Thursday, July 30, 2009

Training Day: Thursday

We skipped the running because of the heat and went straight to the gymnastic calisthenics her warm-ups always include.

The instruction was pretty much classic stuff: the arm stuff triangle, the transition to omoplata if he hides his arm to avoid having it brought across, and the omoplata roll if the guy tries the step-over move to avoid the omoplata pressure.

I got in a few rolls: a young guy I didn't recognize (who was also my partner during the drills/instructional), a visiting black belt and Angela - who almost caught me in an armlock after evading my half guard. I had some good success with my go-to sweep from half guard - which never gets old, as far as I'm concerned.

A good night on the mats. The kind of nice training you can have when you're still months away from the next competition and the last one has already been filed away in the memory banks. Things should stay nice and slow for another month as summer plays itself out in earnest (record temperatures here in Seattle), and it seems like a great time to maximize my training time before training gets more specifically "goal-oriented" in September and October.

Satoru Kitaoka

There's a lot of buzz in MMA circles over the past few days at the grappling prowess of Satoru Kitaoka, lightweight champion for Sengoku, who is defending his belt against Mizuoto Hirota this weekend.
Satoru Kitaoka
Get more pictures like this from SHERDOG.COM
Here's a link to some footage shot by Sherdog reporter, Tony Loiseleur

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Straight Outta Tatame: Out from Under

Two of the critical areas that are emerging for me are rear mount escape and escape from the armlock from mount.

The emphasis is on "escape." I've gotten to the point where I can survive, for awhile if need be. But I have to be careful of becoming complacent in my ability to survive a triangle or choke attacks from rear mount. Theoretically, the more desperate my opponent becomes at my defense, the more I should be able to exploit that desperation with an escape rather than just more "defense."

For the rear mount escape, it's mostly a matter of getting back to basics: the scoop, the elbow kick and hipscape ... Tonight I spent a little time reviewing escapes for when you are late and the guy already has the collar from rear mount. Here, the idea is to look at the choking elbow and fall back on your side (almost as if doing a breakfall drill). You want your weight to be on the guy's leg just below the knee to effectively trap it. Also be careful of not falling flat on your back, making it easy to get mounted. To the side, to the side, to the side.

From there, you can pretty easily move your lower leg out from under the trapped/pinned leg. Then just back your way out of the rear mount.

As for the armlock from mount, this is one that Saulo outlines nicely in his book. Get him to fall for the deep elbow lock. Turn away to secure it. Then reach with your other hand to remove the lower leg from the face with a sort of figure four grip with your now-out-of-danger elbow-locked arm. You might have to hipscape back a bit to get an angle, but you want to sit up from here, folding his legs over and away to the side. Move toward the back (though he'll likely turn so that you end up in side control).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Training Day: Tuesday

Got to class a little late, about 30 minutes, but still managed to get on the mat just as the technique of the day, floating on the hook sweep from butterfly guard as a prelude to passing, was started.

There were two variations on the move, but both were essentially based on the theme of going with the hook rather than fighting it. There is a "wet blanket" strategy to dealing with the butterfly guard hook sweep. And I used it in specific sparring with Shawn the brown belt from Alaska. But the more dynamic approach Rodrigo was showing us opened up a number of different ways to pass.

The initial way to deal with the hook, or to "go with the hook" is to open up on the hooking side by (1) lifting the hooked leg high as you turn on your side, opening up or "looking at" the hook, (2) spinning on your other knee so that your lower leg flares outward, allowing you to "sit" on it as you rotate over to your side.

It's really a very simple move, the knee spin reminds me of Rodrigo's technique for avoiding being put in the half guard. It's worth drilling, though, because it is the kind of thing that is easy to forget and a little difficult to re-explain (as opposed to demonstrate).

The second way to deal with the hook was the big backstep, which I was more familiar with. To drill the moves, you would do the initial kick 'n' sit a time or two, then the big backstep.

One thing Rodrigo pointed out after we'd been working with the move a little bit is that one basic pass off the move is to cut your hooked leg back under the guy's attacking leg. This collapses his legs together and makes a high probability pass possible.

This was a good drill. It was hot as hell in the academy but, truth told, I loved it. I'll take "too damn hot" over "too damn cold" any day of the week - and moreso when it comes to training jiu jitsu.

Tatame was all about survival as I rolled with Shawn the brown belt and Casey. After getting some halfway decent grips with my brand spanking new collar and sleeve guard (now with outside hook behind the knee!), Casey blew through my guard and I spent the rest of the session desperately defending against chokes.

As was the case in my last few rolls with Shawn (the armlock from last week and the triangle from tonight), there are technical issues in actually escaping - rather than just surviving - these positions. And I do want to make sure that I've got some details down right. But I don't want to be so risk averse that I forgo the opportunity to get from a bad position to a good or even neutral one.

Good times. I'm training with a high frequency and feeling like I'm "growing into" my purple belt a little more each week. I think that if I can maintain focus through four times a week training, I'll be very happy about what I can accomplish over the balance of the year.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Training Day: Monday

a.k.a. Mr. Johnson's Jiu Jitsu

How about a little something for ATM six weeks in a row? Maybe the habit has finally stuck ...

A typically tough warm-up with extra emphasis on abs/core work ... I'm starting to be convinced that my difficulties with a lot of what Lindsey and Cindy have us do by way of warm-ups has less to do with weak abs and more to do with weak hip flexors. Any type of leg extension seems especially difficult compared to the other, "purely" abs-oriented work like chokes/crunches and even obliques.

It would make sense, insofar as I don't have very good hip flexibility at all. At one point, Lindsey was showing us during a hip strech how he would sit in guy's guard nice and low. Pete made the point that he couldn't sit as flat as many and I had to agree. I think I'm getting there with the stretching I'm doing most evenings. But I'm a long way from where I'd like to be.

The instructional focused on maintaining position in the mount. Lindsey made a great point of squeezing with the ankles in mount, not with the knees. His point was that keeping your knees locked to the guy's body made you that much more vulnerable to being rolled. Keeping the knees relatively loose also makes it easy to move and transition to S-mount for example.

I'm still working on my mount issues. But it was interesting to hear Lindsey's take. I've got a pretty good defensive mount. But it is predicated on using my knees for control and my hands for stability. Lindsey's approach might be the key to freeing up my hands for the choke, while still maintaining top control. Insofar as I have been working on finishing from the top, this will be a big part of what I'm trying to figure out from the mount over the next several weeks.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Training Days: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

Blame it on the heat ... I've had a harder time than usual keeping up with my post-training posts this past week. I've had a great time in training, focusing particularly on standing to open and pass the guard for 75% of the time and only "resorting" to the Flat Pass when the guy is determined to break my posture and keep it close.

So far, it's not a bad one-two. I still don't have a "jeito" for actually passing the guard other than the Fowler Backstep. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but I'm still loitering around the "toreano" sections of both Jean Jacques and Saulo's books. Ultimately, I'll find something there that works for me.

Some memorable rolls this week with Bryan on Friday, Cindy on Thursday, an incredible, exhausting, mind-bending roll with Rodrigo on what must have been Tuesday, I think ... I found myself working a lot of top position this past week, particularly the baseball choke trick of crawling up toward the head to get the second hand insertion. But it is still a region in progress. I'm also working a lot on the cross collar and sleeve guard with either the sleeve side foot in the hip or the outside foot hooking the thigh or knee of the trailing leg. Mostly, I'm getting scissor and scissor/hook sweeps and transitions to half guard - which is fine.

This week marks my first four-week, training per week average of 4.0. I'd been at 3.75 for the previous two weeks. But it is nice to see the number tick up into the A range. Post-training weight all week has been outstanding: Mon (155.8), Tue (153.2), Thu (155.6), Fri (151.8). And I've got two sessions left (out of 10) of the "cardiac output" phase of my pre-camp aerobic conditioning program. So far, so good.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Helio Test

Saulo Ribeiro talks about how Helio Gracie's creed was not that he would always defeat his adversary, but that his adversary would never defeat him.

I found myself thinking about that having rewatched a little of the GSP v. BJ Penn rematch earlier today and now after training reading a Sherdog thread on Brock Lesnar victory over Frank Mir. Even for someone whose first introduction to grappling was Boys Club wrestling in 3rd grade, there is a part of me that still hates seeing jiu jitsu guys get finished by wrestlers. Fortunately it's a smaller and smaller part - it's completely irrational and in both cases wrong-headed. Those victories by GSP and Brock actually proved that all was right with the world - or at least the world of fighting.

But maybe most disappointing is the way that both BJ and Frank lost. Neither was at a great shortage of words before their respective rematches. And to see them both so summarily silenced was stunning in a way. But more painful was to see two talented - world class if you want - jiu jitsu fighters unable to use their jiu jitsu to defend themselves.

Compare that with Diego Sanchez's losing performance against Jon Fitch, which should probably win an award for the most effective jiu jitsu against a wrestler in a losing context. Diego does not win. But he doesn't lose either. And his jiu jitsu was the difference.

I'd argue that Florian's loss to Sean Sherk might be part of that group of fights, as well. Kenny never gains the advantage on the ground. But he never loses his capacity for defense against Sherk's relentless top game. I think Kenny wins that rematch - standing or on the ground.

I remember Rodrigo telling a teammate a few years back (a teammate who was a blue belt at the time and whom I haven't seen since), that "jiu jitsu doesn't make you Superman." That's true. But your jiu jitsu should at least enable you to pass the Helio Test against an otherwise "equally" matched opponent in a mixed martial arts contest. You have to be able to survive.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jeff Glover Half Guard DVD Promo

The temptation is strong ...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Two White Stripes

Casey earned FOUR stripes on his brown belt. Lindsey was promoted to brown belt. Angela and Tim both picked up the faixa roxa, as did Brock and a few others.

Standing against the wall, having made it just in time to squeeze into the final purple belt spot as Rodrigo began addressing everyone, it was interesting to see all the white belts from Eastside getting stripes, including a number of women. I've always known that the Eastside location would be a big hit, and it's nice to see that the academy there is growing.

Jeff was there to present the trophy and Rodrigo made a point of saying that if the Revolution was a two-day event, with gi on one day and no-gi on the other, GB Washington would love to compete in full at the no-gi competitions, as well. As far as Jeff is concerned, it sounds like an issue of labor: if he had the volunteers, he'd be open to it. But the events don't run themselves. Personally, I'd be open to doing anything short of refereeing. But we'll see what comes of it.

As I said to Eric and Sean, it is always fun to see white belts promoted to blue belt. After all, everybody gets a white belt. The blue belt is the first one that you actually earn. Even visually, seeing them go from an almost virginal, all-white acolyte's robe to the sharp visual contrast of the blue belt ... It's a little jiu jitsu geek-esque, I'll admit. But I still get a kick out of seeing it.

Of course, if they're one of those white belts who always wears a blue gi, the whole thing is kind of turned upside down, I guess. But better white belts stop wearing blue gis than I pass up the opportunity to commit metaphor.

As for me, two white stripes. And a great 15-minute roll with Sean afterward.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Training Day: Thursday

First time training no gi in a little while. Cindy is in recovery mode, I think, so Rodrigo taught the class and led the training for the day.

After some pummeling work standing, Rodrigo had us work an ankle pick from the underhook. To execute the pick from standing, you want to take a deep penetration step with the underhook-side leg (typically right leg). That deep penetration step is what makes it possible to lunge down with your opposite or free grip and catch the same side ankle.

We did a lot of interesting movement work. For example, we lined up along the wall with one leg up as if defending against a mount take from side control with the leg up. We practiced hipscaping out, swinging the free/outside leg over (as if to block the shoulder), and then pulling the other leg back through. It's a way of practicing that one key guard replacement without a partner, and something I want to add to my little regimen of things I'd rather do on the academy mat than my little $75 mat at home. I also don't have a wall that would work.

We worked on another pair of guard replacements. The first was a running escape to sit and guard recovery from under side control. The second started out as a running escape to turtle. But then if the guy moved to take your back such that his leg was between yours, you could reach between your legs and grab his leg, then do a forward roll into either a sweep or knee bar.

A pretty good night of training. No gi is always fun even if not as interesting to me ultimately as gi training. Interestingly, my favorite finish no gi - the katagatame or head and arm choke - also works with the gi, but I rarely go for it, except when I'm training no gi. Since I'm still trying to develop an advanced level, "go to" finish from the top, it's strange that I haven't spent more time trying to finish with the katagatame in the gi.

Belts and Stripes this weekend. I'm hoping to get at least one or two good rolls in, maybe 20 minutes worth combined. The temptation to train at the Eastside Academy at least once a week - ideally Thursday - is pretty strong. Unfortunately, I'd have to drive through some incredible rush hour traffice at 167 to Auburn plus the 520-exit area before I even got to I-90. The only other way to stitch together 4 gi trainings in a week is to train MTWF, pretty much my original plan.

No Gi Grapplers Quest Superfight: Reis v. Glover

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Steve Maxwell on FightWorks Podcast

Here's a great interview with Steve Maxwell, one of the earliest American black belts who studied under Rorian back in the early 1990s in Torrance. Interestingly, he began training jiu jitsu at 38, just like yours truly.

FightWorks Podcast with Steve Maxwell

Maxwell is also based out of San Diego (University of Jiu Jitsu) and is known for his strength and conditioning work.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Training Day: Tuesday

By all accounts, Tuesday was one of the best training sessions I've had in awhile, better even than the Friday training before the July Revolution. My energy was good, my focus through the drilling was on target and, most importantly, I used standing guard passes every single time during sparring.

All told, that amounted to about 8 minutes of trying to pass the guard from standing. The cheat-sequence I'd worked on the night before the tournament (stand-squat-WAIT-grip-step-BREAK) was the one I used most of the time, and it worked like a charm. The trick for me is getting comfortable in a standing base (the "WAIT") before going through with the guard opening attack. So far so good on that.

Rodrigo had us working on three different reversals from the sitting guard - or a guard against the guy with the knee in the middle.

Number 1
From double sleeve control in the closed guard. Your guard opens and he puts the knee in the middle.

1. Wrap your left leg around his upleg in a sitting guard fashion. Put your right foot in the hip to keep him at a distance.

2. Grab his left sleeve with your right hand and pass it under his upleg to your other hand.

3. After you switch the grip, grab the collar and change from foot on hip to foot on knee.

4. Pull on the collar and push on the knee. As you come to the top, make sure that you come down on the guy's near leg as he falls over. You might have to rise up a little bit to make sure that you come DOWN on the leg.

Number 2
From double sleeve control in the closed guard. Your guard opens and he puts the knee in the middle.

1. You try the first sweep but he sits down on his down leg, making him hard to move.

2. Do a hip split switch, swinging your left leg out and swinging your right leg in behind the up leg.

3. Switch your hips back to the outside, trapping and extending the guy's leg as you move into side control.

Number 3
From double sleeve control in the closed guard. Your guard opens and he puts the knee in the middle.

1. Here, you can't get control of the grip to pass under the up leg.

2. Reach down and grab the pants by the ankle with your left hand.

3. Still holding the grip, you want to dive down behind his upleg (between his leg and the rest of his body), pulling hard on the sleeve as you roll.

This one was pretty tricky for me. I think the idea is to get a very deep roll off the bat. There are a couple of different ways to finish it. One is to roll back into the guy after you've rolled him onto his back. A second finish is to backroll over him after you've rolled him to his back.

Rodrigo's attitude was that what was most important was to stretch your ankle grip and your sleeve grip as you dive and roll, regardless of which side you take. That stretched grip is what gives you control and enables you to take a couple of different directions to get a dominant position.

Rodrigo also announced that there is a special class on Saturday at the Bellevue location. GB Wasington (the combined GB team) won both the gi and overall titles at the Revolution and Jeff will bring the trophy to the school on Saturday around noon. Rodrigo is also giving out belts and stripes, and there will probably also be a big picture.

I'd kinda looked forward to low-key weekend around the house. But given the way things worked out at the Revolution, a part of me feels that going on Saturday - and it entails a ride out to Bellevue rather than rolling around the corner to SoDo - is what they call a form of "closure." So let's close the door and get going.

Rickson on Mixed Martial Athletes

Aftermath of UFC 100 Sparks Comments from Rickson Gracie
"The UFC champion is impressive as an athlete. But he has holes in his game like anybody else. Technically, he is not as good as Fedor. It would take me longer to submit Fedor than it would him" says Rickson.

"I am not worried about his abilities. Whether he punches at me on the ground or standing, it is only a matter of time. In some ways, it is easier if he tries to punch at me standing. All the simpler to take him down. It ends in an armbar or a strangle regardless" finishes Gracie.
I love how articles like this continue to piss off MMA fans. More to the point, though, is that the Brock Lesnar phenomenon is something that Rickson anticipated - with less than total enthusiasm - from an interview a few years ago.
Concerning mixed martial arts, after an interview a few readers thought you criticized the technical level of today’s fighters, that in your opinion that level was sinking. How do you compare today’s athletes with the ones of yore?

I don’t think the level of the athletes is sinking. I see the time of the fights I being diminished, that the athletic part of athletes is more and more involved with hard training, sometimes even steroids. So people become super-men, super-strong, super-aggressive, super-explosive, and all that energy added to the low time limit reduces the need of showing technique. You have to be a bull, to get in there and win with your horns, not with your mind. So this natural development of the sport makes technique be left aside a little bit. This makes fighters level themselves down, because the sport no longer demands them to pay attention to detail. If you take off the gi and go into a five minute bout where you can use all your strength at once, nonstop… Why even bother about detail, technical carefulness? What you need are muscles! Besides, all styles got mixed up, there is no more style versus style, the athlete has a basic notion of how to defend because, in general, defending is a lot easier than attacking, so all you have to do is explode and resist for five minutes. So most fight finales nowadays end up being sudden knockouts. You don’t see as often a technique, a triangle, a back-taking. It all becomes sort of void of technique.

Who Do You Trust?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Training Day: Monday

Lindsey had us working from and against the scissor sweep. His counter to it was interesting, and something with potentially broad applicability. Essentially, he would pancake the top leg as soon as the guy brought it up. He'd grab the top of the pants by the belt for hip control and the leg by the knee to keep from getting put back in the half guard. From here, up on toes with weight down heavy on the top leg, try to smash the legs together as you walk on tip toes (but still heavy) around to side control.

The review of the basic scissor sweep was nice. I used to get killed by Shaka with this sweep, or an open guard variation of it, and have just started to add it to my game. I remember getting swept by Sauleh in my second-ever match against him with an open guard scissor sweep, also. I'm starting to include it, especially when I'm sparring against white belts and smaller opponents.

Lindsey also likes the armstuff triangle from Rap Star. I'm not a big fan of triangles from the bottom. But it's a solid technique.

A roll with Andrew and a roll with Mike. I got a little sloppy in the guard with Andrew, the half guard. I need to watch that. I did a better job of not panicking in Mike's guard, especially when he went to replace it, which has historically been very difficult to deal with.

The trick right now is to try and replace as much bad jiu jitsu karma with good jiu jitsu karma. I'm not quite at the "lemons to lemonade" moment, but training tonight with my GB Seattle team-mates went a long way toward washing what was bitter about Saturday out of my system. It's true: Mat Time Cures All Ills.

153.8 on the scale post-train. One of my goals will be to stay down at this level, on the light side of 155. Ramping up the aerobic work (LSD Sun/Mon/Wed/Thu) will help make that very doable.

At the spring Revolution, the good news was my half guard. This past weekend, the half guard actually came through again - if the referee's confession is to be believed - and I was able to add takedowns, particularly the Jacare, going 3 for 3. I need to do a better job of landing outside of the guard. But that's a detail that can be fixed and drilled with a sense of confidence.

So that leaves two pieces: passing the guard and finishing from a dominant position. And I've got 17 weeks - about four months - to burn those pieces into place.

El Paso, 1990

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Zahle mich zu den Mandeln

With apologies to Paul Celan ...

Top Three GB Performances at Revolution 7 11 09

This list includes only advanced divisions (purple and higher). I missed most of the blue and white belt matches.

3. Stephen Wanderer (brown belt LW)
Great technical performance. Combined 20+ to 0 in two matches.

3. Sauleh Eetemadi (purple belt LW)
I know that there were more than a few nervous Gracie Barra fans early in Sauleh's first match with a tough guy from Marcelo Alonso. But by the end of the day, Sauleh had wrapped up another first place, finishing his second opponent by armlock from the top.

2. Casey King (brown belt absolute)
Handsome, schmamsome ... Casey "Vicious" King comes back from a loss by armlock (against an opponent with a 25+ pound weight advantage) to win the fastest submission of the day in his second match - by armlock!

1. Lindsey Johnson (purple belt WW)
In what was clearly the deepest, hardest advanced division - Lindsey beat the guy who beat the guy I KNEW was the guy to beat to take first place. A very exciting match.

Correction! I learned Monday night that Casey's 29-second submission was actually bested by an even faster submission in a white belt match later that day. I'm keeping him in 2nd.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Roger: Swimming and Drowning

from "Roger's Secret"
Your elegant posture makes it looks almost like an English sport, although it’s called ­Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It reveals a lot of coolness and patience during fights, a lot different from the more agitated Jiu-Jitsu that we see a lot these days. Does that posture help you to defend?

Patience is the key to Jiu-Jitsu. I like the metaphor about the guy that is drowning. If he starts to flap his arms and legs, he is going to lose oxygen quicker and won’t think straight. To swim like that will make him sink to the bottom, but if he is calm he can come to surface easily. The same applies to Jiu-Jitsu. If the guy that is being attacked starts to move randomly trying to escape, he may simply be moving to adjust the position for his opponent, to tighten the move.

Training Day: Friday


That's my official weigh-in late this afternoon at Foster BJJ, nearly 3 1/2 pounds under the lightweight limit.

There were noticeable fewer people registering and weighing-in compared to the event at the beginning of the year. I always forget how much summer vacation plays a role in attendance at the July Revolution. I think last year, my last competition as a blue belt, there were only four of us. This past spring, in the purple belt LW division, there were six.

I had a great training Friday. Just what the doctor ordered. I got to work the kouchi gari with success, the Jacare with success and, maybe even more importantly, both the hug/kick half guard pass and the #1 closed guard open and pass from standing. It was pretty incredible.

I got to work with the black belt Joe, who I haven't seen in awhile. Rodrigo had us work on guard passes. The first was the underhook where you bring your inside elbow tight and reach under and grab the belt with the outside grip. Step deep (to his armpit) with the leg on the belt-grip side and pull him into you as you move your hips forward. Remember to drop your head between his head and his knee as you move into side control.

The second pass was one that I really, really want to focus on after the tournament. Here, you take advantage of the guy hipscaping back when you open the guard on the ground. Your move is to reach between his legs with your inside grip and cup the knee on his inside leg. A little bit above the knee is fine. With your outside grip, you want to control the sleeve on that side.

Sprawl out with your head in his abdomen area, pressing him down. Walk around to avoid the hook (it may be there, it may not), keeping the pressure. When you get to the side, all you need to do is pull up on the sleeve and pull up on the knee to get an excellent opening to side control.

The last pass came from standing. This was the one where you controlled the abdomen and the knee. The trick was to press forward with your knee, challenging his open guard and inducing him to push back. The order of the pass was: press forward, step back, then hop onto your outside foot as you kick back your inside leg and then swing it around to knee on stomach.

Like I said, a great training day - and one of the more productive classes, I've had. It also probably doesn't hurt that today was my fourth class this week and I'm becoming a fanatical convert to the idea that Mat Time Cures All Ills. I'm becoming convinced that a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday training schedule might be just the ticket to help me get better at the pace at which I want to improve.

We'll see what happens tomorrow. My record-breaking 151.5 weigh-in may be one example, but I have to admit that I feel better prepared for this tournament than I have for any other I've competed in. I've got my jitters, to be sure. And am enjoying a Mariners home game in HD to help pass the time between now and then (if worse comes to worse, I'm tossing in The International.).

But I've got a plan. And more than that - much more than that - a plan that has been tested at least to some degree in training. I think that has been the missing link. The success I had with the half guard earlier this year was an example of familiarity developed through training the same situation over and over in training can be priceless when you are "in the spot" - as Saulo puts it.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

He ... is Impossible

Roger 2nd Fight at Mundial

Roger v.s. Lovato Jr.

Training Days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

Maybe that Friday class was too good, insofar as it blew me out of blog posting for days. I have been training, three times this week so far with another appearance scheduled for Friday. And I do think that I've got a gameplan that is coming together.

Instructionally, Rodrigo has been focusing a great deal on standup/takedown conditioning and guard passing. Just what the doctor ordered, pre-competition, as far as I'm concerned. In particular, Rodrigo has us working on a leg underhook pass, one of the classic passes, with a caution to remember to keep the other elbow tight to avoid the triangle.

One thing that I have really been struggling with during this competition week has been passing the half guard. With the Royler pass, my mistakes include not sprawling my free leg out before I pike up, and not stiff-arming the leg. I suspect that the free leg sprawl is the biggest problem. And, fortunately, I'll get an opportunity tomorrow to work on it a little bit.

The watchdog half guard pass is something else I need to tighten up. Here, the mistake was more specific, but more crucial, as well. I need to remember that when passing the half guard (a) do not pass unless he is flat and (b) it is the hips/bottom leg that have to be pinned, not the top leg.

Monday and Tuesday classes were very intense. Monday Lindsey had us working on rear mount escapes for an hour, and then Rodrigo started the advanced class. Tuesday was all levels starting out with a bang with standup conditioning, guard passing and then some specific work before sparring.

Tuesday was the session in which I was really struggling with the half guard. I need to slow down and remember the technique and execute it. I was also having a hard time escaping rear mount - another instance where patience would help execute the proper technique.

Missed most of Wednesday's class after getting stuck in unbelievable downtown traffic. It took me almost 45 minutes to get from Eastlake to SoDo. I knew I'd be a little late, but leaving Eastlake around 5:45, should have been at the Academy a little after the top of the hour.

That said, I was able to get in a roll with Tommy and a roll with Stephen. I worked mostly the Flat Pass and the #1 half guard sweep with Tommy and some sitting/open guard stuff with Stephen who was playing me standing up a lot.

Like I said, it is nice to have a gameplan, a real front-to-back idea of what I want to do the day after tomorrow. I'm realizing that I've had a lot of half-efforts and half-notions about what I'd try and accomplish. But little that had been completely thought-through - to say nothing of drilled endlessly during training.

There are still more holes to fill than I'd like - and the calorie restriction that I've been using to get down to my target weight has me feeling pretty damn wiped out at the end of training. But it's really good to have a plan.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Roger Gracie's Perfect Nine

Roger's Nine Mundial Matches

This is some incredible photography of Roger Gracie at the Mundial earlier this summer.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Abu Dhabi East Coast American Trials

Find out who made the cut - with more great photographs - here.

And here's a link to the ADCC 2009: Barcelona webpage.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Friday Training

A really great class on Friday. I had planned to come early and stay late and I did, getting to SoDo around 11 am and staying until almost 2 pm.

Admittedly, the weather was great, one of the hottest days of the year, and given that Friday was the first day of a three-day weekend, it would have taken a pretty hefty measure of tragedy to dampen my mood much. All that said it was a great day of training and rolling. I got to train with Bryan (who I never get to roll with unless I train on Fridays) as well as Stephen, Connor, Jared and Maggie, who was in town from San Francisco and stopped by the academy. It's been a regular reunion week with Tommy returning to the mat midweek and then Maggie appearing on Friday ...

The instructional was mostly clinch work, with a conditioning edge. Rodrigo has developed a style of showing us three techniques that we work on one by one. Then, to finish up, he has us work back through the three to help improve the body memory and recall. Today, we worked mostly on clinch work. We pummeled for awhile, then trained a step back and re-under hook as a counter to the double unders, then a third move where you stepped back but then brought up the forearm against the neck to help drive the guy away.

Also, in what might have been a nod to Royler's self-defense work in his recent seminar, Rodrigo has us do a "plum" escape, an escape from the muay Thai plum that Anderson Silva has used with such devastating effect (especially against Rich Franklin).

First off, block any incoming knees by reaching up and hooking on top of the opposite plum arm. For me, it was easiest to reach up with my right hand and hook on top of his right arm, with my elbow pointed down to block any knee strikes. From here, step back with that same side leg so that you are in an open stance. As you do this, drive your other arm between him and his plum grip. It is a combination punch/stiff-arm type of move.

Bring that arm through and down, and wrap it back around his back as you either clinch or go in for a shoot on the legs.

As far as tatame notes go, SRO gets an "A" for effort. It's really just a matter of making it a regular part of what I do - along with the Flat Pass. Bryan swept me out of the Flat Pass when I leaned too far back instead of doing the "hand on a clock" rotation that Justin Garcia talks about in his video clip. But I did manage to have some success with it later. I also tried to switch too quickly to the Twist out of a Tackle half guard sweep with Jared and missed the move. I've got to remember that what makes the Twist such a devastating sweep when it works is the fact that I've felt the momentum correctly and waited for the moment before switching. Going too early just ends up in trying to muscle the move over (not a good idea with someone like Jared).

Like I said, a really great day on the mat - no doubt boosted by the fact that it was the first day of a summertime holiday weekend. The mat was packed, Rodrigo had to let us spar in Group A / Group B style because there were so many people there to train. Maybe I would feel differently if I were regularly in one of those notorious NYC jiu jitsu classes with 150 people or something, but there's nothing more fun than training when there is a huge turnout with a big range of sizes, experience and style. That's part of what makes seminars so much fun. I remember Cristiano's seminar from a few months back, where you could line all four walls with people from white belt to black belt. It was like some house party from the 90s.

I doubt that I'll train on Saturday (which is too bad; I need to make the Saturday before a tournament a must-train afternoon). But Friday was just the kind of session I need before competition week gets going on Monday. My plan is to train Monday through Thursday, take Friday off and weigh-in later that evening. I'm not entirely convinced that the 153.2 I got on the scale post-training is to be trusted. Then again, I hadn't eaten anything all morning but a Clif Bar (crunchy peanut butter, if you're curious) and have been increasingly disciplined about my diet in recent days. So maybe I'm already dipping into the Revolution's lightweight zone of 154.9-140. Pretty crazy to start the week at 166 and end it at 153 (a 7% drop).

Conditioning-wise, I'm doing LSD every other day into Thursday. Friday will be all about sweating out any few remaining pounds (Martell: "Do Not Burn Glycogen"). Watching some track and field on cable this afternoon, I was reminded at the sharp physique difference in top athletes as you move from the sprint competitions (100m and 200m) to the so-called "distance" competition (800m and 1500m), and how that reflects on the relative importance of aerobic conditioning over anerobic for all but the most short term of activities. I feel great when I'm doing regular LSD, which has not been often enough. I think that genetically I'm tuned more toward the power, fast twitch (think Olympian sprinter Michael Johnson or judoka Rhadi Ferguson) way of generating energy. Anything I do that takes me in the other direction (toward the Ethiopian) will only help balance and extend my ability to perform.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Few Minutes with Anderson Silva

Anderson Talks Wanderlei, Future at 205
This is the karate era, not normal karate but Machida karate. It's like when we had the Gracie jiu jitsu era, which I think hasn't finished yet. It still exists independently, even if we don't have any Gracie at the top of MMA. Any Brazilian in MMA has to thank the Gracie family. I always watch Royce's fights, Rickson's too. I'm always on what's new in jiu jitsu.

Braulio Wins in Paris

Braulio Estima Earns Gold at Grappling Master VIP Tournament in France
Braulio Estima had a perfect weekend winning the Grappling Master VIP tournament, this Saturday in Paris. The heavyweight world champion took home to England with him a check for 5 thousand dollars. Carcara’s brother, Victor Estima, and Lucio Lagarto also went to battle in the event featuring 16 competitors, 11 of whom were French and five Brazilian.
Here's some footage of Braulio Estima competing against Demian Maia at the ADCC Brazilian Trials in 2005.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

More on Royler

15 Questions with Royler Gracie courtesy of Sherdog.
Sherdog: When you want to train in the US, where do you go?
Gracie: My training center is at the University of Jiu-Jitsu, with Saulo and Xande Ribeiro in San Diego. When we have important competitions, I go there to lead the training, but it’s important to make it clear that I don’t teach there. Me and Saulo have an excellent relationship; sometimes he sends a private student to me. I have built a nice dojo in the garage of my house, and it’s a nice area where I receive friends and give private classes. But Saulo’s academy is definitely my headquarters in US.

And because I know you want to see it, here is his classic match with Eddie Bravo.

It's worth adding that Royler was recently in town and gave what I heard was a great, 3-hour seminar. A lot of self-defense, little regard for the half-guard and a pretty impressive treatise on why it pays to learn now not to get into bad situations in the first place.