmost arm and with your near hand, reach over the back and grab the belt or pants.

If you don't have the momentum of him moving forward, then you can step forward with your free leg, stepping a little past his foot, and then sit down into the backroll and kick up with the trapped leg. If you get the motion accurately, then the roll will be almost effortless. End in mount or side control, depending on whether you sustain the hook all the way through the roll.

Rodrigo showed us another move, a way to take the back if you do get taken down with the single leg. It was very counter-intuitive because rather than turn your weight and hips into the guy's head as we were for the other moves, in this one, once he takes you to the mat, say, by just being able to drive you straight backward, you want to actually plant with the arm on the same side as the trapped leg. Plant your free foot wide to the side and do a seat-to-knees (like a back2knees from sitting) to free your trapped leg.

Good work tonight, though both Lindsey and Rodrigo got a little banged up tonight (back and knee, respectively). Also Jimmy, who just got his purple belt a few weeks ago, was getting cut up from something.

Looking forward to getting back on the mat tomorrow. Need to get more of this rust out of the system.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Thursday Training

Good training on Thursday, a no- gi session. We worked a lot on pummelling from the standup, which was a good workout for muscle endurance in the shoulders. I worked with both Lance and Stephen, and it really got my delts burning after awhile.

My favorite move from the clinch is still the duck under. I can see why Shawn likes it so much. That said, I've been working a lot on my shoot over the past few days, trying to build up some good muscle endurance and strength in my quads so that I can go for single legs, double legs, fireman's carrys, etc. without hesitation. Combined with a good duck under and arm drap high game, a low game with an easy first step/penetration step makes a lot of sense.

No gi tatame was interesting as usual. I spent a lot of time working from the half guard and though nothing spectacular came of it, it was good to feel out my half guard game for no gi. I've got a month to prepare technically for the no gi, 4-minute match style of Subleague and tightening up my half guard makes a lot of sense. I'm still faltering more than I'd like in my half guard pass and need to work the switch more often, if only to open up the passing possibilities some more.

My weight is staying nice at low. I was about 153.8 after Thursday's training. The temptation to go for the featherweight, 149 and under, division is huge and if I can make it a habit of weighing in under 154 after training (3% above the 149 limit), then I think I'll be able to do it. It's a day-of weigh-in, so I really need to get as light as possible as soon as possible and then just adjust to the new caloric/cardio regime. At Subleague, I'm likely to have 4 matches or more, so I'll need to arrive feeling strong, not "here just to make weight" dehydrated.

For now, my goal is to make 149 (or 148.9) the Thursday before the GB Seattle Invitational. That will be a test run. If I can do that, do in and have my match or two in Bellevue, then I'm pretty certain I'll be able to repeat the effort two weeks later.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wednesday Training

More work on chokes. More work from the mount. Today we focused on getting the Ezekiel choke from the mount, and then the S-mount transition. From the S-mount transition, we worked on the triple attack: collars choke, bow and arrow choke and armlock.

Tomorrow is no gi night. I have to admit that while it will be fun to be rolling around without the gi, a part of me would rather have one more training in the gi this week. That's probably a normal feeling after three days in a row of training in the gi. Tatame was very good in a couple of respects. But maybe the best lessons came, unsurprisingly from rolling with Jason/Garcia who was attacking my Tozi pass with a very, very tight omoplata/gogoplata type counter. I managed to avoid the submission twice (though he turned it into a sweep both times), but he caught me with the third attempt. It might have been a combination omoplata/kimura. But his attack on my right shoulder finally paid off.

I think my mistake was that I wasn't far enough over with my head - it should almost be on the floor. All I have to do to pin the upper body is my arm. It is the "dive" part of the pass that pins the hips. I think I've been trying to do both with my arm and shoulder pressure, instead of focusing on the "dive" and really driving the attack side leg to the mat. That, plus getting my head all the way over to the pass side, should help me get to the next level in my Tozi pass.

Still working harder than I'd like to pass the half guard out of my Watchdog position. The "ballerina" pass is still my move of choice - but I have to remember to switch sides more often. My guard passing from standing isn't great, but I like what I'm doing with the Royler/Viera sprawl pass, dropping into half guard and working the pass from there.

I still want to work in the leg rope pass, especially the pass to the back. There were a few times when I was trying to pass the half guard and got caught in a lockdown that I moved back low on the legs to relieve the pressure and counter his counter. A leg rope pass would work perfectly then, with the guy's legs likely extended. It would arguably also be a good time for the lay out toreano (aka "The Butler") or the inverse grip toreano from Jean Jacques Machado's Championship Techniques book (pages 122-123).

Watching UFC Fight Night and hoping that they show the Almeida/Horwich fight which was one of the prelims. Cole Miller choked out Junie Browning, which was nice to see. Now Tyson Griffin and Rafael dos Anjos are working their way through the last minute of round three.