Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday Training

Rodrigo had us working more on passing the guard today. There were three variations:

Version One:
1. Open the guard from the wedge position, with one hand on the chest and one on the hip.

2. Slide your left arm under the guy's right leg and grab on to his belt. BE SURE TO KEEP THE ELBOW ON YOUR RIGHT ARM TIGHT AND LOW. The main threat to this pass is the triangle. If you keep your off-side elbow tight and low, you'll be fine.

3. Take a BIG STEP with the leg on the pass side (left). As you do this, pull up on the belt. Driving forward with your lunge, you should be able to put your hip solidly against his back. Remember, you don't want to throw the guy. You want to lock his body and put him on his side.

Version Two:
1. This time, when you go to put your arm under and grab the belt, he blocks it.

2. Bring your off side (right) knee up and knee pin the guy's leg on that side (his left leg). I needed to stand up a little bit to make sure I got on top of the leg for the pin. So there may need to be adjustments depending on how the guy moves.

3. Hook the head with your right arm. Keeping the leg pinned with your knee, backstep with your other (left) leg and move into side control.

Version Three:
1. This time, when you go to put the knee in, he blocks it with both hands.

2. Here, you have two options. The first option is a version of version one: reach high and grab the opposite collar with the version one pass side hand. Use your other hand to keep the guy's knee pin leg in place. Spin around backward (in to out) as you shrug the guy's leg off your shoulder and move to the side.

I can't remember exactly what the second option was. I think there was a banana split type of move with a can opener that allowed you to move to the side as you would in version two. But I'm not sure.

Not a bad night on the tatame, not a good night. One thing that did work very well during the takedown training at the beginning was my kouchi gari, which I hit almost perfectly 2 or 3 times. That is definitely something to continue working on.

I also am feeling my ankle pick sweep. There's really only one of my main six takedowns that I don't have any live success with, the ushiro ashi barai. I'll have to work on that tomorrow or Friday.

My guard passing tonight was horrible. The effort wasn't half bad: I did repeatedly try to work the Squat Pass and the Flat Pass. I think I passed once with the Flat Pass, but the Squat Pass got a little incoherent after I got beyond Step 3. I was probably trying to rush things, having done three sets of 12 Squat Passes as part of my am conditioning. We'll see if things can look better by the end of the week. I really want to go into the tournament a week from this Saturday with some confidence about my guard passing attack. That's really the key goal: pass the damn guard. Everything after that is extra.

Tommy is back! He's around 185, be-goggled and not in the jiu jitsu shape he'd like to be. But it was almost scary to see him rolling after two years off that mat. It was almost like he never left.

When I think of all the guys in that welterweight/lightweight/featherweight range (and Tommy is looking to drop back to 155), we really have one hell of a crew. Even if you just focus on the brown and purple belts, imagine if we had one of those 2-week, every day, training sessions like the Mothership (i.e., Gracia Barra USA) did leading up to the Mundials ...

Finished June with 13 training sessions, two off my goal of 15, but I would have likely picked up those two classes if I hadn't been on le business trip at the beginning of the month. Still, my weekly average for the second quarter rose to 3.33 from 3.17 (38 classes in Q1, 40 in Q2). My goal for the third quarter (July, August, September) is to get that grade up over 3.5, which means averaging 14 classes a month.

On the scale: 156.8. I'll admit to being very pleasantly surprised. I've been wearing my heaviest gi jacket and a rashguard to help pump the water out. And my very modest diet seems to be paying dividends even after two days. To drop more than 10 pounds in a little over 24 hours isn't something I should get in the habit of doing. But it's nice to know that the weekend calories might be costly, but haven't bankrupted me yet.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Marcelo Garcia on the Mundial, ADCC and Kron

A nice, very short, interview with Marcelo Garcia from Gracie magazine
Did you decide to stay out of the absolute for your lack of rhythm?

I always try to make it into the absolute, and this time was no different… But it’s not my option, Fabio and Romero are the ones who chose. In the end it was good for me to concentrate just on the weight group, it was the right choice. Sometimes folks don’t remember much, but every year I’ve won at weight, I also fought in the absolute. I never won a Worlds absolute, but I’ve always tried since I was a blue belt (laughs).
Click here for the rest.

Monday Training

ATM two weeks in a row ... it's been awhile since I've been able to say that.

Two things stood out in tonight's training, which was a mix of instructional (crossover and scissor sweeps) and specific sparring (guard/pass guard and takedowns). One, my ankle pick is definitely a go-to takedown and, two, the combat squat might be the savior of my standing attack against the closed guard.

I also spent some time really working out of my #1 half guard position. For the next two weeks leading into the tournament, I want to give myself full license to focus on that position and my fundamental sweeps. Whenever I realize that a 100% effective twist back tends to be the product of a 99% effective tackle sweep, I tend to be in good shape.

My half guard passing wasn't pretty, but I'm still looking forward to working on it some more this week and next. I have a better idea of the fundamentals of what I'm doing wrong - especially in putting my weight on the guy, giving him too easy control. But it would be nice to work them out some in practice.

A good night full of good training partners. Even though my weight was atrocious coming in (166.2!), I managed to leave the academy at 161. If I can shed another few pounds over the next 24 hours, then I won't feel as if I did too much damage on those thirsty Saturday and Sunday afternoons ...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday Training

Back on the mat for a Cindy class after more than a month ... It was nice to get back into her routine: the semi-gymnastic warm-up has been augmented with a serious core building routine: duo triangles, flutter kicks, duo triangles, isometric situps with trunk twists ... it was actually a relief to get to the Superman, behind-the-head Superman and alternating Superman drills.

We did specific work after several minutes of pummelling. Guard/Pass Guard and Mount/Escape Mount. Since it was no gi, I focused on the Flat Pass. I'm a little hung up on some of the things guys are doing to defend it - tonight, grabbing my attacking hand and controlling it was a major tactic. I need to work through that. It definitely works to get into the habit of opening the ankles with your top leg. It is agility worth developing because it is a nice edge to be able to open those ankles without necessarily needing to use your hand.

That was probably the biggest lesson. I went a lot more for the knee wedge half guard pass with the double underhooks, which should probably be my go-to half guard pass outside of the watchdog position. I had to fight for it, but the ballerina pass out of the watchdog and crossface positions both seemed to work tonight.

I'm also thinking that Thursday night might be a good weightlifting night, given the new equipment downstairs. Being able to do some heavy pulls on the lat machine and rows on the cables would be great, along with some leg extensions for my quads. Mainly focusing on stuff I can't do at home. Doing that after class on Monday and Thursday might be a nice little difference maker in my strength training.

157.8 on the scale. So far I've managed to weigh in below 160 after every class this month. Starting in July, that's going to have to be a pre-train weight instead of post-train, keeping things nice and low for the two weeks going into the Revolution event.

Georges Hearts Royce

Georges St. Pierre's Idol? Royce Gracie, Of Course

From MMA Weekly
"The fact that he was using a martial art weapon that nobody knew at the time, which is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was smaller than all of the guys and he was able to win... That's what really inspired me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fedor Training Secrets & More!

A nice, long interview with the top heavyweight mixed martial artist in the world.

Fedor Emelianenko: Insider Training Facts

"Wake up at 8 am. Train at 10 am. Train again at 5 p.m. Lights out at 11 am. Three meals a day. Cardio before each training session. Diet: meat, fish, vegetables, fruit ..."

I'm still marveling at the idea of getting nine hours of sleep a night!

7 11 2009

Registration info is here. Beat the June 26th deadline for the must-have T-shirt ...

Mundial Highlights from Budo Videos

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday Training

A big class tonight, with lots of white belts, first-class people and, by the end of the evening, a couple of black belts, as well. Plenty in between: Pat, Jared, Nate, Nick, Angela, Jason/Garcia, Wellington, Clint, Benny ...

Rodrigo had us working on guard passing all night. I thought I heard him say that we were going to work on guard passing every day until the tournament. I couldn't be happier if that's the case.

The coursework was the passing of the spider guard. Importantly, for the guy on the bottom, the spider guard comes as a result of getting your guard opened up. In order to stay ahead, you switch to the spider guard inserting the bottom foot first. Rodrigo explained this a few days ago. By inserting the bottom foot first, you prevent the guy from doing a knee pin/Fowler pass. You might stop him if you spider with the top leg first. But using the bottom leg to spider and THEN the upper leg will immediately stop the problem of the ground pass.

It's also a nice set-up for the moth guard sweep, "low pass."

From the top, the passes were (1) stepping back, scooping under the calves and then stepping forward and rolling the guy heels over head. Here, you want to make sure you stay close, with as much body to body contact as possible, to avoid the guy rolling away from you.

There was also (2) which was the pass we switched to when the guard player switched to a DLR hook on one leg while spidering the other arm. Here, you step back with the leg on the spidered side, then as you step back forward, swing your body inward toward his, turning perpendicular. At the same time that you do that, you want to reach behind the spidering leg with your opposite hand and push the legs away from you and to the mat. Again, keep as much body to body contact as you can all the way down.

This time, Rodrigo added a sweep for the guy on the bottom. The steps of the sweep from the DLR guard are: hip, heel, collar, hook, pull, kick.

1. From spider guard, put one foot on the hip and stretch the guy out.
2. Take your other foot and insert it like a DLR hook, but behind hooking behind his heel. Your foot should be on the mat.
3. Change the grip on the guy's sleeve on your hipside to cross collar
4. Remove your hip foot and hook it inside-to-out under the thigh of the DLR'd leg.
5. From here, pull him on to you and, squeezing the leg and pulling the sleeve on the DLR side, kick with your legs and flip him to the outside.

Tatame was fair. I'd say a "gentleman's C". My half guard game feels rough, and I can't tell if I'm slipping or if guys are just getting more and more accustomed to it. If I can get to my spots, then I get to my spots. But I feel a little as if I'm really having to work harder to get to them these days.

From the top, I won't go so far as to say that I took a step backwards in my SRO policy. But I didn't follow up on Monday's workman-like performance as The Guard Passer like I should have. I've still got a bit of the vertigo and could really use a couple more sessions this week to build on what I started on Monday in terms of the SRO.

When I commit to SRO and to the Flat Pass, I have some pretty good success. I've still got balance issues in both instances. But I was impressed by what gravity can do for you when you are standing and trying to get a knee pinned to the mat. I also finally managed to open the ankles TECHNICALLY in the Flat Pass. "Chim" is right about how you can feel how the ankles are locked and then use your leg to open them. Where I struggle is in establishing a base that doesn't make me feel vulnerable to being swept backwards. May be time for another "death cycle" ...

SRO is SRO. When I want it and work for it, I get it. One thing I do need to do is move my control from the upper chest to the hips, and to step back to make the angle harder for the guard player to deal with. I'm hanging in there with what I'm doing now: grabbing the collar and squatting a bit to avoid the double leg bump sweep, for example. And like I said, it has been impressive to see it work when it works. But I'm not quite at a "go to" level of confidence with any one particular approach, at least not yet.

That's a nice goal for the week: to work on switching my grips lower to control the hips, and to step back into that "athletic pose" as Saulo calls it.

156.4 on the scale after training. I had rice and beans (and chicken) for breakfast, which was a Gracie Diet Rule Double Carb no-no. But it doesn't look like I was penalized for it. I'm not sure if I'll be able to train on Friday as planned, which means it might make sense to train tomorrow night as a precaution so I get at least three gi sessions in for the week (and I'm overdue for getting back to Cindy's no gi Thursdays ...)

DVR'd the Ms interleague game against the Padres and I'm just now seeing the local boys load the bases. No runs scored in the bottom of the first. Let's see if we can get a run or two.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Training

ATM ... Takes a licking but keeps on ticking!

Back on the mat for a Monday training. There are a thousand reasons why it's great to train on Monday (I was reading a bodybuilder e-mail I subscribe to - don't ask - that was making a similar point about Monday being mandatory squat/legs day). But the fact that you know exactly what you're going to get from the moment you open the door and the music is thumping upstairs. It's like flipping a switch and it's time to go. A great way to start the week.

Rodrigo has started alternating his days a little bit so that he can spend time meeting and training with different folks - including new people he's never even met. This had him back at GB Seattle on Monday, though Lindsey still led his class (Rodrigo and Stephen led the second sparring class that was mostly guard/pass guard specific).

Lindsey had us focus on armlocks from the guard, particularly from the guard I used to call Hilo Guard. He used double sleeve control, which seems like a nice combination with Hilo.

A couple of pointers: make sure not to push back too far and create too much space. That will only allow the guy to put up a knee and start to work a Royler or Fowler pass. Also, make sure that the "chucking" leg doesn't just come up hard under the armit but also comes down hard on the upper back and shoulder. The leg has a major destablizing role to play in driving the guy over AND in keeping him over long enough to get the other leg over for the armlock. Think of the armlock as a sweep, a flower sweep in reverse, and drive the leg all the way over.

Tatame was pretty good. I'm still working the standing passes, which is Project 1 for 2009. I think that once I get over the initial Vertigo of it, I'll be fine. They are actually a hell of a lot more fun and less draining than wrestling around trying to restore your posture on the ground. The trick will be in being relentless about training them, the death cycle as it were.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ko Ouchi Gari

Saturday, June 20, 2009

GB Seattle Invitational / Saturday Training

Talking with Abel as the GB Seattle Invitational was winding down, he said that while the 12 times a month he was putting in a month wasn't bad, getting to 15 a month is really where you want to be. "That way, you're essentially training every other day," he said.

I couldn't agree more. I used to say to myself that one reason the Brazilians in Brazil were so good was because they probably trained every day - minimum. I can't train every day (at least not until Enlightenment and subsequent liberation from the samsara of wage employment), but I think being able to say that I basically train every other day is saying something. I think that dedication ("I spend two hours every other day working on my knitting/guitar playing/gardening/skiing/horseback riding ...".) is something that would be obvious to anyone who heard it even if they didn't know (or didn't care) about the activity itself.

And the proof in that pudding is in the eating, for sure. I remember years ago Rodrigo telling us - I must have been a white belt at the time - that if we were thinking about competing in the upcoming tournament, then training AT LEAST three times a week, was what you needed to do. He's since said the same thing, but dropped that standard to at least two times a week, but I think - if you really want to compete at your highest level - Rodrigo was right the first time.

The idea being - in my translation - that training three times a week will probably keep you from being embarassed in a match. But it probably won't be enough to guarantee placing and earning points toward the team trophy.

My first quarter pace was 3.17 times a week. I'm on a 3.375 pace right now with about a week and a half to go in the second quarter. If I train every day next week and Monday and Tuesday of the final week of the month, that pace can climb as high as 3.5. That would be a 10% increase over the first quarter.

Training 15 days a month gets you a pace of 3.75 a week. 16 days a month gets you the prize GPA figure of 4.0. Those may be targets worth thinking about for the third and fourth quarters

I didn't compete this morning. I arrived a little later than I'd planned after my strategy to avoid the 520 bridge closure went awry. Rodrigo through Pat asked me if I wanted a fight and I told him, truthfully, that it didn't matter either way. I was most looking forward to the open mat and getting in a fourth day of training for the week.

I didn't end up getting a refereed match. Rodrigo had matched me up with Andrew from GB Seattle at Bellevue, who had a very exciting match with Sauleh - the most competitive since the last Revolution. But Andrew injured his shoulder (or made worse an existing injury, I wasn't sure) and decided against risking it. Again, that was fine with me. I was pretty positive that what I needed - and need most over the next few weeks - isn't referreed competition, it's the death cycle.

The three sessions that I did have, somewhere between 8 and 10 minutes each, I think, were great. A blue belt from Ballard, Jessie Chen from Ballard and Lance. I've pretty much decided to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love my Guard Game as is, and had a lot of fun rolling and focusing on recognizing exactly what type of opportunity existed or that I wanted to create. I've actually seen the most success with this when it comes to my scissor sweep, which has been bad to non-existent.

But what I'm most proud of was my standing guard attack with Lance. Even though I didn't pass, I was glad that I plunged right into SRO against a very tough sparring partner. I was able to work on my balance and at least gain some confidence that I wasn't going to spontaneously combust just for trying to open and pass on the feet. That's part of that "demystification" that I think is necessary for me to break through against what is probably my most critical weakness in jiu jitsu.
Actually, there's no probably about it. But at least I'm that much closer to being able to focus on details of what I'm trying to get done rather than on rounding up the will to do it in the first place.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Friday Training

Managed to get on the mat for some pre-tournament training on Friday.

I like the way that Rodrigo has been running classes in the month or so leading up to the Revolution. We warm-up with squats, pushups, jumping jacks, chokes and oblique situps, but the conditioning has switched to 8 minutes of stand-up work focusing on grips and foot sweeps. I think this will really pay off in July, especially for the white and blue belts. I'm looking forward to seeing if this will be a big edge.

The instructional was the same thing we've been working on this week: passing the spider guard. Rodrigo showed us two alternate tactics: scooping both hands under the calves and rolling the guy over his shoulder, and scooping both hands on top of the legs and, after a quick lift, driving them down to the mat and leaning in with the inside shoulder (the pass I used to call "The Butler", but is probably more accurately the Watchdog pass since Watchdog is the end position.

One thing I was especially proud of in training with J.M. was that when we did specific sparring, I made sure to use the same spider guard that we had been working on earlier in class. It's another one of those basic, basic things that can make a world of difference over a few months, both in terms of practicing new techniques live to see how they might fit in your game, as well as helping others train against techniques they may seen elsewhere in training or competition.

I also got to roll with Bryan, who was one of my key sparring partners a year ago when I was training more regularly on Fridays. He's a really good person for me to work with also - very close in size and skill. It's another reason to try and make Friday training a regular part of the schedule. Monday-Tuesday-Thursday-Friday training would be a pretty good way to make it through the week. And I may have just made the necessary adjustments to make it so.

Old Minotauro Interview

I stumbled across this old interview with Rodrigo Nogueira from Sherdog.com right after his last fight with Fedor.

And as someone who has run into his own "Fedor" - and may cross his path yet again - I have to say that there was something about this passage from Minotauro that really moved me, that really spoke to the reality of what it is to compete.
Sherdog.com: You must have watched your last fight against Fedor many times, what you can say about it?

Nogueira: I did not watch the fight very much, one or two times only. Strategically the man is good; he has a fast entrance, designed to strike and to attack the legs or give a straight punch … then I never knew when he was going for the straight punch or for the legs. So it was very difficult to defend the takedowns, which complicated the fight. He took me down some six times, very fast. He is very explosive. I was able to box with him OK, but I didn’t find myself in the first round. In second, more or less, I was not [fighting] with a good distance so I wasn’t able to take him down. In the end of the first round I had a good moment, obtaining the top position, but the round was over. He made a difficult fight and strategically he is very good. I’m going to have to train more and improve my game. Each time that I make a fight like this, I learn something. With certainty this fight was better than the first one. The second fight was good. In the third he dominated the fight, with takedowns and on the ground. He was smart, did not want to work the ground with me; you saw that he did a little ground-and-pound and then stood back up. It is difficult because he did not want to be in the ground to pass the guard, and this was pretty confusing for me. He was more worried about punching from the guard. He took me down, pounded a little and stood up. It was difficult.

The Wheel

The other night at training I was standing under the clock watching the minute hand and checking my RHR (resting heart rate). Angela joked to Clint that I was "contemplating my own death" which, given my focus on the cardio, wasn't all that far off the mark.

I'm doing some more death contemplating, specifically thinking about the cycle and birth, death and rebirth that is at the center of my way of seeing the world and, perhaps, at the center of my goal of developing a coherent guard passing game by the end of the year.

My wheel, my little bardo of guard passing, needs to look like this: base in guard, stand in guard, get swept, scramble to half guard, reverse, base in guard, stand in guard, get swept, scramble to half guard ... I need to go through this routine over and over and over again over the next few weeks to lose the mystification of getting swept (which, as I've said, is still a far better fate than getting submission) and get used to attacking the guard from standing.

I still like what I'm doing (or should be doing) when it comes to passing the half guard - though I need to focus more on sharpening up my watchdog passes. But when it comes to first approach, SRO has to be the rule from here on out.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Standing Room Only?

"Mastering the half guard allows you to be more aggressive in the mount and side mount because the fear of getting reversed and placed on your back is gone."
--Eddie Bravo, "Jiu Jitsu Unleashed"

For all the talk about Eddie Bravo and the rubber guard, it was his thesis on the half guard that provided me with the confidence to make the half guard my go-to position from the bottom.

And amid a bunch of convincing reasons why the half guard might be the solution for me guard-wise was the above idea: that mastering a position on the bottom should translate into greater confidence - or at least greater risk-taking - when on top.

Bravo applies it to being in mount and side mount. But I'm wondering if the same shouldn't apply to standing to pass the guard.

With competition time approaching, there's nothing more important than bringing some coherence to my guard passing attack. Like I've said before, my fights can almost always be divided into two outcomes: losses by submission when I get stuck in the guard, wins by decision when I pass. It's like clockwork.

Choosing the half guard was the greatest thing to happen to my jiu jitsu (well, one of many, but you get the point). That gift might continuing giving insofar as my biggest fear about standing to pass the guard is getting swept. Never mind that getting swept is better than getting triangled or armlocked or chokes. Never mind that Tommy told me years ago when I asked him about the danger of getting swept: "so what? Then you fight for the scramble." Never mind that Rodrigo had said more than once: if you can't pass the guard on the ground, then you are going to have to stand.

I hate the amount of time I spend in the guard. Saulo has this line, if you in the guard spending all your time fighting off submissions, you're not passing, you're drowning. Often, that's how I feel. And in that fog, I get into trouble time and time again.

Standing to pass will alleviate at least two things that are killing me in the guard right now: submissions and the fog. And standing is largely a function of will: you're tired, it would be so much easier to be able to pass without having to get up. But a "standing pass only" rule between now and the July revolution might be both the HICT training my legs need to attack from standing relentlessly, as well as the providing me with the skill-specificity that has proven to work in the past when I sold my soul to the half guard.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday Training

A good session tonight. While I had a few lapses, like getting flattened in half guard, there were a few bright guard passing moments and other assorted top game success that makes the evening's training a Gentleman's C at least.

Rodrigo had us working on spider and DLR guard passes tonight after about 8 minutes of stand up conditioning work. It's a really nice addition to our training, helping warm us up for the rest of class as well as making sure that we are always getting some live or semi-live work from the feet. It's the kind of thing that will pay off big time come tournament time.

The spider guard pass had you circle your arms, fanning them out wide then bringing your elbows in, in order to cup the guy's calves and drive him backward head over heels. Rodrigo focused on getting tight body-to-body contact in order to control him as he rolls. Giving too much space can result in him rolling to a kneebar, as well as recomposing his guard.

The other technique we drilled had the guy switch from spider guard to DLR with sleeve control on the other side. Here, the pass called for stepping forward with your free leg to go to a parallel stance (remember that this is the default combat base against the DLR, to be square up) and, while putting pressure on his legs with your hips, spin in the direction of the trapped leg while reaching across with the arm on the trapped side and hooking your hand behind the leg on the other side that still has a spider guard bicep control in place.

As you press forward with your hips and twist, you should be able to fold the guys legs forward, so that they are lying perpendicular to his body like a big L. Pass to the back.

Like I said, some good things in the tatame and some not-so-good things. More than anything else, it seems like Tuesday was my Monday and I'm getting back into the groove of things just a little bit.

I think for me that I will achieve the fastest growth if I can make sure that no more than one day passes between training. In a perfect world, I'd train MTRSa. An only slightly less perfect world would grant me MTRF, which would still leave two days in a row off the mat, but I think a regular 4-day a week clip would make up for it. Two days on, one day off, two days on, two days off is a pretty reasonable split when you think about it.

This is worth considering when I start worrying about plateauing and other assorted maladies of the mat. The corollary to my belief that trouble in jiu jitsu is always and everywhere a technical phenomenon (to steal and mangle Milton Friedman's famous quote about inflation and monetary policy) is a conviction that mat time solves all ills. And after looking at my training calendar, it is clear where my fix lies.

I trained 17 times in April, but only 10 in May. Over the past four weeks, I've averaged only 2 classes a week(!). During the four-week period before that, my weekly average was 3.25. And the four-week period before that? 4.0.

The source of my frustration is simple: my training pace has plunged by 50% since late March. No wonder it feels as if I'm not progressing the way I should be. Not only has my training frequency not kept pace, it has declined dramatically as spring gave way to summer.

So my plan right now is pretty simple and straightforward: get my training frequency back to at least 3.25 per week. Arguably, a lot should start to fall into place if I can just get that done.

In other news, my post-train weigh-in remains absolutely perfect at 154.8. My right knee is still aching from that leg-to-leg collision with Chris and that Brazilian black belt whose been training with us lately and I'll probably buy a compression brace for it this weekend.

The best feature of the invitational this weekend increasingly looks like the open mat from 12-3 p.m., though I'm slated to have a match as one of the Revolution competitors. At any rate, I'm a lot less likely to arrive at quarter of ten, unless Rodrigo encourages otherwise.

Royler on Cobrinha

Royler Gracie will be giving a seminar here in Washington (Tacoma) next weekend (July 27th, more info is here.)

Royler, a former multiple-time time jiu jitsu champion at featherweight, was interviewed by Gracie Magazine on the recent win of the current featherweight jiu jitsu phenom, Cobrinha.

The interview is here.
I always root for attacking, beautiful and forward-moving Jiu-Jitsu, and I saw Cobrinha being crowned four-time champion as something really great for the sport. He, Bruno Frazatto, runner-up, and the other kid, Rafael Mendes are really technical, they’re all to be congratulated, but Cobrinha’s fourth just makes the sport all the greater.

Kimbo Slice at Gracie Barra

Good for him - though I'm really waiting for the gi shot ....


What is going through Marcelo Garcia's mind as he goes for the 1,000th armdrag, the 500th mata leao? What is Roger thinking as he sets up his 8th finish by collar choke from the mount in a single event?

I always thought that the secret of success in anything was finding something that worked for you and then maximizing it, going both deep (extreme proficiency) and wide (extreme applicability). That's what Marcelo Garcia did for years with his armdrag-take the back-choke jiu jitsu. It's what Roger has been doing of late. It is almost word for word what Rodrigo was telling me as I was flailing around in what I can only call "Fog of War" guard where I'm alternately pushing on the hip here, pulling on the collar there, but with little regard for strategy beyond those (ultimately) defensive tactics: go with what works for you.

The last big surge in my development on the mat came when I started focusing on the toe grab sweep from the half guard. When I was able to combine it with the twist back sweep, increasingly becoming patient enough to wait for the opponent's shift in momentum before making the transition, my guard game was born. There is nothing in jiu jitsu that I do better than that toe grab/twist back combo from the half guard.

Part of what I'm struggling with is whether to devote more time to reaching that black belt level with my best technique, or more time to broadening my game, even if just broadening my half guard game to include the other seven sweeps from the half guard that I've had success with.

A basic rule I set out for myself was what I was calling "the White Belt Rule." That rule said that when I was rolling with white belts, I could - and should - work on broadening my half guard game. But when rolling with anyone who is blue belt or higher, I must focus on refining my "A" stuff which, from the half guard, means the toe grab/twist back combo.

At least once I'm inside of four weeks of competition. Outside of that I can dial it back a bit. But in order to be able to react properly under the pressure of competition, I need to be only doing those techniques that I'm going to relying on when points are being counted. From the bottom, that means getting to half guard and the tackle/twist combo. From the top, to be blunt, it means the Zeke.

I'm not sure what it means in terms of passing the guard - which is not good. Actually, it might be worse than "not good." The glow is wearing off of the Flat pass a bit, and the 101 still seems too intimidating (I tried to stand inside Clint's guard Tuesday night and got hit with a vertigo moment that would have made Hitchcock proud.)

That leaves the Saulo - and maybe the combat base wedge as its alternate.

In any event, the point is that I've got to focus on the small things, the effective things, and attack with them shamelessly and relentlessly. Get to the familiar place, and welcome all comers to my world.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Training

Best part of tonight's training was my post-train weigh-in: 154.4. That's half a pound below where I need to be on July 11th.

My performance on the mat tonight, however, was pretty damn far from where I needed to be. Although doing a better-than-average job of standing out of my closed guard and getting the reverse a couple of times, very little of what I tried to do worked.

I wasn't training against chumps. Both Benny (the one not from San Diego) and Clint are tough training partners, and I am grateful for anything I am able to get on them. Tonight, however, there was precious little need for gratitude.

There were a couple of factors working against me tonight, I suppose. I banged my big toe during the takedown conditioning drills and was a little preoccupied with it all night, particularly if I was looking to put any weight on my left foot. And while I put in 2 1/4 miles on the treadmill earlier in the day, I really don't think that had a lot to do with it. I got a little leg cramp once, but still managed to finish the position (a move to mount). And the fatigue wasn't anything out of the ordinary.

I suspect/fear that it is a case of hitting a plateau. I'm noticing it especially in my half guard passes, which seem to be neutralized like never before. I know that part of it has to do with backing off my watchdog ballerina pass in favor of trying the Royler and Cross Wedge passes. And I will be trying to put the half guard pass that Rodrigo showed me (getting low on the legs, bear hugging them and kicking your trapped leg straight back) - one that Clint has been using to pretty good effect against my half guard. But a part of it just feels as if the edge I had a few months ago has faded - or is starting to fade. And that I'm going to have to do some work to get back ahead of the game.

Not my favorite set of thoughts going into a tournament weekend - though it is just an invitational AND there is the additional news that the event will really be a glorified open mat, with Rodrigo saying that they want to have the competition start at 10 am and end at 11:30 am (instead of 1:30 or later as has been the case in most previous events) so that at least a few hours can be dedicated to an open mat. It half makes me not want to attend; I would love a weekend without any obligations whatsoever. But the fact of the matter is that I've already carved the time out of the day and, perhaps more importantly, I need all the practice I can get.

So a C- effort on the tatame tonight. No submissions. Very few sweeps and my guard passing was horrible. "Plateau" may be putting it kindly.

Maia, Rickson, Renzo, Royler and Royce in Japan

What I would have given to have been a fly on the wall of this hotel room ...

Maia Mines Gracie Knowledge
From left to right: Royce Gracie, Demian Maia, Rickson Gracie and Royler Gracie.
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"I'm really impressed with Renzo's knowledge of jiu-jitsu, as applied to MMA," Maia said. “Besides very important tips to correct my positions, he also showed so many important details about positioning that I needed to write down on paper and not forget."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saturday Training

It was a rare treat to be able to train this Saturday - even if my sparring session was cut short by a cut: a relatively small mole that got torn in a scramble and managed to produce a disproportionate amount of blood. No chainsaw massacre, but it was enough to end my day on the mat prematurely.

Rodrigo ran us through a basic warmup before having us do about 8 minutes of alternating ankle pick takedowns. I got to work with Clint who like Stephen and a couple of other guys are perfect for me to train with by being just a division or two bigger and a just a couple of years better. The ankle pick is increasingly looking like it is going to be my go to takedown. It's got just enough of a role for both technique and athleticism that I think it is something I can both train frequently (unlike throws, which I am still too nervous about to use very often in training) as well as use in actual competition. I still want to focus on takedowns like the drunken single. But if I get into a grip fighting battle, the ankle pick is probably my best option for now.

We worked mostly passes against the butterfly guard. There were three variations that Rodrigo showed us, but all three had the same key element of controlling the upper body either by reaching over the shoulder or grabbing the pass side collar, and controlling the hips by grabbing the pants at the knee on the non-pass side.

The idea is to put the guy's back on the mat, while either backstepping around and over the legs or, in later variations, squeezing your knees together to bunch the guy's legs, and then putting your stomach on top of the legs and pancake them to the mat.

Again, I didn't get a lot of sparring time at all, maybe four minutes before the cut. But there were some things that I did like out of my brief stint in the open mat. I hit my first hook sweep from the butterfly guard in, like, ever. It was a complete blast - in part because I wound up in mount and in part because we had been working on the butterfly guard that day (though from the point of view of the passer rather than the guard player). And though I still FAILED to attack with the inside arm drag from the half guard, I did like my movement in general in getting out of an occasionally flattened half guard, avoiding the crossface, and using my knee both as a wedge and to set up half-moth guard.

I also got a nice scissor sweep, which was almost as rare as the butterfly hook sweep I got. The real trick with the scissor sweep for me is to get the guy's momentum going: pull soft, push hard, then pull hard. There's a drunken aspect to the scissor sweep too, if you want to exaggerate the movements a little bit to both distract and to make sure that you are on point with your mechanics. This sweep landed me in a very nice knee on belly and I tried to go immediately for the armlock and missed it - ending up back in guard. Here, I think the problem was that I never really controlled his upper body with my weight and allowed far too much space for him to escape.

Still, it was very nice to be getting these sweeps, sweeps I rarely use, and to wind up in dominant positions like mount and knee on belly. Of course, the devil is in the details of finishing from these dominant positions. But you've got to get there to be there and, Saturday was a pretty good travel day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Alliance Takes Mundial Team Title - Again!

Gracie Barra second, Check Mat third.

Complete tournament results are here.

Roger Gracie has joined a very select group of martial artists who have won the Mundial absolute championship twice. Here's coverage of his victory against fellow Gracie Barra competitor, Romulo Barral.

Wednesday Training

Beginner's class tonight with Rodrigo - and my last before I take another week off to spend with Rebecca's parent who are in town for a few days (a tradition we've kept since moving here from Tucson). Course work focused on the ankle pick - another key, key piece of what needs to be a part of my takedown game. I really like the ankle pick. For some reason, it seems to fit me better than the wrestler's shoot, which I've been trying to incorporate to no avail. The ankle pick assumes the lapel grips, which are what stymie my shoots typically. And I suspecct by attacking with that lapel grip early and keeping my opponent dancing on the end of it, I'll have the advantage of a deliberate takedown game, the ability to take the initiative or play defense against an especially aggressive competitor.

I think it was Grappler's Guide creator Jayschuls who said that he used his jiu jitsu training log to focus on answering specific questions that arise out of training. Right now, I want to think of what I learn as potential building blocks for my game: the 101 Tuesday night, the ankle pick tonight ... I've got index cards with these takedowns on them, 1-2-3-4 step flash cards that break down each move into easy to remember, one-word commands. I need to make sure I spend some quality time with them between now and July.

Another aspect of training tonight was working against the open guard and defending the pass from the sitting guard. We worked at less than 50%, and it was really good training to be able to slow down and focus on the technical aspect of what you are doing. The open guard pass that really seemed to work well for me was the one I used to call the Butler, though I had some good success with the step around, knee to belly toreano, as well. Again, I need to make these moves a mainstay of practice.

Tatame was good. I'm trying to refine the Ezekiel to make it as clean as possible. A clean Ezekiel is one of those most beautiful chokes in jiu jitsu. A dirty one is worse than getting one at all - at least in training. I was doing a bit better job of switching from mount to S-mount, but I'm not establishing the choke grip in the collar until after I make the S-mount transition, and that's too late because I tend to miss getting under the arm.

A good class. I ended up buying an official GB gi tonight after frustration with my ripped patches at reached its limit. Rodrigo was able to give me a great price in part because he had bought a few gis awhile back and had one left. I'd been nervous about getting a non-HCK gi, since I was so sensitive about sleeve length. But this A2 is just a tiny bit big, which means that a little laundering might make it close to perfect.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tuesday Training

First class with Rodrigo in weeks due to his vacation and my trip to Pasadena. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it to the Worlds while in Southern California. But I did spend Friday night at a nice little outdoor wine bar in a plaza across the street from the Convention Center, munching on pepperoni and mushroom pizza, sipping a nice pinot noir from Monterrey, and reading the Gracie magazine coverage of the World Pro Cup - as well as every other article in the issue. I even spent some time wandering through the Portuguese. You'd never believe I actually did my master's thesis on Brazilian history as hideous as my spoken Portuguese is. But written, I actually don't do as bad as I'd thought.

I'd done a 4 mile stretch on the treadmill. My most intensely aerobic session ever in all likelihood, 63 minutes with my HR in the low 140s, 600 calories burned. I think it's the kind of thing I need to do twice a week in order to have the sort of cardio I'll need to maximize my jiu jitsu and compete better.

I was drinking water all day, better than I usually am because I knew there was a pretty good leg cramping risk late in training tonight. And I ended up ending a roll with Elliott because of a hamstring cramp I'd been fighting off for awhile but succumbed to eventually. But I lasted pretty well in what was a characteristically vigorous Rodrigo training session.

I really appreciate the way he pushes us. He has a very good sense of how to bring us right to the edge of conditioning, when we can go one more round. I remember thinking that years ago as a white belt during one of those existential moments when I didn't think I could do another jiu jitsu burpee (the backroll to knees to standing move). It turns out that I need something else, the extended additional cardio that Joel Jamieson talks about and, more than that, the HICT (high intensity continuous training) that will help make these power-oriented glycolytic muscles of mine into something more efficient and oxidative. But the training on the mat is certainly doing its part.

Rodrigo had us work on the 101 tonight. I needed the tutorial. The one thing that has dogged me about the 101 guard opener is whether you hold on to the sleeve or the lapels. The verdict? The sleeve.

I need to make sure I drill this guard opener so that I have it as a legitimate option come July, rather than as a set of steps I sort of remember doing once. I'm still interested in the Flat Pass, and the novelty of it might work well in competition. But there is a world opened up to me if I can get the 101 going when I need it. So now's as good a time as any to put it in the fire.

Tatame ... Wellington caught me with a bicep slicer as I was defending an armlock. I actually spent quite a bit of time defending his armlocks. He was good and persistent about getting into position and I was fuzzy on the details of how to turn the defense into a real counter. Essentially, you want to pancake the legs and then once they are neutralized, reach over and crossface with your free hand. I think I managed something like that in one armlock defense. But I ended up getting reversed after passing the guard. And then on to more armlock defense.

I was a little disappointed in myself for forgetting the counter, and for feeling as fatigued as I was. On reflection, of course, I have to point to the 4 miles I did earlier today - and the fact that I haven't been training for a week - as perfectly reasonable factors working against me. That's to take nothing away from Wellington, who is moving very quickly toward a faixa roxa of his own, if you ask me.

All for now. This will be another truncated training week with my wife's Mom and Dad visiting from Arizona. I'll get on the mat again on Wednesday and then call it a week.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Monday Training

Last training before going out of town for a few days. Lindsey had us work on a lot of takedown/takedown defense, particularly with the single leg. This is all basic building block stuff, the kind of thing that I will be grateful for drilling over the weeks and months to come. If my single leg defense had been better at the last GB Seattle Invitational, I might have won my match against Jeff.

Lindsey has shown us the uchi mata counter to the single leg. But tonight he added a double leg follow-up if the uchi mata doesn't get the takedown. It's a little awkward, and you'd want to drill your footwork pretty intensely so that the odd stepping you have to do (your penetration leg in the uchi mata is also your penetration step for the double leg.

Tatame wasn't bad. I got caught by a nice sweep from a visiting blue belt when trying to pass in the half guard. I'm not a fan of north-facing half guard passes, at least not as initial attacks. And I got caught with my free knee up too high, making it vulnerable for the underhook and the sweep. Not only was it good to see a weakness in my north-facing half guard pass game, but also I've picked up something else to add to my pretty solid war chest of half guard sweeps.

In other news, I turned 42 today. I've got a goal of getting my black belt by the time I'm 45 (or, rather, in my 45th year, so I guess that means before I turn 46 ...). Bringing home some tournament hardware this year (summer or fall) would make me feel that I am at least on pace.