Thursday, October 29, 2009

Women in Jiu Jitsu: Hillary Williams

One of the big time, up 'n' coming women grapplers on the scene today is Hillary Williams, who came in third place at ADCC 2009 in Barcelona after submitting top talent Megumi Fuji by RNC. Gracie Magazine is announcing that she was just awarded her brown belt.

Hillary gets brown belt
"Now I feel there’s no more room to fool around. I’m at the top of the food chain, and hungry to train even harder still. I need to prepare for the Pan and the Worlds that are coming up. But I’m still stoked and ready for the challenge," she told reporter Gabriel Menezes.

Hillary was recently a guest on Caleb's FightWorks Podcast radio program.

Hillary Williams on FightWorks Podcast.

Training Day: Thursday

First Cindy class in almost a month. Since the tournament is about a week and a half away, Cindy had us work guard/pass guard and then sparring for both the gi and no gi classes. In both instances, we did extensive standup - another tournament prep bonus. I was struggling cardio-wise more than I would have liked, though I was effective enough with my picks off the collar tie with both gi and no gi. The trick is really to commit and get low - fatigue meant I was going for the knee a lot more than I should have relative to the ankle (as Rene pointed out later in the session). But the lower I go, the easier it will be to get that ankle.

I need to make sure that I get my rest with nine days to go until the event - that and keeping my diet up. I've been getting away with about a meal and a half a day for the past several weeks and what I'm gaining by way of weight loss I may be losing in terms of energy. Even if I haven't been able to do the off mat conditioning I would have liked to do, training has been vigorous enough for me to be doing better than I am doing. A little more eating, and a lot more rest are a must for the next week and a half.

Very much looking forward to the weekend. I should be able to get in one more training session this week, hopefully tomorrow. I've got some questions for Rodrigo about the Leozinho pass, the one he showed us the day before the summer Revolution tournament, that pass that might have won me that first match if I had the opportunity to drill it a few more times (and remembered to use it when the opportunity came). I've noticed that a lot of guys are hipscaping out when I clamp down tight in the guard. The Leozinho - and the bear hug pass - are great options when that happens.

One thing that Cindy's classes always expose is my horrifically weak hip flexors. Scissor kicks, flutter kicks, even the triangle conditioning drill ... all of them are among the hardest jiu jitsu calisthenics we do. I'm going to have to integrate those into my matwork routine - or as a separate routine, maybe combined with armoplatas and hook sweeps to really murder my hips and quads. It's clearly one of my weak spots.

153.0 on the scale after class. I was actually 160.2 in the gi before class, well under the IBJJF lightweight max of 167.5, but still way too heavy for the featherweights at 154. If I ever end up at the Pan Ams one of these years, it will definitely be as the former.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Training Day: Wednesday

More good training tonight. In some ways, competition training is a lot like the training Rodrigo used to do more often back when GB Seattle was a mile or two further south in the Tully's Building. Although the conditioning is no joke, I really wouldn't mind if we did more of it. Between that and the emphasis on specific training (especially guard/pass guard), it's been some really good training over the past few weeks.

The instructional was more of a drill on the underhook pass. It's a guard pass I really ought to attack with more. Rodrigo had us do a nice drill where the guard player provides movement, but not so much as to totally impede the pass. I'll take some of this kind of training every week (if not every day). You really get to WORK the pass, instead of being ready to transition to something else the second you get resistance as is often the case when you are sparring. It's a little more live than regular drilling, but far from a specific. Good stuff. We also worked against the spider guard in the same way. I worked both the basic toreano with the step back, the toreano with the twistover - hipstepping up and folding the legs over to the far side and passing toward the back - and the little hand jive pass where you swim the wrist to free the grip, grab the opposite leg at the cuff with the newly-freed hand and attack with the Jack Pass.

One note about the Jack Pass. Stiff arm the leg and pull on the sleeve. If you pull on the leg and the sleeve - as I did with Alex - you're not as likely to get to his side because you are bringing the leg toward you. It's a lot like that half guard replacement from turtle - which I also wasn't able to get with Alex, or with Jesse the night before - you want to just hold the leg in place and move your body, not try to move his leg.

I've got a lot of confidence with the Flat Pass going into next weekend. The fact that it's not a very common guard pass - though everybody's heard of it in some other name - gives me a nice edge. Even with teammates who know it is coming, I'm able to be competitive.

What I need to improve is my half guard pass - a particular point of shame given my fidelity to the half guard. Rodrigo showed us a version of Crossface Walkback where you get a lapel wrap under the far arm and around the head toward you as a way of getting even more leverage with the Shoulder of Justice as Frodo calls it. My guess right now is that I just need to pick a half guard pass and stick with it for awhle. And Crossface Walkback is as good as any. Saulo even touched on it at the seminar when Marcelo Alonso asked a question about dealing with the knees (Saulo's tip? As you walkback and block with the shoulder, pull the knees toward you instead of away from you. That creates a bad body dynamic for the half guard player because he is looking away from you because of the Shoulder of Justice, while his knees are pointing toward you.)

154 after training, which is another 2.5 or so off Tuesday night's weight. This is about where I want to hang out, with the limit being 154.9. I'm sure I'll drop a little lower as I continuing training - assuming I don't blow up over the weekend. I'd like to spend more time training at 152-154 and less time getting down to that range.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ADCC 2009 Wrap Up

What a blast it would have been to have attended ADCC 2009 in Barcelona!

Here's a wrap-up of the event, including an award for "Best Fight" and Gracie Magazine's updated ADCC All Time Champions ranking.

Updated ADCC Rankings

Training Day: Tuesday

162.4 on the scale before training. 157.4 after.

Part of why I know I missed training on Monday was because I ate too much over the weekend (our first "dinner party" in years) and didn't get in any activity after training on Friday. Not training is bad enough, but combining it with overeating is something really bad. My stomach still feels awful - though better than it was this time yesterday.

It seems like 160 has become the new 170. Having dropped down below 155 for so many weeks, it is no fun being back above that number, even if only by 5 pounds.

Tonight was very much a training night. A good hard warmup, then some standup, then guard/pass guard for the duration. After that, I got in a roll with Jesse, who I haven't rolled with in a long time. That pretty much did it for me for tonight.

A few notes: my Flat Pass is doing a very, very good job of getting me to half guard more often than not. But I'm still having a harder time than I should when it comes to passing the half guard. My strategy over the past several days has been to attack with submissions and passes alternately until something opens up. While I'm still going to go with this, I need to work on my latest half guard pass series which gives me three different options without needing to distract with a submission attempt.

Back on the mat tomorrow - and likely Thursday and Friday, as well. There's even a halfway decent chance that I'll get on the mat Saturday, but I don't want to push it. If I can get my four days this week (TWRF), then I'm not going to cry about not getting a fifth.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rockin' the Nineties

I'm not sure which is crazier ...

Having just realized that one of the last few songs from the 1990s that I've never been able to get out of my head is a song called "Vasoline" by the Stone Temple Pilots?

Or having just seen for the first time video of one of my favorite jiu jitsu guys of all time, armlocking the bejeezus out of somebody at a tournament more than ten years ago when he was just a blue belt?

An American in Brazil

One of the great embarrassments/achievements of my life is my Master's degree in Latin American Studies with an emphasis on Brazil. The achievement part is obvious - earning a Master's degree was pretty cool. The embarrassment part is two-fold: that I never became fluent in Portuguese (though I could read Portuguese passably well for a while) and that I never went to Brazil.

So it is that I often find myself living vicariously through travel logs like this:

DC2Brazil: The chronicles of a self-important gringo leaving the monuments of Washington for the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
As a college student, I studied abroad for a year in Chile. Soon after, I completed my college degree and made my way to Washington, DC.

After two years in DC, I quit my job during a recession to instead pursue my affinity for language and travel.

The purpose of this blog is straightforward. It is an experiment in risk and opportunity. It is my record of what is possible when we forgo the comfort of predictability and embrace the adventure of possibility.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Two Weeks Out

Registration ends Wednesday, November 4th. Click here for more.

Interview with Felicia Oh

Here's an interesting article on Felicia Oh, one of the top grapplers on "the circuit" who was recently featured - along with Valerie Worthington and Emily Kwok - on a FightWorks Podcast special on "Women in Jiu Jitsu". I'll confess to being thrilled to read that Felicia is 41.

Felicia Oh seeking another Grappling World medal for the USA
She is also becoming an innovator within the sport. Along with fellow U.S. Grappling Team member Valerie Worthington and Canadian Grappler Emily Kwok, they have started holding women’s Grappling camps. There is a limit of 30 participants, and the women get a variety of martial arts training from these three experts. They have held one in California and the other in Toronto, Canada, and both have been big successes.

“At these camps, you get to meet and train with other women and other high level women. You get to see how people train, how they act, and learn from the example they set. It is also an opportunity for higher ranking women who have not had the experience of teaching to have the opportunity to build their skills,” said Oh.

Here's footage of Emily at the ADCC 2007.

And here's Felicia at the same event:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Jacare!

A belated happy birthday to the original Jacare, Romero "Jacare" Cavalcanti.

Here's a Fightworks Podcast Interview with the 6th degree black belt and leader of Team Alliance.

And here's a Wikipedia bio.

No Gi Mundial Streamed Live Nov. 8

Watch the 2009 NoGi World Championships LIVE!

More details here on the tournament.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Training Day: Friday

Was too beat up to train Thursday night - and was also anticipating a rip-roarin' Friday class. At it turned out, Rodrigo turned it up, but not overwhelmingly so (i.e., a minimum of sprawls). I got a good workout without feeling too overwhelmed.

We did some hipscapes, jumping jacks, squats, pushups and chokes to warm-up. Then the new takedown warm-up/conditioning/pre-tournament routine wear you maintain the gi grips. I'm still looking for ways to attack the legs around the stiff-arm of the gi grip (without popping the grip), so it is nice to get the work.

The instructional was the double biceps side control escape, which we did at a pretty good pace. Rodrigo also had us work on the Cross Guard move where you get a cross grip on one side, then attack the leg on the other side with a hook and cuff control as you spin around under him and kick the hook leg forward to off-balance. I tried this a little bit in the guard/pass guard specific drill - the trick is to remember the cross. It was nice working the drill with the new white belt I was paired with and helping him complete the steps really did a great job in helping me remember them.

I have to say that I love the fact that I've really only worked on two different positions this week: the side control escape and the Cross guard. In my perfect jiu jitsu world, I would train twice a day for four days a week and learn about 2-4 positions over the course of the week - so this pace (training once a day four times a week) of two moves a week is ideal for me.

I also love training the basic/beginner classes. I almost miss the drills we used to do - the armlocks from the guard and mount, for example. One day when Gracie Barra Seattle expands enough to do two day classes every day, I'd love to teach/lead a jiu jitsu conditioning/circuit-building class that is all drills: 360 drill, armlocks from the guard, hook sweeps, my matwork routine, armlocks from the mount, Rodrigo's takedown drill, then all specific sparring mount/mount escape, side control/crossbody escape, guard/guard pass - hell, maybe even some ginastica natural, while I'm at it.

Got to work some Flat Pass during tatame. I'm thinking I'll get a chance to use it at the Revolution given the fact that some many guys rely on the closed guard. I had some success today going the other way - though I really need to keep working it develop a sense of stability and surety. At the same time, I want to make sure that I'm working both Shield and Sword (I might rename that the Saulo) as well as the Leozinho, which I almost went to Wednesday as well as Friday.

Also fun was working with Glen on a couple of things: low mount and the Ezekiel, high mount and the armlock. We also went over the two main side control escapes: the double biceps and the swim-to-belly. I can't even say how much fun that was: going over basics, living somewhat vicariously through someone else's tournament prep.

A good week of training. Including the two hours of training on Sunday at the Saulo seminar, I managed to get in a second consecutive four-training week. I can really feel the difference when I'm training at this clip and it is really motivation to do what I can to stay off the illness list and on the mat. One thing I'm hugely grateful for is the fact that I've been injury-free for quite awhile it seems. Annoying as the headcolds and rhinovirii are, I'll take them over a 6-week whack due to a bad shoulder or worse.

Next week, as I go into "Fight Speed" until tournament time, I'll be back on my regular schedule. There is a huge temptation to take the early classes for the next two weeks to try and condition myself to train at the same time of day that I'll be competing at. It hugely tempting - and would probably contribute toward getting the rest I really need - but we'll see if I can pull it off.

I'm still in the Saulo glow - even after hearing a few stories (one from a teammate and one from the Intertubes) that didn't necessarily portray the man in the most magnanimous light. But seeing my heroes as mistake-making human beings actually is a prerequisite for pedastal-hood. If I don't see flaws in the work, then I'm inclined to believe I'm looking at a fake.

Without going on and on about any more than I already have, the Saulo seminar seems to have helped chill me out: about competing, about training, about "accomplishing" things in jiu jitsu. There are times when I start to treat training like work, like an obligation in order to get to where I want to be. And while that's understandable, ultimately that's not right. I'm not training to become a jiu jitsu black belt. I'm training because jiu jitsu is one of my favorite things in the world and I can't quickly get over how fortunate I have been to have a top-notch Gracie Barra academy less than 30 minutes away from home for the past four-plus years. While "enjoy the journey" tends to have a bit of an "eat your vegetables" quality to it, it really is the truth: you've got to enjoy the path, the process, in order to get the most out of both becoming and being.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Training Day: Wednesday

I had told myself before the Saulo seminar that I could use some jiu jitsu wisdom. What I got, in addition to a couple of techniques that I'm looking forward to trying out in training, was not quite wisdom so much as attitude in the "frame of mind" Suzuki sense of the word (the Western sense of the word has connotations of obedience that I don't sympathize with). It was a calming down, a "remember to breathe," a think-in-short-elemental-movements kinds of wisdom Saulo imparted, something along the lines of presence, maybe, or what people are always saying after getting the opportunity to train with Rickson Gracie. You can definitely feel the Zen in it - an interesting sensation for a non-Zen Old Testament Buddhist like myself - and I think it's actually making it easier to do just about everything I've been doing at home at GB Seattle. Even in the midst of trying to get back my conditioning, I could find myself at peace in the luminous whirlwind of jiu jitsu.

There were a few good instances of this - though the best might have been with a relentless white belt who flew around my guard Connor-style. Getting back to guard and to sweep took awhile, and I felt myself processing at a pretty good pace, taking incremental step after incremental step to improve the situation until I was in a position to try and take the advantage. It was some good training.

Rodrigo has got us in competition mode, three weeks out from the Revolution (more like two and a half) and about eight or nine weeks out from the Interschool Tournament That Needs a Good Name. The pace is hard, but Rodrigo typically knows just how to bring us to the threshold. I'm doing better than I thought I would.

The instructional, by the way, was the double bicep side control escape. I was dragging through this drill late, but again, I wasn't alone in that regard (Charlie).

Some good work with the Twist Back tonight. With the tournaments coming up, I'm giving myself the "all clear" to work with my competition gameplan type moves from now until December 14th. I'd like to work in the slingshot and the armdrag from half - and the success I had with the Fowler Series 3 from the latest Gracie Magazine tonight means I'll likely be adding that to my top half game.

But the name of the game is still takedowns and guard passing. I'm feeling fine enough about the former, and the latter is coming rather than going. Clint is among the guys doing a really good job of testing my Flat Pass, and I'm starting to get the nerve to go left as well as right. Shield and Sword with Stephen turned out to be a stalemate (I should have gone for the Leozinho!), but I want to continue to work it as the opportunities arise. My suspicion, though, is that I'll either end up relying on the Flat Pass or the Leozinho if I find myself in guard at the Revolution (or if I get lucky off the Leozinho, the Butler or the Jack Pass).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Training Day: Tuesday

A pretty good day back at GB Seattle. I was a little anxious due to a lingering sore throat and the sense that, despite the upbeat pace of Saulo's seminar, I hadn't done any hard training since Friday. Rodrigo turned it up to "more than warm", but not quite as hot as I suspect things will get in a week. I felt challenged to my limits during the warm-up/conditioning phase, which was good. The standup variation was left collar grip / right collar grip, and go for the leg without breaking the grip. Light sparring pace.

We worked on the double bicep hook side control escape tonight as the main instructional, and Rodrigo added a choke after you get to the side. I was fatigued after the first part and I think that played some role in my losing focus on the feed-the-collar part of the choke. This was predictably bad on my bad side. But it was very nice to get to work the same escape some more. Part of it is circuit building and part of it is conditioning. A perfect blend any time, but especially pre-competition.

Training was four minutes guard/pass guard. I actually liked my disciplined approach of attacking with the Flat Pass first to my better side and then to my weaker side. If I were smart, I'd train my weak side almost exclusively between now and the Revolution (the Maia Plan, per the UFC's Mike Goldberg - of all people). But we'll see how that goes. Then, in an even more stunning display of self-discipline, I switched to standing passes for the rest of the session. I never got to really implement the Crab or the 1 on 1 from standing, though I did bring back the oldie, but goodie in PTMU which I would do well to drill a few times between now and then.

From the bottom I was a little timid in my full guard - very timid actually, setting up left armlocks and pretending I was "threatening" with them when there really wasn't any chance of me pulling the trigger. I also went with my basic half guard game - and on my best side, too - which wasn't impressive. I could have redeemed myself if I'd practiced either the armdrag or the slingshot. But apparently lightning will have to strike before I train either of those situations when given the opportunity ...

I did find myself getting all Saulo/Rickson during sparring after training. I was attacking from the guard with a lot of foot-in-the-hip straight armlocks early on. There were a few aspects later in the session that I'm not proud of, and need to be more mindful of moving on when a situation is not working in my favor instead of staying until the situation finally bends to my will. It's ultimately a poor way to practice and can do a disservice to my training partner, as well.

That doesn't mean just "giving up" a good position because the submission hasn't arrived. Maybe it just means being even less risk-averse and attacking with submission like an armlock that forces me to give up the position and give the other guy the chance to escape.

Something to keep in mind. 155.2 on the scale after training which wasn't bad considering. I was 166.2 with the gi before class, which was well under the IBJJF lightweight with gi limit of 167.5. I suspect over the next just-under-three-weeks, I'll shed "permanently" another two pounds, which will take care of the 154.9 I need to make on November 6th.

Looking for a way to take Cindy's Friday night no-gi class. I meant to ask Jeff B. what the odds were of the Revolution becoming a two-day event, with gi on one day and no gi on the other. Even though I'd be competing in the advanced group now with some real tough guys I'm sure, a part of me would love to give no gi competition a try in my second year of faixa roxa-hood.

We'll see about Cindy's Fridays. It may not be until after the Revolution. But the idea of being able to train at night, come home and NOT have to think about getting up at 5:30 the next morning sounds pretty good to me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two from Terere


Match with Matt Serra

Demian Maia: Same Road, Same Flag

Taking the night off after training for about eight hours over the past three days, I came across this new interview with Demian Maia from Gracie Magazine
Q: What was the day after like?

Maia: Horrible, but I was already thinking of the next shot. I always go by something I heard Rickson once say: “Victory, once achieved, should quickly be forgotten, as it is fleeting.” I always did that in my previous fights, all of them victorious. Why would it be any different now? Defeat is, as is everything else, impermanent.
Demian is scheduled to fight Jim Miller at UFC 110, I think, for early February.

Rickson's Yoga

A fascinating interview with Orlando Cani, the man who taught yoga to Rickson Gracie and who is the true founder of what is known as Ginastica Natural, currently marketed by Alvaro Romano.
Q: How was Rickson, as a student? How was his attitude? How was his talent in it? How fast and how deep did he learn it? What was he interested in, mainly? How long did he learn it from you?

Orlando: Rickson Gracie was the best student I had. He was the one to assimilate best the process. He's very serious and deeply concentrated. He stare at me hearing, and what I say penetrates him like a glove. He assimilates it deeply. It's very impressive. After two years of training with me, he almost make me cry, I was deeply touched. He told me: "Today you will be seated down and I will perform the class by myself". I felt like he was going to fly away from the window, how perfectly he did, specially smoothing. My work is very intense, standing - on the ground, standing - on the ground, there's no good or bad position, it's movement, for me movement is life, is action, it's energy.
The bit about Romano is disappointing in many regards, because I think what he has done to make Ginastica Natural more widely practiced is very admirable. But if you're going to know something, you might as well know what is likely to be true.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Saulo

I didn't ask Saulo exactly how he crawled into the half guard as a way of getting the guy flat - the only way to properly pass the half guard. Saulo had made an interesting point about the brabo choke on Saturday, alluding to the fact that the development of the brabo choke from the top in half guard was an evolution based on persistent, and persistently failing, attempts to deal with someone in the half guard who is able to get to his side.

I also didn't ask him what his thoughts were about preparing for competition. Although his reputation as a great teacher will undoubtedly grow, he is also jiu jitsu's greatest competitor, being a six-time world champion. With two major local tournaments coming up in early November and mid-December, I thought it would be great to hear how he prepared for competition, how he developed a strategy, whether he did outside conditioning or focused mostly on skill-enhancement. But there never really seemed to be an opportunity for that kind of Q&A.

Which was too bad, generally and selfishly. Saulo is very good spokesman for jiu jitsu, and I suspect he would have been more than happy to answer a question or two - especially one that might relate to a lot of people there attending the seminar.

Sunday was no gi. As you might imagine, Saulo places a minimum on "training" no gi. He tends to see no gi the same way that I do: as a sort of recreation, a "day off" from regular jiu jitsu, like those days late in the summer back in elementary school when they let you have class outside. He made a lot of interesting points on no gi or submission wrestling, pointing out that the only one that has established submission wrestling as anything other than no gi jiu jitsu is the sheik who funds Abu Dhabi. Every other no gi / submission wrestling even merely borrows the point system from jiu jitsu - adding, of course, some wrinkles of its own.

Techniques. We started with a step back move off the clinch, pinching down on trapped elbow by leaning in with shoulder pressure, a sort of whizzer move. From here, swing around and get the front headlock with your free arm, reaching under to connect with a gable grip. Before cinching the grip, push the arm in as if going for the anaconda. If nothing else, it will set up a very tight guillotine as you drop back into half guard.. You would to use your inside leg to also help keep the pushed-in arm to the inside, instead of relying on your grip alone. If you have the grip, all you need to do is stretch the legs to get the submission.

Thai plum escape. Turn. Hug. Shoulder Pop. Dip. Single. Double.

General standup tips. Don't attack the head for the colllar tie. Instead, attack the bicepts, working for inside control. When he rotates to combat your inside control, pop his elbow in and attack. You can shoot, move for the back, whatever. The point is that by pushing his elbow in, you've got a clear shot to his side before he can react by bringing it back and putting it in front of you as some kind of block.

Saulo talked about an attack from the back from one of his Abu Dhabi fights. From the back standing, with a body lock, reach over and do a sort of inverted high crotch grab around the thigh. Insert hook behind his leg with the outermost leg, planting the inner leg for leverage, and take him backwards for the sweep.

Shin-pin sweep. Against standing opponent. Left hand around knee, left shin against lower shin. Rock to inside and lift with shin-pin. Underhook other leg and rock ALL THE WAY back the other way. Reset legs for Eddie Bravo style double-X guard and roll back in other direction.

Escape front headlock. Protect the neck. Reach behind back to butt with other hand. Step up with leg on protect/neck side . Sit back/Sit through. Turn into guy toward legs, reaching across body with protect/neck grip.

Guard pass: Crab pass and 1 on 1. Fight legs with legs and arms with arms. Get close with no gi. Crab pass = inside control: Block one side. Smash, Cut, Scoop or Skirt other leg. 1 on 1 = one leg in and one leg out. If knee goes wide, look to get to Crab pass. If knee comes in, pinch with outside knee just enough to cross center line, then use your body weight to press leg down and pancake the legs to the side. There's also a Cut option to the other direction.

I've been wanting to attack the guard more to guy's left side ever since hearing Saulo make the point that the fact that Demian Maia was left handed made his especially tricky to deal with. I still like my Flat Pass to the right. Even if it is most guy's stong side, it's my strong side, too, so it's iron against iron and I've got to always be willing to go with that. But the new guard pass approaches from this weekend are new enough - or feel new enough - that I can start trying them (Shield and Sword for gi; Crab Pass and 1 on 1 for no gi) to the left - or both - immediately. I'll take guard pass ambidexterity over guard pass hit-or-miss-riocrity any day.

Another thought on the half guad pass and leaning the legs toward you as you back out of the half guard. This one from Saturday works because you are in crossface watchdog and are forcing him to look away while bringing the knees toward you. Unable to face you, he can't turn.

An excellent weekend. I could have spent a week like this, especially that long session on Saturday. I was a little surprised at how few Gracie Barra folks there were - I think there were maybe three of us on Saturday and and only two of us on Sunday. In any event, it was an incredible experience. And I'm openly hoping that this experience has provided me with just the base camp I need to launch the next leg of the ascent.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saulo: Day One With the Champion

Rodrigo called Saulo Ribeiro one of the best teachers in jiu jitsu. After spending four hours at Saulo's seminar today in Fife, I see exactly what Rodrigo meant.

I've always been a fan of Saulo and his approach to jiu jitsu. His outlook, which I think was really forged during the months he spent with Rickson Gracie as a brown belt, is all about getting to the fundamentals of what jiu jitsu is about: survival, "blocking" rather than merely "defending", escapes that take true advantages of the weaknesses inherent in any attack and - perhaps more important for me - passes that force your opponent to defend with fewer tools and less room to use them.

It would be very easy to go on and on about today's session. Even the drive down I-5 to still yet another part of Western Washington that I've never really been to was an enjoyable ride. I got to train with Pat for the whole session, which was a nice bonus - not the least of which because he had a copy of Saulo's book also, and was noting which moves were in the book and which weren't (I was doing the same thing.).

Some of the details were priceless. I have a better understanding of how I want to escape the mount, turning more by a quarter than a half. I have a better understanding how to both be on top in half guard - driving the outside knee into the hip, and how to walk the guy over to get him flat before passing - as well as how to have greater mobility and agility on the bottom. Thanks to a question from Professor Alonso, I have a better idea of how to escape the legs when using the watchdog half guard pass with crossface (i.e., pull the knees toward you instead of away, and then hipscape back away from him).

And, dare I say it, I think I might have finally figured out a Unified Field Theory for passing the guard from standing. We'll have to see what comes of it in training next week. But Saulo's "Shield and Sword" concept of attacking the guard alone may end up being worth the cost of the seminar. That, and his consistent theme of locking your opponent's body and attacking him with your superior ability to move. When you think about it, it is classic military attack strategy: pin them down, then mow them down.

It was a long day (two two-hour sessions with about a 45 minute lunch break). But it ended up being a perfect length. It will almost be strange to only train for two hours tomorrow for the no gi session. That's the thing about jiu jitsu. When you start to really turn toward it, it becomes so easy to start to orient yourself around it - to the point where you wish you could be training twice a day every day. It's really something else.

A couple of things that stood out. Saulo made the same point about training partners that Rodrigo did a few weeks ago. Clearly, it's a big deal. Also I was impressed at how much time Saulo spent encouraging people to wear the "flag" of their school on their back. "You don't train with Vulcan or Koral or Atama," Saulo said, adding that he felt that he could tell a little about a person by the way he wore his "flag". "And not on the leg or on the sleeve or on the collar. On the back," he emphasized. "Because it says, 'this is where I come from. This who's got my back.'" It might have seemed old-fashioned, but I'll admit that I loved every bit of it.

Another interesting thing was Saulo's take on competition. On the one hand, he de-emphasized it greatly, saying it was 1% of jiu jitsu and that competition did not make him a better teacher, for example. But on the other hand, he said that when it came time to compete, he considered it an opportunity to put his "heart and soul" out there and see if someone "could push me back." Maybe he'll talk a little more about that tomorrow, but it was an interesting way of putting it. Obviously, Saulo is geared to win - you don't become a six-time world champion otherwise. But he doesn't describe it in terms of winning, Instead he describes the challenge in a much more general, primal way. For Saulo, it seemed that competition was an issue not of technique and not even of strategy, per se. But of desire. Of will. Moving forward and daring to be turned back.

A pretty awesome day on the mat. I'm looking forward to tomorrow for sure.

Saulo Interview

A little pre-funk hours before the Saulo seminar later today ...

Mixed Martial Arts Videos on Purefight

Interviewer: For you for example, you long did it take for you before the jiu jitsu really started?

Saulo: At first I was trying to avoid jiu jitsu. I was trying to win, to not get submitted. But then I was not getting the knowledge. And for every win, there was a loss. So I think, you know, I've got to understand why I am losing. I'm losing because I'm not getting, I'm not being a part of the jiu jitsu. I am avoiding that. And I think that the point that I get to there, I think things started to go really well.

A very curious thing is that I usually got beat until my brown belt. That was when I really started to win. All those previous belts, I was really bad. And I wasn't able to get (good) performance.

Interviewer: So you didn't make that true jump until you were a brown belt?

Saulo: Yes. Until brown belt, I was just a tough guy.

Interviewer: Your learning was just going on and going on until you reached brown belt when it took a spike upward?

Saulo: Oh yes, definitely. That's when I was when I was blessed with the opportunity to stay with Rickson for a couple of months who was the guy who in my opinion gave me a lot of direction in mental aspects that I hadn't heard before. And since I incorporated that in my attitude, in my training, my skills changed to a whole new direction.

Courtesy of Pure Fight.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Training Day: Friday

Ended up taking Thursday night off, as well. I figured that training today, and then all weekend at the Saulo seminar, I'd get in plenty of mat time - if not the conditioning.

Rodrigo is really turning up the temperature in the warmups. The Friday warmup - to which I arrived late - was a bruising circuit of pushups, situps, sitouts, sprawls, chokes, squats and high knees. You can tell it's tournament time.

I'm not convinced I would have made it all the way if I'd been there on time. If I have one goal between now and November, it's to get back in some halfway decent shape. I really feel as if I lost most of whatever I had been building on this score with my double dip cold. And I'm not likely to get all that back in what are now three weeks. But it will be interesting to see how far down the line I can get.

We started off with alternating takedowns. I worked with a new, 6-month white belt whose name I can't remember right now. I focused on breaking the collar grip more than anything, which will be key to any ability to attack with a single or double leg from a tie-up.

One thing I'm not practicing is much as I should is pulling half guard. I had great success with that in the spring - even more than my success with the Jacare in the summer. I don't know how much I want to go with it. But I should definitely make sure that it is sharp.

The first half of the instructional was the same side control escape we worked on back on Tuesday. It was very nice to work on the same technique again. Rodrigo emphasized avoiding "holding down" the guy when doing the double underhooks, and in getting maximum control of the arm in the "arm drag" portion of the escape.

The second half was the collar drag escape from rear mount. Some of the key details here were in rotating over to your side, planting the far knee as you step over, elevating your hips to create space to turn into the guy and, finally and most importantly, to turn your head into the guy. This last step is really critical in helping you drive yourself back into the guy's rear mount.

I got to roll with both Shawn and Bryan. I've pretty much abandoned standing guard passes against anyone my level or better for now, and instead of focused on both the Flat Pass as well as trying to bait the guy into attacking with a butterfly guard and then using the Wallid Ishmael pass. I don't know how much I will be able to make out of this over the next few weeks. I would like to incorporate the Leo Viera pass that resembles the one Rodrigo showed us the day (!) before the summer Revolution event - the pass that's half leg rope, half Jack pass. But I don't have all the time in the world ...

I'd love for Saulo to include the leg rope pass in his seminar tomorrow. There's going to be four hours of gi instruction, so there's plenty of room. In any event, I want to make sure that I'm well-nourished so as to make the most out of the day. Rodrigo said that there were only about 8 Gracie Barra guys going - which surprises me a little. But it will be interesting to see who shows up.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Off the Mat, On the Wall

Decided to take Wednesday off. I've been really dragging myself across the finish line at the end of Monday's and Tuesday's trainings, which is probably a signal to slow down a bit.

I'm pretty much going to start my off-mat conditioning program from the top. No outside conditioning this week, then three weeks of LSD/cardiac capacity work, followed by three weeks of cardiac power/threshold training. Timing-wise, the Revolution event will pop up at the end of the first block. The Gi Only Tournament in December will actually fit in to this revised, 8-9 Weeks Out perfectly, given a two week "Fight Speed" period after the second block. It will be weird competing on a Sunday, but I'm expecting an interesting event, nonetheless. There is certainly room on the calendar for a few more tournaments in Western Washington.

I'd love to be able to take the exact same class twice. I feel as if I just got introduced to a few techniques this week, techniques that may or may not work for my game. But a part of me knows that there will always be new techniques to learn, or new variations on old techniques, to crowd out what I may have just been trying to sneak in to my jiu jitsu. The cross grip guard with spin is one example, but the Cobra guard slide to deep half may be an even better example. I can see both moves possibly helping me do some things I'd like to do (like taking the back from different guard situations). But the crucible is actually drilling and training those moves on my own. And the other moves. And the other moves. So much jiu jitsu, so little of me.

I was reading a very interesting report about a guy who went to the Gracie Barra jiu jitsu camp in Rio awhile back. One of the things he said was that, after awhile, it was hard to get the steam to train 2-3 times a day. I think this was when the guy was in the third and final week of his stay. I can't argue with the guy since he was there and I wasn't. But I'd like to believe that, health notwithstanding, training 2-3 times a day for three weeks is the kind of thing that every really dedicated jiu jitsu guy (or gal) would want to do once a year or so. Even twice a day, five days a week, for two weeks would probably provide a boost to your training that could last for months.

The plan is to train Thursday and Friday, and then spend the weekend with Saulo. The Saturday session runs from 11 am to 1 pm, and then from 2 pm to 4 pm. Then on Sunday from 11 to 1 again. On Saturday, I want to make sure I have a lunch plan put together or I'm sure I will be fading hard by 3. I also need to make sure I get my digital camera together. I missed getting a picture with Marcelo Garcia - though I did get him to autography my book. I'd like to see if I can get both with Professor Ribeiro.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Training Day: Tuesday

Well, my plan to only train the live training sessions is on ice. I went to the full class again Tuesday and that's probably going to be the way I go from here on out. Among other reasons, there's a major conditioning aspect to taking the full two class, two hours opportunity to train that really can't be beat. I'm predictably struggling to finish late in the second class - we worked on that Cobra guard dive sweep attack again tonight - with post-session heart rates above 160 and well into the anaerobic zone. It will be a great sign when I get to the point where that number drops into the 130s before we start the next round of drills.

With the Revolution less than a month away, we're working on a lot of standup to warm-up and start things off. I worked with Ro and Alex a little later as Rodrigo had us focus on the Machida, the Machacare and the kata garuma with collar control (instead of sleeve control as Gene LeBell's book does).

Rodrigo worked in squats, chokes and pushups toward the end of the standup. Again, more emphasis on conditioning.

The instructional was an escape from side control. If the top guy has the double underhooks (hand under the head, hand under the near leg), then this is one escape that gives you a two-on-one arm control and a move toward the back.

To go, you underhook with your inside arm and underhook the face with your outside arm. One important detail for the inside arm is to go between the guy's body and his arm. That is the arm you are going to trap - Alex called it "arm dragging" - as you come out to the side and on top.

As you are hooking your arms up (hook up, as if your arms were mastodon trunks, don't hug), you want to walk away your hips from him, going toward north south as if you might do one of those rolls that only works when your timing is 10,000% perfect. In this case, though, it is only to give yourself enough room to turn back into the guy, arm dragging out to the side the arm that you trapped with your inside hand and reach over with your other hand to grab the lat and control the back.

It's not a complicted move. But I struggled with it in two main places. First, it took me a few turns to realize that you have to put your inside arm between the guy's body and his arm. Second, I was trying to roll the guy after walking my hips away instead of turning back into him. I got it on my best side (side control pin on my right side), but I wouldn't mind spending another evening working on it.

In the second advanced session we continued to work on the same Cobra guard slide sweep setup as Monday night. I was really feeling major local muscular endurance issues as Joel might say, and will be looking to add some quadcentric work (probably roll sweeps from the butterfly guard using The Chair (TM)) over the next few days. I've backed off any off the mat conditioning for the week given how I'm responding to the daily training. I'll probably end up starting all over again and treating the November revolution as a play-through tournament, something I'd thought about for awhile. I think there's a lot of merit in Lloyd Irvin's idea that you should pick an event each year that everything in your training - regular classes, seminars, other tournaments, intramurals, video study - is ultimately building to.

For a couple of reasons, I think the summer Revolution event is my best bet for that kind of Major Event. It's the right time of the year (Pan Ams are late spring and Mundials are early summer), for one. For two, if I'm going to keep getting training-killing colds every autum, then there's no sense in making a tournament in November my Major Event.

Bottom line is that I'm restarting my conditioning program. A training only week followed by three weeks of cardiac output. That isn't how I should be training in advance of a tournament. But given the anaerobic states I'm reaching in training, I clearly need some basic cardiac output work sooner than later. That and those roll sweeps from the Cobra guard.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Training Day: Monday

I can't say enough about how nice it was to get back on the mat Monday night.

Despite my previous proclamation, I ended up going in for both the basic and advanced classes on Monday. It turned out to be a great idea. In the first hour, we worked on takedowns in a semi-live environment. I worked with Andrew - always a good guy to train with - and we did a few two minute rounds and a few three minute rounds. I was straining to keep active toward the end due to my illness-induced week-long layoff. But I managed to finish the drill okay.

One great thing about this training is that it reminds you of the potential limitations of gi grips. I've really been looking to attack with the double leg, so it was nice to see how the challenge of the grips forces me to figure out new entries.

The instructional was attacking with the triangle choke against the single underhook guard pass. The key was to control the sleeve of the arm that is pressing your leg down and to put that foot in the hip. You want to pull with both hands on the sleeve at the wrist, and then push off with your foot-in-the-hip as you swing from on your side to flat on your back, swinging your other leg up to attack the neck and set the first half of the triangle choke. Grab the ankle or just go ahead an lock the other leg over to finish.

In the advanced class we worked on two pretty sophisticated looking techniques that actually can be strung together as part of an overall guard sweeping attack.

The first one was out of Cobra guard. From the Cobra set-up, with your grip behind the back on the belt, you slide your down leg through his legs and dive down to underhook the leg on that side with the arm. As you do this, bring your other knee up nice and high so that the guy ends up balanced on your shin in a butterfly like fashion.

In a perfect world, you can roll the guy from here. In all likelihood, though, the guy will post, forcing you to transition to a number of variations, from the Fugitive style moves against the leg you are butterflying, to X-Guard and half guard sweeps. Rodrigo just showed us about five or six variations and had us go to work on them. I got to work with Jason/Garcia, who was great to work with in part because he really seemed to get these sweeps and was able to fix a few of my missteps. Mostly, I was feeling the fatigue set in, mostly muscular fatigue as opposed to "cardio" per se. But I managed to get through the drill.

The second sweep was even more complicated. Here, you used a cross grip on the sleeve and then, with your other side, hook your leg behind the guy's opposite leg at the knee and grab the pants at the heel with the hand on that side.

To attack with the sweep, you want to dive between the guys legs, pulling on the ankle grip for momentum as you kick your "hook" leg against the back of his knee. It's one of those "believe" jiu jitsu moves, at least until you start to get it down. Garcia was all over this move and it was pretty interesting to watch him and Stephen spar after class with both of them working to incorporate the move of the day.

A good night all things considered. Like I said, it was really nice to be back training again - even if my cardio is clearly lagging. I'm a little worried about getting up to speed in time for the Revolution. Then again, four weeks might be the perfect duration to allow me to peak in early November - it seems that I tend to breakdown after about six weeks of regular training and conditioning work. So maybe things will work out on this score after all.

153.4 on the scale after training ... I'm looking to be back on the mat tomorrow, if only for the live session from 7-9 p.m. That might be the formula for every day training: full classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with an hour of work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That would make for a nice eight hours of training a week. At least for the final month leading up to the Revolution, this seems like a strategy worth pursuing.

Deep Practice Alert: Braulio Estima

From an article by Caleb of The Fightworks Podcast, Gracie Barra's Braulio Estima star at the 2009 ADCC Championship
This technique comes very natural for my game. It’s a technique I’ve actually been doing since I was a blue belt. It’s not a new technique. It’s just a natural thing that I mastered since the last tournament. I’ve been training this technique a lot in preparing for the Abu Dhabi. I even texted [my brother] Octavio saying, 'Man I’ve been training a lot of reverse triangles, so watch out for the reverse triangle, I’m going to get a lot of people in that.' It was funny because I managed to get the toughest guy in it.

Deep Practice Alert: Semerzier v. Fabiano

More on the WEC 43 contest between Mackens Semerzier v. Wagnney Fabiano from MMA Junkie
Fabiano was on top of Semerzier when he briefly stood up and then moved back into the fight-ending hold. The WEC newcomer said the closing seconds of the bout included a sequence he's drilled countless times.

"We work on it all the time," Semerzier told ( "I got a butterfly (guard). It was half-guard, and I stuck in a butterfly. I started to lift him a little bit, and I didn't think he liked it. He decided to come out and come back in, and I was lucky enough to get a triangle."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

CBDP: Flat Pass

1. Flat

2. Grip

3. Switch

4. Kick

5. Step

6. Check

Focus on Check. I've got a bad habit of settling for half guard. Although my watchdog half guard pass is getting better, I need to at least force the guy to defend the complete Flat Pass to side control.

CBDP: Double Leg

Circuit Building Deep Practice for Double Leg takedown:

1. Drop

2. Tip

3. Step

4. Twist

Look into the eyes.
It's not a date.
Shoulder drives the body to the mat.
Walk away from the legs.

WEC Upset: Faixa Roxa Taps Faixa Preta

"The unbeaten but unheralded Semerzier, in just his fourth professional bout, locked up a tight triangle from the bottom on the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and became the first man to ever finish or submit the Nova Uniao standout. The end came 2:14 into round one. A Pedro Sauer protégé, Semerzier has stopped each of his first four opponents, three of them by submission."
--courtesy of
WEC 43 Bonuses: Semerzier Capitalizes on Fabiano Upset.

Wagnney is one of my favorite fighters, easily my favorite guy in the WEC. I'm sure he'll bounce back and maybe even be better for the loss in the long run. A few more fights before a title shot wouldn't be a bad thing.

And congratulations to Mackens for the submission. Chalk up another one for the power of the faixa roxa!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Four Weeks (and a Day) Out

For the next three weeks, my conditioning will be threshold training 2x a week and LSD/cardiac output 1x. As much as I'd like to spend some time trying to recoup what I've probably lost cardiac output wise before moving on to cardiac power and more skills-specific training, I just don't have the time. With four weeks to go, it's time to put everything together.

I've got an idea of how I can get the fight to the ground, how I can pass the closed guard if I am unable to escape the legs as I get the takedown. I've got an idea of where I want to be in order to get the finish - and what finish I want to get.

The difference for the next four weeks will be my training. For the next four weeks, I'll up the frequency pretty dramatically. But I'm only doing live training/sparring from here until competition time.

There are a variety of reasons why I want to try this route - a training schedule I used to disapprove of when I was a white belt and used to see purple and brown belts show up after the rest of us had already been huffing and puffing our way through 60 or 90 minutes of warm-ups, conditioning and drills. Forgive me for saying "that was then".

For one, I want to focus my training on sparring: free sparring, specific sparring, stand-up, whatever will be directly geared toward what I plan to do in November. That's the proper path when it comes to preparing for competition that everybody else in every other combat sport follows. At 0-5 as a purple belt (0-7 overall, including intramurals) maybe I can find a reversal in fortunes by jumping on that bandwagon.

And, for two, I just don't want another week like the week I had to finish September and start October - especially in the middle of the not-wholly-self-possessed 8 Weeks of competition preparation. The week wasn't an utter failure. But there was far too much negative momentum that I'd rather not see accumulate any further. We'll see if this works.

Wow ... just saw a crazy WEC interim lightweight championship fight between Donald Cerrone and Ben Henderson. Without getting into spoiler territory, there is a lesson in this match for guard players playing a countergame with wrestlers.

Pronounced "Raw Shock"

Found myself watching The Watchmen last night. I liked it better, much better in some ways, than I thought I would. While I continue to be surprised at the latent, well, fascism in much contemporary comic superhero legend (something that was also very much the case in Sin City), worlds in which stereotypically liberal values have resulted in nothing but societal passivity in the face of truly existential archetypes of chaos and evil - I also continue to be surprised at how effective this backdrop remains for modern-day myth-making.

I also continue to be surprised at the role of "The Wound" in the making of the superhero. Superman and Batman the orphans. Spiderman, the Hulk, Dr, Manhattan, Wolverine and a host of other innocents caught up in a dark nexus of unimaginable science and indifferent fate. Most mesmerizing in The Watchmen, to me, is the story's narrator, Rorschach who - at least as far as I can tell - is the unwanted son of a whore.
The idea of The Wound is one I first ran into decades ago (!) in John Gardner's book, On Becoming a Novelist:
A psychological wound is helpful, if it can be kept in partial control, to keep the novelist driven. Some fatal childhood accident for which one feels responsible and can never fully forgive oneself; a sense that one never quite earned one's parents' love; shame about one's origins - belligerent defensive guilt about one's race or country upbringing or the physical handicaps of one's parents - or embarassment about one's own physical appearance: all these are promising signs ... insofar as guilt or shame bend the sould inward they are likely, under the right conditions (neither too little discomfort nor too much), to serve the writer's project.
Substitute novelist or writer for artist, martial artist or - in the tragic case of Rorschach - superhero and I think you're saying the same thing every time.

In any event, a film worth seeing for me to be sure, given where I'm calling from these days.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Conditioning Notes: "Un tipo più greco dell'italiano"

Did some light cardio and resistance work at the burien top team academy. I'm feeling better, at least in the sense of cycling through my typical cold symptoms and beginning to see the finish line. Unfortunately, I'm still too wary of inadvertently sharing my immunoglobins with unsuspecting teammates to get back on the mat. Given the timing of things, with the intramurals on Saturday, it is looking more and more like Monday will be the first day back.

Here's the conditioning routine I did today. It's a mix of complex work and regular resistance work that I'll probably tweak before trying again.

(30s rest between exercises)

20 decline situps
20 Arnold press
20 incline leg raise
20 DB swings
20 decline situps
20 upright rows
20 incline leg raises
20 push press
20 decline situps
20 Arnolds
20 incline leg raises
20 DB swings

The rest I did with heavier weight in a more typical resistance style, with 2 minutes between exercises and about 5 minutes between sets.

Two cycles of:
20 incline bench
20 flat bench
20 decline bench

Two cycles of:
10 upright rows
10 Arnold presses

Two cycles of:
10 Alt curls
10 hammer curls

Two cycles of:
20 BUDRs
20 one-arm rows
20 BODRs

That was plenty for today. Tomorrow I'll try some cardio - probably the skill-specific threshold work since today's workout had a bit of cardiac power-oriented conditioning to it. On Monday, I was only able to make it through 2 cycles instead of 3. Of course, now I know that I was on the way "down" on Monday. Tomorrow we'll get a chance to see what I can do on the way back "up."

Rei Braulio

A can't-miss interview with division and absolute Abu Dhabi Combat Club 2009 champion and Gracie Barra black belt, Braulio Estima.
FightWorks Podcast:You talked about who some of your idols were. But a lot of people are listening to this interview and you are their idol. What message do you have for them?

Braulio Estima: I used to think, man, those guys who were my idols were like super heroes, you know? These were guys who were born to do this, these guys were unbelievable and I'd never be able to do that. But I think I proved that wrong because I'm just a normal person that has a normal life like everyone else, you know? I have a baby, I have stress, I have fights with my wife, you know what I mean? I don't sleep well at night because the baby cries in the night. I have bills to pay, credit cards, you know? We are humans, we all have two arms and two legs ... The difference is if you believe - and to be determined.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


To sleep is to replenish vitality. The more intense the individual's physical and mental activity, the greater the need for rest. To sleep seems to me just as important as any other facet of an athlete's training. I prize at least eight hours of sleep per day, always deep and uninterrupted.

Poor sleep means ill health, poor performance and mood, mental fatigue.

--Carlos Gracie Jr. from "Body health" in the Sound Body issue of GracieMag.

I've been training harder than ever before, getting very close to averaging four training sessions a week. I've been doing more off-mat conditioning than ever - and smarter conditioning than ever before, thanks to the work of Joel Jamieson. My diet has improved dramatically, with the addition of some Gracie Diet-influenced additions (namely eating fruit daily and not mixing carbs). I'm regularly weighing-in at under 155 - a number I usually only make under duress in the final few hours before a pre-tournament weigh-in.

At the same time, I got sick twice in October last year as cold and flu season kicked in and, here we are a year later and I'm stumbling through my second rhinovirus in 30 days.

So what's the deal?

The only thing I can point to is a lack of rest. Since I started at The Daily Planet, I've been averaging about 6 1/2 hours of sleep a night, getting up at 5:30 am for work and hitting the sack sometime between 10:30 and 11 pm - usually closer to the latter.

In some other situation, this may not be such a big deal. But when you add in all the physical stress of training and conditioning (and as far as mental stress goes, life at the Daily Planet is no children's crossword puzzle, either), 6 1/2 hours just isn't going to cut it.

As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, I'm 42. And if I'm going to keep up this pace, I'm going to have to get my rest the old-fashioned way: 8 hours of sleep minimum during the week.

Maybe getting some sort of cold has been inevitable (I'm pretty sure that I've gotten a cold every fall for at least the last several years). But the double-dip nature of it all - the two colds in October last year and the two setbacks this fall - speak to something more than just the regular change-of-seasons headcold.

So that's what I'm figuring right now. Assuming that I'm not going to get sick for a third time this year, there may not be an easy way to tell if this "figuring" has worked (though maybe an uptick in my on the mat performance would be one welcome sign). But I've really got to try something to break this pattern and, from some perspectives, forcing myself to hit the sack at 9:30 or 10 p.m. at the absolute latest, might be both the easiest and most effective approach.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Kayron Gracie Earns the Faixa Preta

Oldest son of Carlos Gracie Jr., Kayron Gracie was awarded his black belt in a private (!) ceremony in California. Kayron recently won both his weight division and the absolute (brown belt) at the American No Gi Nationals (click here for some cool pictures from the black belt competition).

Marcio Feitosa was interviewed by Gracie Magazine on his thoughts about Kayron's present and future.
How do you assess Kayron’s Jiu-Jitsu?

Feitosa: I think Kayron’s two great virtues are his cool-headedness and humbleness. Karyon doesn’t have a big ego or bad attitude, his students and friends love him. He inherited that from the Master, I believe. In Jiu-Jitsu, he is doing his homework just right: trying to compete as much as possible to gain experience, training hard, but never losing focus on developing good teaching skills to teach with and leadership skills to carry on with his family’s work.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Me & My Rhinovirus

Out Monday, likely to miss Tuesday, as well. Second head cold in a month. Absolutely lovely.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Conditioning Notes: Threshold Training

Threshold training, per Joel Jamieson of 8 Weeks Out is geared toward:
helping you increase aerobic power ... by working your aerobic system to the maximum limits of its energy production abilities (so that) the body adapts by increasing the total number of aerobic enzymes and improving overall contractile properties.
According to Joel, the strategy here is to make it harder for your body to reach that stage where it begins drawing primarily from anerobic energy systems for fuel.

Here is my threshold training program based on my specific jiu jitsu agenda right now.

Week 1:
Three sets. Three minutes rest.
60 seconds hook sweep
60 seconds 360 drill
10 count matwork (approx. 4 minutes)
60 seconds 360 drill
60 seconds hook sweep

Week 2:
Three sets. Three minutes rest.
60 seconds hook sweep
60 seconds 360 drill
15 count matwork (approx. 5 minutes)
60 seconds 360 drill
60 seconds hook sweep

Week 3:
Three sets. Three minutes rest.
60 seconds hook sweep
60 seconds 360 drill
20 count matwork (approx. 6 minutes)
60 seconds 360 drill
60 seconds hook sweep

"Matwork" - for this block - consists of:

alt upas
hip splits
back rolls
arm drags
sit 2 stand

Threshold training is twice a week for the next three weeks, Mondays and Thursdays.

Conditioning Notes: LSD and Cardiac Power Blocks

I managed to get in six LSD sessions in my first three weeks of camp.

Sun 9/13: LSD9: 2.25, 9 laps; 34:31, 388/121
Sun 9/20: LSD9: 2.25, 9 laps; 34.39, 391/122
Thu 9/24: LSD9: 2.25, 9 laps; 34:34, 387/121
Sun 9/27: LSD3: 3.01, 12 laps; 45.55, 502/157
Tue 9/29: LSD9: 2.25, 9 laps; 34.31, 389-121
Sat 10/3: LSD3: 3.00, 12 laps; 45.18, 502/157

This is nearer to the low end of what I would have preferred (8-10 sessions in the first three and a half weeks is closer to ideal). That said, this LSD schedule works out to an average of two sessions per week over the first three weeks. And considering the fact that I trained four times a week during this stretch, I won't kick myself too hard for not having squeezed in two more LSD sessions over the past few weeks.

In any event, the stepped-up pace for the next few weeks should more than make up for things. Today was the beginning of the Cardiac Power/Threshold Training/HICT part of my conditioning, the most intense part by far with 4x/week conditioning and 4-5x/week training.

Here's today's cardiac power workout:

60 seconds work
120 seconds rest

Sumo Deadlift Overhead Swings
Push Press (Box Squat Depth)
Sumo Deadlift Overhead Swings
Sumo Deadlift Overhead Swings
Push Press (Box Squat Depth)
Sumo Deadlift Overhead Swings
Sumo Deadlift Overhead Swings
Push Press (Box Squat Depth)
Sumo Deadlift Overhead Swings

Max heart rate was around 160 +/- 4 BPM
Push Press sets were consistently broken sets
Total workout time around 30 minutes.

Next Sunday, I increase the work period to 90 seconds, with a 210 second rest period. Then, the following Sunday, I work for 120 seconds with 5 minute rest periods.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Training Day: Friday

Managed to slip away for about an hour and a half or so of training on Friday. Fortunately, we were continuing to work on passes against advanced guard like the spider guard and the spider guard with DLR hook.

I got to class late, but was still able to at least work two of the Moves of the Day with bot Pat and Alex, who was suffering from scary-looking back aches for much of the session.

Both passes were against the spider guard with DLR hook. #1 was a turn and pivot attack where you look to fold the guy's leg over after turning into his DLR hook. With DLR hook on your right leg, for example, you step back and forth a bit to test his hook then, while swimming your spidered arm under and tucking your elbow, and checking the DLR hook with your other hand, you step wide and around with your free leg and turn in a 9 to 12 noon motion so that you are facing the guy at a perpendicular angle.

#2 was very similar, but was in case you had a hard time breaking the DLR hook. Here, the trick is to turn the knee of the DLR'd leg inside and kick to the inside to free the hook. From here, #2 is essentially the same as #1 in terms of folding the leg over.

Did a little specific work before calling it a day. Rolled with Brian, who I haven't been able to trade with, and he did a good job in passing my guard with the underhook pass that we've been working on, as well as sweeping me with a modified flower sweep off an armlock attack.

I did a little de-briefing on that underhook pass, reminding myself later on the specific counter (push off the shoulder and hip, elbow escape away and drop your knee down). My error with the sweep was in not controlling the hips after I went to the standing squat.

This was probably the worst week of training I've had in awhile. Looking back, it wasn't quite the disaster it seemed at mid-week - thanks largely to the training on Thursday and today. And its better to have a bad training week in week six of your eight-week training camp compared to deeper in.

All the same, with 5Weeks Out starting on Sunday and 20-25 training sessions to go, I need to start tightening up my guard pass strategy and guard strategy. Training next week should have a pre-competition intensity to it to help me gear up for the Invitational tournament on Saturday. I'll also start the cardiac power/threshold training segment of my conditioning next week, which should also help me dial in to training a little better.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"Since I Don't Believe A Word You Say ..."

Training Day: Thursday

A Cindy Special here on Thursday. The first class, the gi class, had us working on double leg takedowns to start and toreano guard passes to finish. I worked with Brock for the takedowns and Rueben on the toreano. As you might guess, they were both fantastic to train with and it was nice to actually get to do the drill for the first time all week.

During the no gi class that followed, Cindy had us working on armdrags from a variety of positions. We worked on standing armdrags (the Marcelo Garcia stuff) then on re-dragging counters, then on two versions of the armdrag from the closed guard: a basic and a two-on-one. Along with the double leg Cindy had us working on last week, this armdrag training was very much what the doctor ordered.

Only a little sparring - though enough to get caught in a kimura from the closed guard. That hasn't happened in some time and but it is in part of testament to where I'm calling from these days, to steal a line from John Edgar Wideman.

A good "return to balance" evening of training. It's been weird lately with so many of the guys who used to train regularly as purple belts now showing up less and less frequently now that they are on the doorstep of the black belt. This, without getting back into it, is a bit of a mixed bag.

Maybe it's the transition to fall and the drop in temperature, but I'm struggling a bit to find the flow in my training right now. As I wrote awhile ago, this may just be the rhythm of things - with the end of August representing a cycle high and the end of September representing a cycle low. While it would be far, far too dramatic to say that I'm trying to understand exactly what I'm trying to accomplish in jiu jitsu, I do find myself in a strange and somewhat uncomfortable position of thinking jiu jitsu rather than feeling jiu jitsu. And the fact that I've been training at a pretty decent pace for the past few weeks - at least since getting off the IR - only makes that discomfort that much less comfortable.

Like I said, I'm really looking forward to meeting Saulo Ribeiro in a few weeks - I'm a little desperate for some words of jiu jitsu wisdom and I suspect that few can deliver in that regard like the six-time world champion. Of course, I've got to get through the Seattle Invitational Tournament next Saturday before I get to Saulo. Talk about a ticket to ride.

Helio Day

October 1.

How about a little birthday berimbau for the Grandmaster?