Monday, November 30, 2009

Training Day: Monday

After last week's focus on the armlock from the guard, this week began with a counter and guard pass off the armlock attack.

The CBDP for the move was:

Hug / Step / Head / Pull / Clinch / Switch

HUG the head with the free arm. STEP up with the trapped side leg behind him to set your base - keeping your other knee on the mat and tight against his body. HEAD is a reminder to keep low and use your head to apply pressure to the leg so that he doesn't open up and transition to the triangle when you pull your arm free. PULL is the "jackhammer" motion to pull your trapped arm free. CLINCH refers to grabbing the shoulder with the now-free arm on the same side. SWITCH is to switch your hips to get in position for the pass. The easy way to think of it is that the knee that is up goes down and the knee that is down goes up. This makes it easy to scramble around, pass the guard, and get to side control.

I'm going to try and use this method for remembering moves as I learn them, instead of when I'm trying to recall them. Setting up a CBDP and then repeating it as I drill the move might be just what I need to better retain what I learn on a day-to-day basis.

Tatame was a mixed bag. Honestly, I put in an average performance - particularly for a Monday. I didn't feel as if I was able to focus on anything in particular - though I did a halfway decent "first day focus" on standing to pass the guard. I even had some success with that Ricco Pass, which I've never had before.

For now, my guard passing is going to be focused on standing to pass OR forcing butterfly guard and working my butterfly guard passes, mainly the Wallid and the Watchdog passes. I actually had some success with the Wallid pass today, which I mostly credit to being aggressive (something that Rodrigo has been emphasizing for the past few weeks - though mostly with regard to the guard).

That's another point. Rodrigo has been talking about being aggressive when pulling guard, of pulling guard to go for the sweep instead of just pulling guard because you feel "more comfortable" on the bottom. I think that's especially true for guys like me who are 90% sweep oriented anyway when it comes to the guard. I also think it's applicable to guard passing as well. You want to move to create opportunities - and then to jump on those opportunities immediately when they present themselves. This is part of what my practice in trying to force the butterfly guard is all about. But it is also a part of what I'm trying to learn about passing the guard from standing. What can I do to create those "green light" moments when the leg is low enough to drop my knee, for example - or high enough to be scooped as part of an underhook pass?

This I need to keep up as my primary project - not just for the next two weeks before the Inter-School but as The Project for 2010. For what it's worth, I do think that consistent guard passing - and a somewhat more diverse guard game - represent the difference between burien top team qua faixa roxa and burien top team qua faixa marrom.

Rodrigo incidentally showed us a very nice variation on the armlock from the guard - something I don't think I ever remember seeing him show us before. Essentially, it's a combination of the flower sweep (or windmill sweep or pendulum sweep or whatever, you know what I'm talking about) and the armlock, where you control the arm at the elbow, and dive under the leg with the other arm (this is from the closed guard). Kick your legs wide as if going for the flower sweep, but instead of kicking your arm-control-side leg back under you, you roll back over and swing the leg over the guy's head for the armlock (you've maintained control of the arm throughout and can bring your other arm into play to help finish.)

You never know what variation of a technique will suddenly make that technique work for you. This flower sweep armlock has made me more optimistic about actually having a coherent armlock from the guard attack than I've ever been.

156.6 on the scale post-training. Given that the weigh-in is IBJJF style for the Inter-School on the 13th (155-169 in the gi), I'm right where I want to be.

Renzo on Relson and the "True Jiu Jitsu"


Stop. Do not collect $200. Do not pass go. Go directly to this interview at the FightWorks Podcast immediately.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Relson Gracie on The FightWorks Podcast

This interview is on the same show as the Marcelo Garcia interview I posted about earlier.

If young guys like Ryan Hall are moving away from the guard, OJGs (original jiu jitsu guys) like Relson Gracie are keeping the faith. Here's Relson's take on Roger:
Roger’s the only one. Roger is the only one that keeps the Gracie style. He closes the guard, attacks the neck, sweeps, gets a good mount, and he submits everybody from the mounted position. You don’t see many Gracie Barra guys doing that. Only Roger. Because he comes from the old generation of Rolls’ students. The closed guard – that’s what Mauricao, his daddy, passed to his son. The guys interviewed me before the Worlds and asked me who was going to win, and who was going to be the open champion. I responded right away that Roger was going to be the champion because he’s the only one who plays closed guard and uses the pure Gracie jiu-jitsu.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Training Day: Thursday

Today's training was just open mat. Rodrigo opened up the academy from about 10 -12 noon for those of us who were looking to train on the holiday. I arrived shortly after 10:30 am and managed to get in a nice 8-10 minute roll with a big white belt whose name I didn't remember.

We ended up spending a lot of the time going over specific issues he was having trouble with. I didn't mind as we went from mount escape to side control escape to half guard sweep, with a few basic principles added in. He was an interesting guy to roll with given his size, and I was pleasantly surprised that I switched to a version of the Sauleh guard, with a collar and sleeve grip on one side and a foot in the bicep or on the shoulder on the other.

I've been meaning to work more and more on this guard ever since Tuesday, the second consecutive day of armlocks from the guard. I started to see a way that I might set up not only armlocks from the guard, but also even triangles (!) from the guard. The trick is that I do the armlock and triangle better in one direction, and the sweep and choke better in the other. So I need to do a better job of noticing what opportunities arise from the closed guard, pick a side, and execute the technique.

A good time on the mat. Lindsey was there, as was Jesse and Sonya. Pat arrived a little while after I did and I thought I saw him and Brock training at some point. Rodrigo was there with his daugther, who was making a lifeboat out of some of the striking equipment. Time really seemed to fly. I could have easily stayed at the school for another hour.

Both schools are shut down tomorrow. But it looks like I'll get a chance to get back on the mat this Saturday, which is great. I didn't get a weigh-in after training, but the 163 and change in the gi beforehand was a perfectly fine number for now.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Treat: Jean Jacques Machado v. Wallid Ishmael

An Old School Special:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Training Day: Tuesday

More armbars from the guard today. A big class, with more than a few new folks that Rodrigo worked with. Jesse was there to lead the warmup and teach the class, adding a few extra details to the move on to what Rodrigo and Lindsey went over on Monday.

One thing that Jesse helped me remember is that you are often going to have one side that really works and one side that is competent at best. I actually overheard Rodrigo making this point to Troy and his training partner a few days ago, so in a way the point was only more reinforced.

I don't have a very good armlock from the guard. But the movement to attack the right arm for the armlock is much better than the movement to attack the left arm. So more than just having one side that is not going to feel as good during drills, I also know that when I try to do the armlock in actual sparring and guard/pass guard specific drill, I need to focus on the attack on the right arm, that set-up and others that go well with it.

A couple of observations from the tatame: guys are all over my Flat Pass lately. It reminds me of what happened to my half guard awhile back as guys became more and more accustomed to it. I think the high point of my half guard came this spring at the Revolution when I pulled half guard in my first two matches to go up 2-0. Now is a good time to start to move away from it more aggressively and start to cultivate some other guards that will work for me at the higher levels.

The same is becoming true about the Flat Pass. Part of my disappointment at the last Revolution (a large part) was the fact that I was looking forward to testing the Flat Pass in competition and never really got the chance. Maybe that opportunity will come in December at the inter-school.

But even if it does show up and perform, the Flat Pass needs to go back on the shelf while I develop other guards, especially Scissorhands (given the work on the armbars from the guard), the cross guard and sitting/butterfly stuff, as well.

I like how Rodrigo has been emphasizing only pulling guard to attack with the sweep. I managed to get a couple of good hook sweeps in over the past two days based on trying to follow that thinking. One of the problems with my half guard game has been that I'd started to get into the habit of "Cadillac-ing", hanging out in a position I felt relatively comfortable defending almost indefinitely. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if part of my problems with my shoulder have to do with spending too much time on the bottom on my side.

One of the good things about the sitting guards is that you can't really hang out in them. You're either gaining ground or losing it. There's a little drill I've been trying where I butt-scoot forward quickly and shoot in the hook sweep, the kind of move that can be incorporated into a number of semi-scramble situations.

156.2 on the scale after training. This is about where I want to be for now. I'm looking to train Thanksgiving morning and again on Saturday which will give me a nice four-train week.

Fightworks Podcast Interview with Marcelo Garcia

What is especially interesting about this interview with Marcelo is the discussion about his new project Marcelo Garcia In Action, which looks pretty impressive so far - especially if you are a fan of Marcelinho's game, as I am.

Another interesting tidbit from the interview is hearing Marcelo say that he tries to set a new record each time for the amount of training he does before each competition.

Click here to access the interview.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Mo' Better Jiu Jitsu

Thinking about this line from this post from a couple of months ago.
The only downside is that you can get too much of a good thing very quickly. There are two sessions per day at the academy, then you get three small-group sessions per week on top of that. And you can get extra private lessons from academy black and brown belts. And there’s a covered, matted area at the camp where you can ‘just run through that move we did yesterday’ before lunch. Many people find that they do a week’s worth of training in two days, so if you don’t pace yourself it’s easy to overtrain and get ill.
This is from a guy who spent three weeks training at Gracie Camp in Rio a few years back.

What I would do for three weeks of two-a-days right here at GB Seattle/Eastside! In my imaginary perfect world, everybody who trains jiu jitsu would get to do at least a week - preferably two - of training twice a day once a year. Just a deep infusion of jiu jitsu to root out the latest bad mistakes and maybe even forge a few good "best practices".

How incredibly helpful would a week or two of that be? Jiu jitsu is such a skill-dependent art - you've got to spend hours hammering away at that marble in order to make a meaningful and lasting impression. I'd be willing to bet that the average Brazilian training jiu jitsu today is a lot like the average NBA-aspiring inner city kid who logs playing time by the truckload.

There's no making that kind of person out of most of us. But getting to enjoy one week a year doing nothing but training, sleeping and eating (in that order) is a goal worth working towards.

Training Day: Monday

ATM ("Always Train Mondays") is based on the theory that the first day of training for the week is about getting the weekend rust out. In that way, today's training more or less accomplished the mission.

There are days when I feel like I'm the worst purple belt in Washington (and even if I'm wrong, I've got the stats that support the argument). Monday's training didn't do very much to dispel that notion. In part, I'm sure it was because we were working on armbars from the guard - a technique I avoid like the plague - and my technique is both rusty and raw. In part, it probably has to do with the official "3 Weeks Out" before the December 13th tournament and the nagging anxiety that my preparation for the upcoming event will do me no better than my preparation for the last one. And in part, I'm sure it's because I could use a break, not from training jiu jitsu, but from everything else. Truth told, I'm not sure I'd know what to do with a full seven-day vacation if one gogoplata'd me from the guard (yes, that was a feature of tonight's training, as well, and during what is rumored to be my best guard pass, at that.)

I'm finding it harder than I'd like to ward off some of negativity of earlier in the month. It comes on less like a sense of frustration or futility (though there are elements of that, too) and more as just a sense of weight, or gravity, the kind of feeling you get sometimes when walking down the hallways of a hospital, the feeling that, for all the healing, this is a place of suffering, as well. And what is annoying is that for all the talk of jiu jitsu being an "individual sport that you do with partners" it isn't easy to imagine what could happen that would be so positive that it would sustainably counterbalance what has felt like my least productive year in jiu jitsu out of the four I have to choose from.

I'll tell you this: I have an appreciation for steroid users that I've never had before. Not that I would ever take steroids (I have enough bad habits without adding syringe-play to my list), but I understand the desperation of wanting to be better so badly that you'd take some significantly sized risks to make it happen. For better or worse, there is no jiu jitsu potion that would give me Sauleh's guard game or Casey's armlocks or Cindy's top aggression or Rodrigo's chokes. And maybe I'd have the self-dignity to avoid the temptations of such a concoction even if one did exist.

Everybody you ask, who knows better, says the same thing: talent is important, but training and dedication are what really make the difference. Coming from world-class talent like Rafael Mendes, that is certainly nice to hear. And I've taken this sentiments - expressed by every one from Rafa to Saulo to Rodrigo - very much to heart in 2009 by training more and more frequently as the year has played out. But as the year rolls toward a close, I can't help but wonder: what do you do if the difference you make still is not difference enough?

156.2 on the scale after training (169.0 in the gi beforehand). A perfectly respectable number to start the week. I did stay pretty late to work over some technique with Steve (always worth doing) and to ask Rodrigo a question about the S-mount transition to take the back (specifically, the issue of switching your hips and laying the back leg flat instead of remaining relatively high up in a traditional S-mount). We're going to be working more armbars this week - from the guard, from the mount - which is practice I could use. Right now, I'm slated to be back on the mat tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday for a little day session from 10 am to 12 noon. Four days in a row. Slumpbuster, where is thy sting?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Welcome to the UFC, Lil Nog!

How about THAT UFC debut? First round KO for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

More Thoughts On the Ryan Hall Interview

I've had the chance to get both Cindy's and Rodrigo's thoughts on some of the sentiments expressed in the recent Ryan Hall interview. Rodrigo's comments in particular resonated with things he has said before about the difference between many good American jiu jitsu artists and their Brazilian counterparts.

I thinik there are some parts of Ryan's thesis that are not supported. For example, the armlock and triangle from mount remain viable positions even if the risk is "giving up position" as Ryan says in his rejection of those techniques. For me, the issue is the risk/reward. If you have a good triangle or armlock from mount - if you are better from those positions than you are from the cross choke or transitioning to take the back, then it would be ridiculous to forgo your best technique out of a Unified Jiu Jitsu Theory that says you can not ever risk losing position.

It also begs the question - can't a person going for the cross choke from mount get reversed? Can't a person trying to take the back from mount (for example, using the S-mount transition Rodrigo showed us earlier this week) miss the moment and end up back on the bottom?

There are no inherently more or less "safe" techniques in jiu jitsu. As the saying goes, jiu jitsu is perfect, it is the human being who makes errors. Travis Lutter failed to submit Anderson Silva by armlock from the mount because he waited until the third opportunity to try - and even then Anderson had begun to disrupt Lutter's balance by the time he moved. It wasn't because the armlock from the mount - or the triangle from the mount that Ryan rejects but Demian Maia was able to use to finish Chael Sonnen - was in and of itself inferior.

Ryan's game came to represent an extreme version of jiu jitsu - and there's a lot of sense in his rejection of it. To the extent that he wants to compete against the bset in the world, he knows that he'll have to do more than try and lure opponents into the lethal octopus garden of his legs. And I wonder what the implications of Ryan's theory have on similar top American guard players like Jeff Glover.

In jiu jitsu, when the going gets tough, the not-so-tough often start thinking about wrestling ... I'm as guilty of that as anyone and it has been helpful - very helpful - this past week to have Rodrigo spend so much time on the more aggressive, back-tacking, pummeling, base-disrupting aspects of jiu jitsu. I think there's a little of this in Ryan's thinking, which as Rodrigo's training this week has shown, might be too affected by a "jiu jitsu = guard playing" hegemony (sorry I can't think of another way to put it) that he himself has lived - and succeeded with - for years. In other words, the antidote to guard playing isn't wrestling, it's a more balanced diet of jiu jitsu.

I don't want to sound overly critical of Ryan's view of things. I've along been a Ryan Hall fan and, to the extent that his view of things is his view of things, I wish him nothing but luck. But as an general analysis of what we're likely to see - or should see - as jiu jitsu evolves - I'm no more convinced than I was hearing Marc Laimon say many of the same sorts of things three or four years ago.

The greatest innovations in jiu jitsu are still coming from Brazil, in my opinion. And the recent performance of Brazilians at the ADCC 2009 gives lie to the notion that the gi is the only place where Brazilians continue to outpace the rest of the world. (Brazilians won 7 out of 8 divisions including women and absolute at ADCC 2009. In the men's divisions, two out of every final four included Brazilian competitors.) I don't have a clue what we'll see next. But my eyes are on the Mendes brothers, who seem to be at the forefront of jiu jitsu innovation right now in terms of both innovation and achievement.

From Tatame:
Who is the responsible for your technical changes so fast, besides your talent?

I think this evolution isn’t just talent, because if the person only has talent and isn’t determined, it will reach a place, but not the highest. If you have determination and talent, then you can reach the highest place of the podium. The most important isn’t the talent, but will, determination, overcoming, training every day, maintaining an intense training and the union of my team that is essential.

Not surprisingly, Rodrigo's been keeping his eye on the Mendes brothers as well. The other day after training, Rodrigo was showing Andrew and Stephen this Mendes Bros. move from the top of half guard.

Friday, November 20, 2009

South American Jiu Jitsu Championships Streamed Live

Don't think the gods train jiu jitsu? How else to explain the third major jiu jitsu/grappling event to be streamed live for free over the Internet this year?

South American Jiu-Jitsu Championship Online This Weekend

Here's the link to the website

Unfortunately, for those of us on the Pacific Coast, the stream will be happening at about 4 a.m. Nonetheless, this is a great trend in the jiu jitsu grappling world that hopefully will only continue to develop.

Training Day: Friday

Rodrigo has been emphasizing ways to take the back in the past few classes. As I've said, this has been an area I've tended to avoid, even though I've probably got better choke circuitry from the back than I do from the mount.

The technique was the switch, which he showed to us as a nice combination move or follow-up during a kimura attack from the closed/full guard. I should really add the switch to my King Crimson series (guillotine, omoplata, kimura, crossover sweep), a guard series I've almost completely abandoned over the past year or so.

There were a few little details that I picked up - almost more about the closed guard in general than about the switch in specific. Rodrigo talked about putting both hands on the shoulders as a prep before hipscaping out to create space to set up the switch. I want to remember that general idea of getting space before making my hipscape instead of hipscaping while I'm still too close - which is why I think my armlocks from the guard have been so ineffective.

Back to the switch: From here, you reach over as if attacking with a crossover sweep but instead of hooking behind the arm, reach between the legs and get a good grip on the inside thigh - the deeper the better.

Next, you want to shift your hips. I was doing an okay job with this - and making sure to plant my free arm to help get my hips out of the way to move to the back.

Definitely got better with this move over the course of training. The stand up training we did post-warmup was very nice and different - both with one behind the back grip on the belt - and a position I generally like. But after awhile it was murder on my right shoulder and at one point I got another stinger - something that's happening just about every other training for the past few weeks. It goes away after a minute or two. But it has definitely overtaken my eye as the injury I'm most preoccupied with.

At the same time, I'm training at a good clip and most of the problem areas like my thumb and my shoulder and my eye can be dealt with largely by prevention and precaution.

157 and change on the scale. A little heavy for the end of the week, but given Thursday night's post-training 162 number, I'll take it. In the gi, I was just under the IBJJF lightweight limit of 167.5 before training on Friday.

Got in two good sessions for ten minutes each with Rueben and Lance. I'm still working a little bit more out of the Flat Pass than I probably should at this point. I'm confident enough with it that I should either move on to some other passes or start working the Flat Pass more as a set-up for other opportunities. Not sure what those opportunities will be. But I will say that I haven't given up on the Saulo pass, with both the underhook and Fowler options.

I also need to work on my butterfly guard passes - particularly which side I want to underhook relative to the direction I want to pass. I have a tendency to want the left arm underhook when passing the butterfly guard. But as with the Flat Pass, it is the right side underhook that I'm more comfortable with. The problem is that my footwork still prefers going right (left underhook = pass to the right / right underhook = pass to the left). It's a small malfunction in the circuitry that is very fixable, hopefully, over the next few weeks.

I wouldn't have minded another ten minute sparring, but the clock was ticking so I had to get on my horse, as my Dad used to say. Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry that I drove off with my fully-loaded protein-Gatorade jug on the roof of the car. I heard a pair of loud bangs about 300 meters and 40 mph later.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Training Day: Thursday

Finally back on the mat for a Thursday night class. I tried just coming to the no-gi class at 6:30 because I was dragging a little bit and didn't want to rush into the 5:30 gi class. It's hard to say which I prefer better, both or only doing no-gi. I think the issue is more the 5:30 start, which I had a hard time with back when the Monday class was at 5:30, also.

We worked on moving from side control to scarf hold to north-south and attacking with the kimura. The second move was a counter to the guy's escaping his head from between your legs (you should have his head and shoulders virtually pinned). Here, Cindy emphasized keeping that kimura grip ("the best grip in jiu jitsu" she called it) and using that to maintain control. One of the main options was to stand up and pull the guy toward you, either to reset your legs in the north-south control or to step over and attack with the armlock.

Got in a little roll with Benny - it was a pretty small class with Brock and a pair of guys I didn't quite recognize. It was nice getting back to working my standing guard passes - especially against an active no-gi guard.

Benny was doing a good job of blocking my Flat Pass by using his elbows to move my head off his chest. That was a new counter I hadn't experienced, so I'm pretty grateful. I think it is signaling that I need to get my head all the way over to the mat and not necessarily try to work it from the chest to the mat, where the motion can be easily blocked as Benny did with the elbow.

Pretty heavy on the scale after training: 162.2 (I had predicted 162.1!) Not a big deal, except insofar as it represents in part slacking in my off-mat conditioning. I signed up for the December 13th event after training and just didn't feel comfortable signing up for the 154 and under given the day-of, Sunday morning weigh-in. That would mean spending the weekend cutting weight and I'm just not going to do that.

So I'll be with the bigger boys this time around, up to 170 - where my fortunes historically have not fared any better than they have of late with guys my size. More on this in a separate post. But it is a little weird trying to calibrate my expectations in this space that is supposed to be "beyond winning and losing." At this point, it is a little more Zen than I'm in the mood for.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Training Day: Tuesday

ATM has taken a beating over the past several weeks, prompted in part by more training (and competing) on Saturday than usual. With the holiday season kicking in, there's likely to be more training schedule re-arrangements. But as long as I keep my average up, I'll be happy.

I've averaged almost three and a half classes a week this year, and my training pace has increased every quarter (3.17/wk in Q1, 3.33/wk i Q2, 3.67/wk in Q3). My goal for 2009 has been to "feel" like a purple belt by the time the year was up and, despite my epic fail at assorted jiu jitsu scoring contests, I think that goal has been more or less met.

I think the breakthrough night for the year was the night a few days ago when I was able to hit tripod sweeps out of the cross guard and Simone sweeps out of the "smother" guard. That circuitry "shouldn't" have been there, but it was.

This is probably part of the secret to Rodrigo's exhortation "You've got to TRY." For me, a lot of jiu jitsu at this point boils down to the Jump Program, as I've said before.
And even if I'm not leaping back and forth between the tallest skyscrapers in the city, there are times when I feel more than nimble enough to make it across the rooftops of the average urban architecture in one piece.

Tuesday training began with a solid warmup - jumping jacks between squats, pushups between chokes and obliques - and the current leg pick/sprawl takedown drill. The instructional was about taking the back from mount. It's more very good work for me because I almost 99% of the time abandon the back for the mount. This had me going the other way.

The setup was the pinned guy turning sideways and pushing on the knee to escape the mount. From the top you want to do a sort of S-mount style dismount, but one key detail Rodrigo included was an intermedate step of going flat and long with your back leg as you make the switch and put the heel in the stomach to block the hips with the other leg.

I missed this detail during the drill. But I think that going flat helps you stay low behind the guy's back. One thing I noticed was that I tended to get up a little too high on the back because I was going straight from mount to S-mount. The problem with doing it this way seems to be that you make it harder to get your leg free when you go to take the back. Often your knee is pinned.

I'm looking forward to working this one tomorrow or Friday. For me, I'm noticing that the most important thing to remember is the footwork. Going long and flat makes sense as I think about it, because if the guy on the bottom goes to his side, going long and flat behind him will allow you to stay chest to back. But I wouldn't mind seeing it done properly one more time to make sure I'm remembering correctly.

Good to see Bruce back on the mat. It felt as if I hadn't seen him in months. Fairly small class tonight, but at least two new guys. It seems like there are a lot of new guys stopping by these days. It's strange to think of being one of those folks myself, a little over four years ago. As much as I knew that I really wanted to study jiu jitsu, I don't think I ever really had a sense of myself two, three, four years down the line - though I know that I assumed that everyone who started with me - Mario, Big Mike, Jeff, Arnell, just to name a few - would always be training.

A little heavy on the scale post training at about 159.6 or so. If the limit is 154 or below, day-of for the tournament on December 13th, then there is a good likelihood that I'll be competing at the heavier level 155-170, anyway. Getting down to 154 for a night-before weigh-in is one thing. A day-of sub-154 number - on a Sunday no less - is something else entirely.

Anaconda Choke from ATT's Ricardo Liborio

Courtesy of Sherdog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Women in Jiu Jitsu: Hannette Staack Training for ADCC 2009

Interview with Ryan Hall

A great catch by Griff (Towtruck) e-mailed to me this morning. I've already torn through the article and made it mostly through the actual transcript of the interview that article came from.

Lockflow Interview with Ryan Hall
The whole key is saying, ‘Look. I don’t want to beat regular people. I don’t want to beat guys that are kind of good. I don’t want to beat hobbyists. I don’t want to pull out a sweet highlight reel full of backflips and wacky nonsense.’ You know who has a sweet highlight reel? Roger Gracie. If something doesn’t work against the top 1% of competitors, I don’t want to do it. If you fight for a living and you have a lower standard than that, you have to be out of your mind ...
My suspicion, as I wrote Griff in a thank you e-mail, is that Ryan is mean reverting with a little more velocity than he might otherwise, having been so supersaturated with guard play for so many years. It seems like jiu jitsu guys go through phases from time to time in which the typical virtues of "wrestling" seem to outshine the virtues of "jiu jitsu".

Ironically, this is playing out a little bit in training as Rodrigo has been working us especially hard on the physical aspect of grappling: more butterfly guard, more back-tacking, more pummeling. About a week ago, while we were in the midst of the drilling fury, Rodrigo was pointing out that he wanted us to avoid going to our backs too eagerly, to be more ready and able to fight for top position.

Of course, it's all jiu jitsu, the wrestling v.s. jiu jitsu divide becoming less and less apparent everyday. But clearly there are aspects of jiu jitsu that are being called upon with more and more frequency these days and those aspects do seem to increasingly favor guard passing and taking dominant position over submissions from the back.

A very good read, especially if you've followed Ryan Hall's jiu jitsu career since his days as a the provost of Ryangle University (I bet he would groan out loud if you said that to him today!)

A last look at the "old" Ryan Hall? Here he is in competition with another top up 'n' coming American, Joel Tudor.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

CBDP: Slingshot Armdrag to the Back

Circuit-Building Deep Practice: Slingshot Armdrag to the Back

Slingshot Armdrag ...

1. Wedge
2. Kick
3. Grip
4. Pull

... to the Back

1. Lat
2. Post
3. Hip
4. Hook

An Interview with Gordo: Father of the Half Guard

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Training Day: Saturday

I am always amazed at how much jiu jitsu is lurking in the half hour or so after class or open mat ends. Sometime after one o'clock on Saturday, I found myself in the company of black and brown belts going over technique - including a pair of attacks from side control (armlock and back take) and a pair half guard passes involving trapping the guy's leg triangle by grabbing a foot and doing a shoulder roll, both of which lead to back takes.

Saturday training was a pretty full course - even Sauleh stopped by to train with some of the higher belts. By the end of the day, we had at least four black belts on the mat and two or three brown.

We worked on our standup/sprawl drill, then some work freeing our butterfly guard from a guard passer who was trapping the hips and pinning the hooks. Rodrigo has been emphasizing some of these jiu jitu strategies for dealing with aggressive and strong opponents, and it's nice to see how some of the basic movements - extending the hooks, backstepping with the underhook - are perfectly capable of dealing with the typical "wrestler" style opponent.

Jeff and Gina stopped by to award Rodrigo the trophy for both the Gi and Overall titles for the November 2009 Revolution event. Both Rodrigo and Jeff said some pretty positive things about teamwork and teambuilding that were nice to hear - it was a sizeable class, somewhere around 26 folks, and a lot of them either relatively new or visitors, and I appreciated them getting to hear a little a bit about what our jiu jitsu community is all about.

Got in some tatame after a big group picture with the twin trophies. I rolled with a blue belt from the new Gracie Barra Buckley academy who at least twice took advantage of my bad balance to reverse me out of side control. It felt very much like the kind of barrel roll out of north/south that I've done in the past and was a good reminder to make sure I've got my base in place.

Old School continues to work from half guard. I'm doing a better and better job of really forcing the other guy to make a decision about that sweep before making my counter. I'm still not working in the Slingshot, which is a big problem because now is the perfect time to be trying everything I wanted to add to my game: slingshot guard, cross guard, butterfly guard, Roger Gracie from Mount (RGFM), Rap Star guard ...

I've give myself half a point for the nine-count slingshot armdrag Deep Practice maneuvers I drilled slo-mo before class started. Anything to get even the most initial circuitry in place. I know that the slingshot armdrag and sweep will be big winners if I can ever get them into place. It's funny that compared to the tripod and "Simone" sweeps I was able to hit out of the blue earlier this week, the work out of the slingshot guard has been that much more slow in coming.

A nice day on the mat. 154.6 on the scale post-training. I felt a little more fatigued than I would have liked. But that might have been owing mostly to the apple I had for breakfast. A little more fuel might have given me another 10 minutes of sparring.

That said, the post-training session was great. Two new ways to not only pass the half guard but to take the back from the half guard pass. Rodrigo said that some of these moves he was picking up were from the Mendes brothers - the ones who unleashed the feared 50/50 guard on the world. It was fun to feel as if I were a part of the laboratory - a jiu jitsu extension officeworker in Seattle - helping build the art one experiment at a time.

Thanksgiving schedule at GB Seattle: Open mat on Thursday 10 am - 12 noon. No training Friday. Open mat on Saturday 11 am - 1 pm. I'm angling for a MTRF week next week. And if I'm lucky, a MTWR week leading into Thanksgiving to keep my 4x/week training pace.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Training Day: Friday

Managed to make it to training today after taking Thursday off. I figure that my regular schedule will be MTRF, with TWFS being the occasional alternative (like this week). The idea is to train two days in a row twice a week, with a one-day off and a two-day off period separating them. I'm not entirely sure how the off-mat conditioning will fit around all of this. But insofar as the point of any off-mat conditioning is to support my on-mat training, I'm not too worried.

Today after the warmup we began again with the same standup training we've been doing this week, emphasizing on sprawling and knee/ankle picks. I'm focusing on closing the distance and blocking the shot. I figure this will make it easier to get the grips I want - something I failed to do at the tournament. I'm also trying to get practice in changing levels, which is key to both blocking and attacking.

Most of the instructional was on taking the back and avoiding the back take. We actually spent quite a bit of time working on this, which was nice. We went from just trying to take the back (or end up in side control if the person refused to give you his back) to taking the back and attacking with the choke. I had far more success with a clock choke than I would have liked - call me (Wallid) Ishmael - but the training was good - especially for someone like me who tends to avoid taking the back in favor of side control or mount.

Tatame was good. It was pretty impossible to repeat my guard performance from Wednesday, but it was good to get a chance to attack a little with the cross guard. I need to remember to drop the hip leg to the floor and underhook that same leg, turning over more on my side in that direction and putting my off leg in the armpit when the guy goes to move toward the strong grip side.

Another thing I need to remember is from the guard passing end of things. I'm doing an incrementally better job at standing in the guard, dropping to the combat squat, then standing and opening the guard. From here, I'm trying to work the one-on-one and then the Saulo. But it is very slow going. One thing is that if I can't get the leg down easily, there is always the underhook pass that Rodrigo was drilling us on for weeks a little while ago. It's the perfect compliment so I need to be on the lookout for it.

I also don't want to get too far away from the butterfly guard work that Rodrigo had us drilling earlier in the week. My Marcelo sweep - retitled the Simone sweep - is based on breaking guy's posture. If guy's start to react to that by posturing extra tall, then switching to the butterfly guard/sitting guard is a great counter. Surprise and aggression are important in making the transition - there's nothing mysterious about a hook sweep from the butterfly guard. So I need to practice taking the initiative when the opportunity for the transition appears.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scarfhold Submissions from Aesopian

Given that my best half guard pass - the cross wedge - tends to leave me in scarfhold positions (to say nothing of my renewed emphasis on hook sweeps from sitting/butterfly guard), I couldn't be happier to see this new material from long-time favorite, online jiu jitsu guy: Aesopian.

Modified Scarfhold Submissions

In terms of non-GB Seattle instruction, Aesopian's work was instrumental in helping lead me toward both the half guard and the Marcelo Garcia style sitting guard. I'll be curious to see if I am able to incorporate any of this into my game, as well.

Let's Do the No Gi Mundial Again!

Tomorrow, Friday morning at 11 am.

If you missed it last Sunday (or, if you are a freak like me and would love to see it all again), then Budo Videos is announcing that there will be a 24-hour rebroadcast of the No Gi World Championships starting Friday, the 13th at 11 am Pacific.

Click here in about 17 hours (and counting) for the replay

Renzo v. Hughes at UFC 109?

A lot of people didn't think that Renzo had a chance against Frank Shamrock, either. I like Renzo by arm-in guillotine early in Round Two.
Here's a link to the report at Bloody

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Training Day: Wednesday

In many ways Wednesday was a repeat of Tuesday night's training - which was perfectly fine with me. I would readily take the same class four times a week if it were possible. I'm more than happy to keep working on the same stuff over and over again until the circuits are like the "rails" of high speed Japanese magnetic trains.

So after the ankle/knee pick sprawl drill we went back to pummeling from the butterfly guard. I was working with an especially aggressive white belt, which meant that I was pretty much going at least 75% from the beginning. Fortunately, I've been here before so I ride it out and do the best that I can under the circumstances - trying to avoid the temptation to return the favor. Kids these days.

We also did some work getting the second hook against a guy in the turtle defensive position. I didn't do half bad here, though as is typical when I'm working for rear mount, I ended up taking mount and S-mount if I couldn't get the guy to roll and give me his back.

Specific training - and even the sparring had a bit of a specific training feel to it - was very, very good to me in a number of ways. I was able to hit the Marcelo sweep three or four times, winding up perfectly in mount. I can't even get over how happy I was to see this sweep work so well - which will dovetail nicely with all the butterfly guard work that Rodrigo has been having us do.

Actually, the only thing that might be even more amazing was the fact that I was able to transition nicely to cross guard in one instance and pull off a pretty complete tripod sweep. Talk about lightning striking twice. Two relatively new sweeps. Almost perfect execution in each instance.

I felt very good today. I put in my three-mile LSD workout this morning and felt fine cardiowise during and afterward - clearly it is local muscular endurance in my quads and hamstrings that needs the work more than my cardiovascular system, per se. During class I jogged very lightly during the active rest sessions and never felt as if I was nearing the edge of what I was able to do. Good, good stuff.

152.8 on the scale post-training - a crazy good number. I only ate twice today but the first time was immediately after my cardio workout and the second was about three hours before I began training. There is definitely something to the "eating as fueling" notion that can play a very positive role in helping keep weight down. Given that the tournament on December 13th is (a) on a Sunday and (b) day-off weigh-ins with a 155 ligthweight limit, I'm going to have to try and get as light as possible if I'm going to fight at 155 and under.

Right now it is looking like I'll train tomorrow night and then again on Saturday. If all goes well, there's a halfway decent chance that I'll train on Friday, also. But I can already seen one potential roadblock to that, so I'll just have to see. In either event, I'll get my four trainings in this week, for sure.

The News

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Always Time for One More

Training Day: Tuesday

I decided to take Monday off. Tuesday Rodrigo had us working on a lot of physical, grappling-oriented work We drilled partner sprawls, keeping away from the collar ties and sleeve control and focusing on shooting for pant grips near the knee. After that we worked on the ground, pummeling and fighting for underhooks from the butterfly guard, with both guys fighting for the underhook and the bottom guy trying to avoid having his back put all the way on the mat. I worked with Shawn the brown belt, who was both good and tough to handle. Rodrigo focused on a couple of techniques: scooting the hips out to the side to get a better angle to avoid being pushed to your back, using your head to get lower and better leverage, using your forearm to counter and lift the other guy's head if he tries to dip low ...

For the specific, we did a variety of things mount/escape mount, side control/escape side control, guard/pass guard. After a bunch of rounds of that, we finished up with a pair of 10 minute sparring sessions. I rolled with Benny and then with Shawn.

A good day back on the mat. Rodrigo seemed to be teaching as if everybody had been crushed in 90 seconds by a wrestler on Saturday. He emphasized speed, explosiveness, the physical aspect of grappling and the importance of being able to get to the top instead of settling for the bottom and playing guard. It will be interesting to see how long this emphasis holds.

Answering questions about my own performance on Saturday was less than pleasant, and brought back some of the unproductive thoughts I'd been trying to keep under wraps over the past 48 hours. I've had this same embarrassing "how did you do?" conversation after every Revolution tournament this year, after every Gracie Barra Seattle Invitational and there is nothing positive in it at all. It's more than a little mortifying to realize that of the advanced belts who compete as often as I do, virtually all of them are not just successful when it comes to competition, they are very successful: Casey, Steve, Lindsey, Jesse, Chris Serna, Sauleh, Brock ... even some of the advanced guys who are relatively fresh to competing like Andrew and Shawn, managed to either get a draw or place.

As Batman would say: La-Di-Da-Di-Da ... The bottom line is that I'm going to need a barge-load of good jiu jitsu experience to make up for what has been a singularly disastrous year on the mat whenever anyone was keeping score. And it is increasingly obvious that barge won't be setting sail from the sideline of any competitive tatame anytime soon.

That leaves other options - options I've seen others take. Sooner or later, the decision will be made for me. I don't see myself competing very much at black belt, and even brown belt opportunities seem spotty. My own subpar performance in 2009 notwithstanding, sooner or later I will advance, and advance again, and the opportunities to compete locally will grow fewer and fewer.

Of course that offers a tremendous clue about where my energies are probably better spent - something I actually remember hearing Charles Barkley say on TNT one night in a conversation about Allen Iverson and what should be his new role in Memphis.

And I can live with that - even if I still wouldn't mind one alley-oop dunk for the first and only frame of the highlight reel.

158.4 on the scale post-training. A solid, beginning-of-the-week, number. Given that I dropped 10 pounds over the course of last week without too much fuss, I'm sure I'll be under 155 by this time tomorrow night.

The Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda Review and Preview

My biggest mistake in my Revolution match was strategic. Since he was a wrestler, his strengths were likely speed, power and agility. The best way to negate that is with a very "gi-oriented" game. Not necessarily spider guard, but at least an attack that leveraged the gi against his best attributes. From standing, that meant getting a collar tie quickly, before he had a chance to get his shoot-rhythm in place, and maybe even a sleeve as well.

That's partially what's got me thinking a little about the cross guard, a guard that Rodrigo has shown us more than a few sweeps and variations from.

But one of my critical weaknesses was the fact that I never drilled the slingshot armdrag or sweep, both of which would have come in handy when my opponent was cutting across for the knee slicer pass. I've been trying to ease the slingshot moves into my game during sparring. But that hasn't worked and never made much sense to begin with. What I need to do is cajole someone into letting me drill 10 of those slingshots before class and another 10 after for a few weeks and THEN starting trying to deploy the move in sparring. I knew that. But I didn't do it. And that slingshot position has continued to be a major hole in my half guard game.

A few other things: I want to revive the shin guard that Saulo showed us at the seminar as another move out of the half guard as I transition to sitting guard. Again, this is another potential weapon against the knee slicer or Royler pass.

My guard replacement could be better, of course. And I've restarted my evening stretching routine to give myself a little help in that regard. Truth told, there were flashes when I probably had half a chance to get back to neutral during my match. I forgot to use the skirt rope technique as a failsafe against the knee slicer that would have at least gotten us both back up to standing. And I think what finally did me in was turning in the wrong direction when he attacked with that strange gi choke. I usually can hold out against most chokes for at least a little while. But this time I wasn't even sure which direction the pressure was coming from, so defending it was a guessing game at best. And I did not guess correctly on Saturday.

I'd hoped to break the mold on Saturday and maybe in a very unanticipated way, I did. This was probably the first tournament where I really didn't feel the same sort of oversized "nerves" beforehand. A bit of the regular "about to compete" jitters. But that was about it. And coupling that calm with a determination to start winning matches bodes well for not just what might happen on December 13th, but what might happen at the Revolution in March, July and November of 2010, as well.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Cross Guard on My Mind

Who Calls the English Teacher "Daddy-O"?

Quien es mas macho? The jiu jitsu practioner who wins first place at an IBJJF tournament because she is the only one in her division? Or the jiu jitsu practitioner who wins third place at a local grappling tournament after his opponent in the consolation match decides that competing for third place isn't worth his time?

No-Gi Mundial 2009 Black Belt First Place Results

Thanks to the good people at No-Gi, the No-Gi Mundial 2009 was streamed live on Sunday. Among the great matches I got to see was a great lightweight final between Lepri and 2nd place finisher Jonathan Torres, and another fun match between Lucas Leite and Carlos Ferreira - who apparently trained together back in Brazil.

A lot of other matches were streamed, including a healthy amount of women's matches. I missed Hillary Williams' matches - she won both at Middleweight and the Open, but I did get to see a surprising upset in Sofia Amarante defeat of Leticia Ribeiro. I also managed to catch another good match with another women with the same name, Sophia McDermott from Rickson Gracie's school take first place at lightweight.

IBJJ No-Gi Mundial 2009 Results

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Torn Tickets

Not a lot to say about my single match at the Revolution event. I was sacked like a quarterback who'd just gotten the snap. There wasn't a moment when I had the advantage. I got taken down with a low single and was desperately playing catch-up until I ended up tapping to a choke from some convoluted position I don't even remember a few minutes later.

It would be an understatement to say that my goals were not met. And there is a pocket full of unproductive thinking that I'm likely to tote around for the next few weeks. Even in a year of bad losses - and going 0-8 in 2009 gives me an ample sample size - this one was as bad as the worst.

Mid-December will give me another opportunity to "bend the curve" - a curve that increasingly resembles a vertical line. I've got enough time to put together a little mini-training camp if I start on Sunday (which I will). But the main focus of course will be in getting my mat time in at the academy, including Cindy's Friday Night No-Gi Special from time to time, which will help improve my wrestling.

Another day at the racetrack, another set of torn tickets on the ground. That wraps up the Revolution for 2009. As the kids say, now's the time on Sprockets when we dance.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Training Day: Friday

Arrived at about 157 and left at 153.8, a full pound under.

Teh sickness has hit Gracie Barra hard. Pat, Nate and a couple of other guys who were slated to compete tomorrow are now out due to illness. And Rodrigo himself was dressed like a civilian for the Friday class, saying that he felt as if he might be getting a touch of it as well. Allegedly, we have a bona fide case of H1N1, the swine flu. Having missed two and a half weeks over the past two months due to illness, the idea of getting the damn swine flu is almost enough to make me laugh. Almost.

Lindsey taught the class and had us working on half guard control from on top. Lindsey likes to triangle the leg from the top, sort of countering the bottom guy's tendency to lock up the leg triangle. A good crossface and turning your body almost perpendicular to his (if you can put your face on the mat you're in good shape) were also parts of getting this tight control from the top.

The submission he showed was the arm triangle, planting your hand on the mat near the far hip for leverage and either popping the elbow through if the bottom guy extends the arm or using your head to wedge the arm higher. There's also Saulo's strategy from the mount of walking your hand up under his forearm to elbow to upper arm to keep in mind here.

One key detail Lindsey mentioned was using your head to keep the arm triangle in place. It's a great position to have, so why give it up readily?

To transition to the mount, open your leg triangle from the top and use the top of the foot on your outside leg to lever the half guard player's leg triangle open. When the guard opens, be sure to keep your hooks (the tops of your feet as hooks) in place to make the transition to the mount more solid.

To finish up, we did "king of the half guard" drills. My half guard was in tournament mode, so I was able to spend a good amount of time on the hill. There were more than a few instances with some big white belts where I felt especially crushed. But I was able to remain patient and keep working my game until an advantage appeared. It was very good training - maybe harder than I would have preferred the day before a tournament. But then again, I did lose the few pounds I was looking to lose - and gained some additional confidence in my half guard game in the process.

Talked with Brian a bit after training. I want to definitely look out for him to help him warm up before his matches. Having only recently discovered how critical that is, I'm more than happy to spread the wealth.

Should be an interesting day. I'm trying to remain very "zero point" about it, not getting excited, or anxious or anticipatory. I just want to tap into my resources when different situations develop. Brian called it "connecting the dots" and I couldn't agree more. It's the same concept as the "circuitry".

Weighed in at 152.0 officially at the Comfort Suites in Renton where they moved it for this event. Almost three pounds under. As usual, I overdid it with today's fast - especially with the liquids. But at this point it is all good. Ran into a couple of GB guys at the weigh-in, which is always nice. Now I'm fed - if not totally rehydrated - and ready for another 30 minutes of chill-ation before hitting the sack.

Goal Zero

"The most interesting aspect of jiu-jitsu is – of course the techniques are great – but the sensibility of the the opponent, the sense of touch, the weight, the momentum, the transition from one move to another. That’s the amazing thing about it.

"You must allow yourself to go as an automatic pilot. You don’t know exactly where you’re going, until the movement happens. Because you cannot anticipate what’s going to happen. You must allow yourself to be in a zero point, a neutral point, and be relaxed, and connected with the variations. So you pretty much flow with the go.

"This is a point beyond knowledge. It is from years and years of playing around and sensibility."
--Rickson Gracie

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Popovitch Calls Out the Catch Wrestler

Pablo Popovitch has never been my favorite grappler.

That is in no way a knock on the guy's skills - which are "Top of the Food Chain" as Joe Rogan puts it. Part of my aversion to Popovitch is that he is perennially on the opposite side of the ledger against Marcelo Garcia. And I root for Marcelinho every chance I get. But I know that another part of it has to do with my wrestling self-loathing issue, about which I've already said too much ...

Nevertheless, in the same way I've come to embrace guys like Jake Shields who have blended their wrestling with their jiu jitsu beautifully, I think I'm going to have to put Pablo on the same list after reading his latest in Gracie Magazine talking about the scheduled appearance of catch wrestler and twice-accused performance enhancer, Josh Barnett, this weekend at the IBJJF No-Gi Mundial:
“Someone has to beat him and represent our Jiu-Jitsu. After all, we can’t let a guy who does catch-wrestling win the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship. I’m going to fight in the absolute and hope to put on a show. I’m feeling great, and my confidence is through the roof. One hundred percent of my game is mental and that helps a lot. I did a lot of preparations for ADCC 2009, and I’m still in my best shape.”

To get this Pablo Popovitch party started right, here's a recent Grapplers' Quest video of Pablo in action that just arrived in my inbox a few minutes ago.

"Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita"

Dante wrote his Commedia when he was 35 - in an era when life expectancy topped out at about 70. As a two-stripe purple belt in jiu jitsu, I can't help but feel as if I am in a similar place: halfway between my birth as a white belt and the bodhisattvahood/buddhahood of the faixa preta.

More than anything else on Saturday, I hope to break the mold. I don't think I've competed in a single match that I would have been proud to show to the few non-jiu jitsu people I know as an example of what I spend 6-8 hours a week doing (and triple that amount musing, thinking, scheming, obsessing ...). What would I send my Dad if he ever asked? Hell, what could I show my wife after all these years since she last saw me win my first gold medal as a white belt three years ago.

Goal setting is most effective when the goal clearly achievable. I want to win on Saturday. But more than anything, I want to be worth watching. Not in a vain way, but because I know that if my jiu jitsu is worth watching, there's a good chance that I'm doing something right, something worth emulating maybe, something that makes the guys and gals who haven't competed yet want to compete or the guys and gals that haven't begun training jiu jitsu to thinking about starting.

Looking back on my matches over the past four (!) years, it is tempting to blame my defeats on a lack of heart or will. I distinctly remember being angry about having to fight an overtime, and then a sudden death period after that, in my first fight at the last Revolution against the guy from Impact Jiu Jitsu in Oregon (a guy I'd lost to by armlock with 90 seconds to go after being up 2-0 after pulling half guard and getting the sweep in February). I remember being totally unenthusiastic about my next match, against the guy from Marcelo Alonso's who I lost to in February because of my mental preoccupation with what had happened in the previous match.

But the truth of the matter is that in pretty much all of those fights, I performed as far as my technique would take me. In February, I felt comfortable with the strategy for pulling half guard that Rodrigo had shown us. And in February I went 2-1 in my three fights when it came to pulling half guard and getting the sweep to go up 2-0. In July, I felt comfortable with the Jacare ankle pick off the collar drag that Rodrigo had been drilling us with. And in July, I went 3-0 on takedown attempts using that collar drag.

Guard passing at the advanced level is where I have struggled. Truth told, it is where I struggled at blue belt and white belt, as well. As much as I've allowed emotion to cloud my jiu jitsu in competition - a cloud-covering made all the easier by lack of conditioning - there has been a clear failure of technique, a point where the jiu jitsu circuity broke down and there was nothing but white noise. That, more than anything, is what has cost me "hardware" in 2009.

For what it's worth, my guard passing circuitry is better than it's ever been - and that's the circuitry that counts right now. True enough, "better" is both saying a lot and saying not so much - in the same way that the emotional magnitude of a 50% gain in a $4 stock depends a lot on the leverage involved. But the improvements are a fact and something I'm feeling more and more comfortable about testing.

Every time I've had a plan, that plan has worked up until the point where I had stopped planning. Obvious as it sounds, it is worth remembering.

Big Baby's Big Armlock

As someone with a pretty lousy armlock from the guard, I have to say that I couldn't have been happier to come home from training Wednesday night, tune in to The Ultimate Fighter and, after several minutes of typical nonsense, get to see a finish like this.

Here's how Sherdog described it:
Jones doesn’t need to use any of his eight-inch reach advantage after all. Wessel comes straight forward swinging from the hip. After a wild exchange, Wessel tries to trip Jones, but ends up on bottom. Wessel quickly slips out and gets top position. But before he can mount any sort of offense, Jones snags Wessel’s arm and slaps on an armbar torqued by the most ridiculous amount of human pressure imaginable. Wessel screams through the submission.

The armlock actually reminds me of the one that Bibiano Fernandes uses, where you just pop the leg over the head rather than getting a full perpendicular hip rotation as you would in the "traditional" armlock from the guard. Definitely going belly-down helps to finish that kind of armlock. And that, combined with the sheer strength of Jones, made it a devastating finish.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Training Day: Wednesday

Most important: 156.8 on the scale after training. 1.9 pounds over.

If I behave myself between now and Friday evening's weigh-in, then everything should be copacetic. I'll probably fast for most of Friday - maybe a protein bar before training if I decide to take in a pre-weigh-in session. So Thursday - tomorrow - will be the critical day to avoid gaining any weight. I've avoided caffeine all week - not a Herculean effort but still. So water - regular and carbonated - will be the main fare for the next couple of days.

There was a little instructional in today's training. Rodrigo had us working some moves from open guard/half spider guard: the basic spider sweep where you let the guy come in before kicking out with the spider leg and lifting on the other leg at the pants. Probably not a sweep I'll use a lot - though it is very, very similar to what I've been wanting to do with the sling shot sweep.

We drilled that sweep for quite awhile. The second technique was against a guy who opens your guard and puts a knee up in the middle. Here, the move from the bottom is to capture both sleeves, hipscape out with a foot on the hip to create some space, then sit up immediately and wrap the knee-up leg.

From here, there were two main options. If you can control the far sleeve, then reach under his knee-up leg at the knee and capture the sleeve under his leg. Reposition your hip foot to the knee and with your free hand grab the collar (or the shoulder, which worked for me). Kick out the bottom knee and turn the guy in that direction for the sweep.

The second option was in case you couldn't capture the sleeve and pass it through. This variation I had some trouble with. What you want to do is reach under your leg (the one that is hooking the knee-up leg) and grab the pants at the cuff. With the leg on that side, you want to DLR hook that knee-up leg as well. From here, you want to rock him back and forth, using your hook and cuff grip to help guide the lift as you rock back. Again, when you've got his balance off, reposition your hip foot to the knee and turn him in that direction to get the sweep.

Tatame was short, but sweet. I had some very good success with the Flat Pass, attacking with submissions from the top in half guard and a half-decent half guard pass. I can't say that I feel "confident" about what's going to happen on Saturday. But I'm starting to feel as my performance is likely to be better than it's been in the past. And if that happens, I'll be pretty happy - if not totally satisfied.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Demian Maia: Doin' Work

with apologies to Spike and Kobe ...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Rolles Gracie and the UFC

Would there be anything cooler than a Gracie winning the UFC heavyweight title?

Rolles speaks of arrival at UFC
The MMA world is small. Although my fights were in China, there were good repercussions here in the USA. There were always talks with the UFC, since my agent has a great relationship with Dana (White) and Joe Silva. The UFC thought the time had come to hire me, and I’m glad I’m in," said Rolles, who teaches Jiu-Jitsu in New Jersey.

Rolles first fight in the UFC is against Mostafa Al-Turk in February.

Training Day: Monday

ATM has been on the rocks for the past few weeks. And even if Monday's aren't what they used to be, they still are (or at least should be) "must train" days.

With the Revolution this weekend, we went straight to drills, specific and sparring. Rodrigo was talking to Nate before class about how a couple of people were getting injured with all the standup training we have been doing over the past several weeks. Apparently, if I heard correctly, Clint ended up with a separated shoulder. Obviously - and especially after my trip through the Absolute division last Thursday night - I'm am muito sympathetic to shoulder injuries, and knowing that Clint was preparing for the tournament this Saturday only makes things that much worse. Here's hoping he has a good and quick recovery.

Best of times/worst of times for me on the mat tonight, as usual. Some good survival on the bottom in the King of the Guard specific drill. Not so great at the passing game - though I continue to press ahead with the Flat Pass. Sooner or later, if I don't make any major mistakes, I seem to at least be able to fight my way to half guard. This puts a real premium on developing my half guard passes, which have really languished in 2009.

Then again, there are times when I do make major mistakes. Benny had me totally on the defensive during our 10-minute sparring session to end training (though he had enough juice to roll with Brock immediately afterward ...). He caught me in an omoplata that I almost tapped to, a triangle briefly, and a couple of brabo chokes that were entirely too tight for comfort. That I didn't get submitted is a plus, of course. But getting caught in that many bad positions was horrible on my part.

On some other day, that kind of performance would bum me out pretty massively. But I tire myself out sometimes with that shiite. The good thing is that I managed to survive without tapping, eventually getting back to a much better situation - albeit with only about two minutes left.

I'm taking tomorrow off and will be back on the mat on Wednesday and probably Friday. My shoulder still bugs me, but it is a dull ache so I'm just Ibuprofening for now. Once it gets warmed up, I don't seem to have very many problems.

157.4 on the scale. Not bad for a Monday. Ideally, my next weigh-in on Wednesday will be just under 155.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

All Saint's Day Dispatch

Felt a little beat up after Thursday night's training. We did a lot of competition training - mostly standup and sparring. Early on in the gi class during the standup, someone (I can't even remember who) got a good underhook on my right side as I was going to change levels and my back cracked louder than I've ever heard it (I'm a neck cracker, but not a back cracker typically). Instantly I felt a shot of needles down my right arm that lasted for about 5-6 seconds. It was similar to some of the needles I've been getting over the past few months in my right arm and hand, only much more intense and instantaneous. It went away soon enough and I was able to finish both the gi class and the no gi class - though I was pretty whipped after the gi class.

It was a bit of an Absolute session insofar as the smallest guy after me was Mike at about 175-185 or so. I tend not to have a "small" self image, so I never think of myself as being 20 pounds lighter than that (I'm a featherweight who thinks he's a welterweight). But training sessions like Thursday remind me that I am definitely on the smaller end of things - at least when some of the bigger boys of GB Seattle have arrived to train.

So that meant no training on Friday - the day class or the night class. My shoulder still aches, but there's no functional impediment, so I'm just going to keep an eye on it. I don't feel any more or less discomfort when I raise my arm or lift things - I spent an hour raking leaves today with no difference. Just a constant, lingering ache - with the every-now-and-then needles and tingling in my fingers that I'll get looked at sometime after the Revolution.

I'm feeling pretty okay about the upcoming competition. I really need to get Rodrigo's input on the Leozinho pass series - both the version he showed us the day before the summer Revolution, as well as the leg rope that Saulo shows in his book. I think it might be the last piece to complete my guard passing profile. Right now I feel at least capable of competing against most guards, but when I get that big-time hipscape approach, like a guy setting up for the Mother of All Scissor Sweeps, I haven't had a go to move. The Leozinho or leg rope series is a very nice approach for situations like that. But I need Rodrigo to walk me through the basics - and for me to drill the pass a few days this week in sparring.