Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thinking About Passing the Guard

How Safecracking Works
In the movies, master thieves and spies can deftly defeat a safe in a matter of seconds using little more than steady hands and a good ear. Safecracking isn't really that easy of course, but expert safecrackers really can get through just about any lock mechanism. It's a matter of having the right tools, the right skills and plenty of patience.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

GB Seattle Invitational

A great day of jiu jitsu at the GB Seattle/Washington Invitational today. However ambivalent I feel about jiu jitsu competition from time to time when I'm the one doing the competing, I can't say how much I love watching the matches.

I was a little surprised that there were four purple belts competing. I didn't see any purple belts signed up and thought that the idea might be to steer the event more toward white and blue belts (no brown or black belts competed at all). I'll have to keep that in mind the next time around (probably in June) when the next Invitational happens.

In the same way that watching footage of the Mundials has really started to provide insights into the game, watching all those guys compete this morning was really educational. I could see instances where recent lessons could have been applied to help guys deal with the blocked hip when passing half guard, for example, or my own personal favorites like getting the underhook when in half guard as a basic safety measure and great launching point for offense.

I didn't watch the kids. You pretty much have to decide if you're going to watch the kids or the grown-ups. There were a few yellow belt kids, two I think, who competed with the adults - including one kid who fought two adults and idn't seem to have anybody coaching him. I gave it my best shot, yelling tactics from the sidelines as I am want to do, for better or worse. And I wanted to keep an eye on him and say something positive to him afterwards - maybe show him the tip about the underhook from half. But as the morning went on, I lost track of him and his folks.

Saw a couple of folks I hadn't seen in a long time, including Clint, Griff and Angela. It seemed like the Ballard crew was fewer than I would have thought. But I wasn't exactly counting.

I had a pair of really great rolls, one with a brown belt Doug who trains mostly in Bellevue and one with Sauleh. Both felt pretty good. In some ways I still feel heavy and sluggish - I was about 160 when I woke up this morning. But I was doing a good job with my half guard and my standing to pass.

It was the first time I ever really rolled with Sauleh without someone keeping score. The weird thing is that over the years I've competed against him three times in Intramural contests or academy matches. The first time I rolled with him was when Rodrigo put me up against him as a white belt years ago for a competition scored match. I think I lost 2-4. He got an uchi mata takedown. I got a reverse. Then he got a reverse.

Without getting into it, that first match was the closest match of our three engagements. If you know Sauleh, then you can imagine how the subsequent contests went.

Sauleh was working today with an interesting variation on the DLR guard. He had the same grip on the heel. But instead of DLRing the leg, he put his shin against your lower leg with the knee pointing outwards.

What is most fascinating about this variation - other than the fact that it negates the one DLR pass that I feel semi-competent with - is that it is basically an inversion of the shin guard that Saulo showed us during his seminar in Fife, the shin guard that allows you to set up the X-guard in particular.

I'll have to ask Rodrigo, and guys like Lance and Stephen who use a lot of DLR guard what they think. It was very, very interesting to see because it touches on so many things about this position - both from the perspective of the passer and the perspective of the guard player.

One of the things Sauleh caught me with repeatedly was his foot on bicep triangle. It's one of his best moves and it is every bit the beartrap, even with my triangle defense, which isn't half bad. I need to remember to rotate my palms facing outward (turn your thumbs down) before doing the scoop to attack the spider legs - though I did once try the inversion pass that I had been thinking about for especially leggy guard players.

A really fun day - a reminder of what training on a Saturday can be like when there is almost zero sense of time constraint. In terms of helping prepare me for the Revolution in two weeks, even though I didn't compete, I think I got what I needed.

By the way, I spent Friday night watching a Kiss live concert from 1989, then an AC/DC live show and then, this from show in 2002.

Add to that Glengarry Glenn Ross tonight at Seattle Rep after a dinner with some friends of the family and I think I'm having the best 24 hours in some time.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Karate and Jiu Jitsu: Eu e Lyoto

As someone whose love of martial arts was first kindled by Bruce Lee and rejuvenated nearly 20 years later by Gracie/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I can't tell you how many ways I appreciate this article.

Lyoto Machida Shores Up Karate's Reputation
Yet not long after karate’s commercial popularity skyrocketed, its reputation among serious martial artists was dealt a big blow. In 1993, at the first U.F.C., Royce Gracie, the tournament’s smallest competitor and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, cruised through the competition by quickly wrestling his opponents to the ground and choking them until they quit.

My father helped instill in me a great affection for boxing. And the single losing year I spent as a wrestler in high school was more memorable than my years on the football, lacrosse, and track teams combined.

But my first achievement in combat sports was my black belt in karate (April 1981!). And the success of Lyoto Machida, a karate AND BJJ black belt, makes me that much less embarrassed to say so.

Roger v.s. The Zen Machine

New School Meets Old School

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cobrinha the Baker?

Here's a great little interview with Rubens Charles aka "Cobrinha" who is coming to Seattle for a seminar this April.

The second most fun thing I found out about him was that he began his training in 2000, and got his black belt the same year I began training in 2005.

The first most fun thing about Cobrinha? Before he was a world class jiu jitsu martial artist, he was a hard-working, neighborhood baker:
Before jiu jitsu, I liked my life very much. I enjoyed capoeira and I also enjoyed being a baker, which was my primary way to earn money. Jiu jitsu has given me an opportunity to travel much more than I did previously, and I have been privileged to meet people from many different cultures. I have a better respect for people's lives all over the world. My success in jiu jitsu has also put me in a position where some people look up to me. That is both a big honor and very humbling at the same time.
Although I have a tendency to try and be "carb-agnostic" from time to time, my love of many a leavened bread is such that I can't help but appreciate the fact that Cobrinha was a baker in his Clark Kent life.

Training Day: Wednesday

Made it to the early class a little late. Actually, I was gunning for what was scheduled to be the Live Session, the final half-hour of the class. But since we are still very much in transition to the new curriculum, I ended up doing the last few drills of what was the Wednesday Fundamentals class.

No complaints. The pace was good enough to work up at least a bit of a sweat. And the two techniques: a guard pass against the closed guard and a detail for passing the half guard made it very much worth the relatively short stop.

Most importantly, though, it is looking like I might be able to take better advantage of the early classes starting next week. That would be a great development, allowing me to train more often and get more sleep, as well as a few other benefits.

Funny about the first guard pass. The last thing I was looking at in Saulo's Jiu Jitsu University before I left the house were passes that were very similar to what Rodrigo was showing. From the closed guard break (the middle knee wedge), you keep inside control of his legs with your forearms pressing down and inside to out. You slide your chest-block hand low enough to make sure that your elbow is buried on the inside of the guy's leg - an important detail.

On the pass side, you bounce up in a sprawl on your tip toes and step over the pass side leg. Press down with your elbows/forearms and sprawl out more if need be. Walk around to the side and lower your shoulder into the chest as you move to side control. Check under the hips. Check under the neck.

The half guard detail was a way of dealing with the bottom guy's free hand if you've got him in a facing seatbelt (shoulder of justice and underhook) and he blocks your hip. What you do from here is sprawl out and then dig your knee straight in (perpendicular) to his hip and then up along side his body, wedging his arm higher. This is actually a good move when dealing with a blocking arm from the bottom in side control, also.

Rodrigo had us do the pass where you bring your leg up so that you can drop your knee to the far side. From this "quarter mount" position, you kick your lower leg free. There are a couple of other ways to go about that, like using your other leg to lever the trapped lower leg free. But the point of emphasis was in dealing with the blocking, straight-arm from the bottom.

It was kind of fun to see a number of guys who hadn't been to class in a while adjusting to Gracie Barra Seattle 3.0. Just when you thought that everybody had heard Rodrigo's speech, you see half a dozen blue and white belts who didn't have any idea. I'm not entirely sure why that made me feel good - I think it may have just been in seeing others trying to adjust to the different changes that happen in jiu jitsu, in both institutions and in individuals, as I feel as I have been pretty much since I got my purple belt.

At the same time, I'm starting to see a little clarity by way of taking these Fundamentals classes, and especially in working with white belts and new blue belts. I'll have more on that later, probably. But it was good to feel a little of that glow - and a reminder of what my role in the Great Game of jiu jitsu really is.

Enter the Cobrinha

More information available here.

Between Renzo's seminar in May and this event in April, my jiu jitsu seminar budget is pretty much occupied for the first half of the year.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Threshold Training

Here is the main workout I'm doing twice a week. First, the routines:

Half guard flow drill
--this one is from Kesting's half guard DVD. But the clip is available on YouTube here. I just use a regular "dining" chair, put a DB on a pillow on the seat to keep it in place, and go to work. I'm amazed at how well it works as a substitute for a partner (use front set of legs of the chair that are wider).

360 drill
--I made my own grappling dummy with a bunch of old pillows, an old army trenchcoat and a white belt to keep everything in place. I use a length of plastic in one of the arms when I want to drill things like the armlocks. But for the 360 drill, that hard plastic just gets (painfully) in the way. This, if you don't know, is a drill that Cindy used to make a staple of her classes. You transition on top from mount to watchdog to side control to scarf hold to north-south to scarf hold to side control to watchdog and back to mount.

--I use basic grappling drills for this. I used to do it Tabata style. Now I just try to work off of a count (10-20 reps). The drills are: alt upas, hipscapes (alternating elbow escapes), sit-outs, alt hip "splits", alt backrolls, alt crossover sweeps, alt armdrags from butterfly guard, alt hook sweeps from butterfly guard, alt lifts (technical standing)

Tuesday, I did three sets of 45 seconds of half guard, 45 seconds of 360 and 18 count matwork (about 5.5 minutes), with a five minute break between sets. I started off with 30 seconds of 360 and 10 ct matwork back on February 8 at the beginning of Week Four after doing the groundwork with the aerobic capacity-oriented LSD conditioning.

Thursday, I'll be upping the half guard and 360 drills to a minute. Next week, the count goes from 18 to 20.

Initially, my heart rates were around 150-155. But now, they are up to 170 on average, which suggests to me that I'm getting right where I want to be (weight loss, notwithstanding). The idea of threshold training, as Joel Jamieson of explains it is to "delay the point at which anaerobic processes begin to dominate" and I think it is the ideal type of training for this stage of things.

It's hard to tell how much it's benefiting my current on the mat training. In that way, it's kind of like the President's stimulus package: we don't know what things would have been like without it. But it's my plan - or most of it - and I'm sticking with it.

New Kind of Same

Training Day: Tuesday

161.2 on the scale post-train.

That about sums it up right now. I'm trying to avoid doing the sort of calorie restriction that's always helped me slice down into the high 150s when necessary. And now increasingly is acting like when.

It's frustrating. Tonight's advanced class was as rigorous as we've had since the new curriculum was implemented. Takedowns, then more takedowns, then guard/pass guard. Repeat three times. Then three, 4-minute rounds of guard/pass guard (a total of 24 minutes since each person did both). It was one hell of a session and very much like what I'm hoping advanced classes will be like going forward.

So all that sweating and threshold style training and what's my reward? A paltry 161.2 on the scale afterwards.

We'll see what happens after a fast tomorrow. I'm scheduled to do another two-a-day (I did 30 minutes of threshold training this morning) - actually a three-a-day if you consider the aerobic power workouts and strength-aerobic workouts to be separate, which they are. But that may be a bridge too far. I'm not training Thursday night, but will be training on Friday, so we'll just have to see how everything shakes out.

Today's Fundamentals class included much repeat material from Monday's day class: the escape from the rear bear hug (arms out), and the pendulum sweep. I didn't get to work with anyone for the rear bear hugh counter, so I did my typical shadow-grappling off to the side, focusing on getting the turn-side foot back and stepping the far side foot further forward to make it easier to dip the shoulder on the turn side.

Watched much of the Jeff Glover DVD today. Some good basic stuff that I'll definitely be looking to incorporate into my half guard game over the next several weeks.

Probably not going to do the GB Invitational on Saturday. There aren't any belts higher than blue who've signed up and, to tell the truth, I'm not sure how I feel about hanging around the Bellevue academy for a couple of hours for one match. I could change my mind. But it's not likely. As Clint used to say, I'm just not feeling the fire.

The Revolution is still part of the plan - though I would really like to start clocking in at closer to 157 or 158 at the most post-train. What worries me is that if I'm over the limit AFTER a rough training session, I don't even want to know what I'm weigh-in as walk-around weight.

So nothing but water, tea and an apple tomorrow. Whether that will be enough to sustain two conditioning sessions and a jiu jitsu workout tomorrow evening will remain a mystery until tomorrow night about this time.

Memories of Minotauro

Jordan Breen just made a great point about how Cain Velasquez in many ways did to Nogueira what Nog himself did to Mark Coleman in terms of a new generation of heavyweights making a major step-up in competition.

I watched this match before the Minotauro-Velasquez fight. It's worth seeing again for a whole host of reasons.

Monday, February 22, 2010

BJJ Video Review

Thinking about ordering a jiu jitsu video but don't know if it's any good?

Here are some links to some user reviews including most of the major instructionals from Saulo, Marcelo, Ryan Hall, Jeff Glover and many, many more.

Training Day: Monday

Thought I'd try the early class to get the week off to a quick start.

We worked on more Fundamentals today. Escape from rear bear hug (turns into a double leg takedown by squatting down and then turning into the guy and going for the leg), then two sweeps from the guard: the pendulum sweep (with the guy's knee up as if going to standing) and the tripod sweep. With the tripod sweep, we did the full move from on the ground in the guard all the way through to the finish.

We spent the entire class on those three elements. I think about half the class was white belts. Afterward, Rodrigo had us pair up on our own and do live training. I managed to get in a few minutes with Tom, a white belt I hadn't seen in a little while, before I had to go.

Last Friday, Bryan told me that he wasn't going to compete at the March revolution because he didn't feel ready. Funny thing was, I felt the same way.

Bryan was talking about a different sort of readiness. He's got a rib that's one good knee-on-belly away from putting him back on the shelf for a couple of weeks. And, combine that with his relative newness as a purple belt, and you can understand that reticence.

So why did I feel the same way - that I "wasn't ready"?

In part it probably has to do with the hangover from my worst competition year ever in 2009. As much as I'd like it to be otherwise, there's always a creeping sense of futility whenever I think about competing again. What if I just end up continuing to lose matches, going from 0-9 to 0-10 to 0-11 ... ? I'm not going to pretend that that wouldn't have some pretty damaging effects on my psyche - and my enthusiasm, if not fundamental willingness, to continue training.

But the other thing has to do with the new class structure. Because just about everything we've been doing for the past month has been based on the new fundamentals curriculum, I don't feel as if I've been able to spend much time doing the sort of work that will really prepare me for competing. I remember one night when we did some very good mixed up specific training. But that's been relatively infrequent as the new curriculum is increasingly woven into the program.

In the long run, it will be fine, I'm sure. And I do think that the curriculum changes will make for better classes and faster improvement for the average student - two big pluses. Still, I can't shake the sensation of being lost in the shuffle, neither in the world of competition superstardom, nor in the beginner world for which most of the recent class time has been designed.

163.4 on the scale. More to cheer about. I've got plenty of time. But it's getting a little tiresome on this side of 160.

Three Weeks Out

Based on their 2009 schedule, the Gracie Barra competition team gets its game on two weeks out (the second Friday before the Saturday) for the Pan Ams, and three weeks out (the third Friday before the Saturday) for the Mundial (Worlds).

I remember reading somewhere that Lloyd Irvin also gets his competition team on a different footing once they are 30 days out from an upcoming event.

I've put together a visualization - from on the bottom to submission finish - that I will be focusing on for the next three weeks. Outside of drilling specific lessons, I want to make sure that I see every situation I am in during live training and free sparring through the prism of this visualization, and then pick up from that point and move forward toward the finish.

I think that is part of the trick when you are both trying to prepare for the very specific demands of competition and continue your fundamental jiu jitsu education at the same time. There will definitely be situations that won't be applicable to the visualization, the plan. And that's just how it is. But in order to be most productive over the next 3/4 month - and to see if this approach even works for me in the first place - I need to keep an eye on that through-line, and see everything as just another sinew of that rope.

Guard Passing and Two Against One

A few things keep coming up again and again as I watch the black belt finals of the 2009 Mundials.

When it comes to passing the guard, you have to get rid of any compromising grips your opponent has. Other than having otherworldly flexibility like Samuel Braga, the guys who didn't get the guard's passed for the most part had great grips on the sleeves. And, maybe more importantly, very few of the guys working the pass prioritized defeating the grips FIRST and then moving on to the next stage of the pass.

On the other hand, the most successful guard passing - at least in terms of the kind of thing you can put in your own game - tended to be a matter of attrition. Watching Roger pass Romulo's guard in the absolute final was simply a case of an irresistible force meeting a just slightly less than immovable object. Roger was patient enough to allow that very modest edge to become an overwhelming one. And the guard pass presented itself.

It reminds me again of what "The General" Fabio Gurgel said about Rickson Gracie's guard passing in a recent issue of GracieMag, the idea that Rickson looked to put his opponent in the most uncomfortable postion and keep him there until your opponent "gave up" the pass rather than suffer the discomfort any longer.

Thinking about it that way makes passing the guard sound like an interrogation, not so much the automatic picking of a lock or defusing a bomb (two of my favorite guard passing metaphors). In the end, the opponent "gives you" the guard pass because it is easier for him to do that than it is to continue to resist you.

It's more powerful than picking a lock or defusing a bomb because neither the lock nor the bomb ever "changes sides" to help you the way a person does when he gives up.

The lock never wants to be picked. The bomb doesn't want to be defused. But at the critical moment when passing the guard most effectively, your opponent wants you to pass his guard. Crazy as it sounds, when it counts, your opponent is on your side.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Latest Fightworks Podcast: GB's Draculino

Listen to the latest Fightworks Podcast with Gracie Barra black belt professor Vinicious Magalhaes here

UFC 110 and Torch Passing

Rather than weeping over the defeat of Minotauro at the hands of rising superstar Cain Velasquez, I'm going to focus on the great performance by Australian jiu jitsu black belt and TUF veteran (!) George Sotiropoulos in his decision victory over Joe Stephenson.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Herbertson of

Let the record reflect that I was stunned that so many of the MMA analysts I respect most (including the incomparable Jordan Breen of Sherdog) picked Stephenson to win fairly handily. I had only seen Sotiropoulos in his fight against George Roop. But I have seen plenty of Joe Stephenson. And I can't for the life of me understand how Joe Daddy was such a big favorite.

Having just watched a bootleg of the fight, I see that the match turned out exactly as I suspected with Sotiropoulos putting on a jiu jitsu clinic over Joe Daddy. To me, Stephenson is another example of a guy who would have done very well in the UFC of 8 or 9 years ago, but is simply outclassed by the calibre of mixed martial artist entering the sport in 2010.

Arugably, it's the same story of Nog and Velasquez, only on a smaller scale insofar as Joe Daddy is no Minotauro. But the idea of insurgent newcomers who are more and more likely to take out some of the sport's veterans is definitely an idea whose time has come circa UFC 110.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What I'm Forgetting to Do

Three weeks out from Revolution 3/13/10 and there are a few gaps in the training I'd like to fill:

From the Top:
Pass the guard to opponent's left
Knee on belly from side control
Step-over half guard pass

From the Bottom:
Slingshot Armdrag - final warning
Deep half guard sweeps
Recovering right hip half guard from left hip half guard

All of this is very much in my reach (with the possible exception of the slingshot armdrag). It's mostly a matter of focus at the end of a long class when a hundred things are competing for your attention. But again nothing that's not doable in the short term.

Be Like Roger

Watching the Black Belt Finals of Mundials tonight before dinner ... I wonder how many people actually stop and watch what Roger Gracie does. I've always believed that you can and should focus on watching the best and stealing from them shamelessly.

From people like Rickson, it is mostly basic principles: leverage, timing and the zero point. Finding that place where your opponent is most uncomfortable and keeping him there.

From people like Roger, it is details like his great leg lace from side control as a way to force either taking the mount or the back. I typically play a bait-and-timing game with most guys when trying to take the mount. And don't have much of a way to get to the back except from a scramble.

So I'm looking at Roger's leg lace. Alex showed me one to use from the back against the lower legs. But Roger attacks higher up, more or less the same way you would for the leg rope pass in Saulo's book.

I've been doing more work to take the back, and have added the arm drag to my to-do list for 2010. But I still want to make the Roger my go-to finish. At least at comparable weights, there is no technical reason why I shouldn't be able to develop that kind of finishing game.

Right now, I pretty much am what I am from my back. I'm adding new things to my guard to be sure. But when it's time to get from the bottom to the top, the half guard is not only my bread and butter, it's my knife, table and chair, as well. I've got my moves and I'm sticking to 'em.

But I can't say that for my top game just yet, despite having some successes here or there. Maybe over the course of 2010, I'll be able to put together a more coherent approach to finishing fights, preferably with the Roger.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Training Day: Friday

Rodrigo has been mixing and matching some of the different types of classes we'll have once the Fundamentals Program is in place starting March 1. Today, we did a lot of self-defense, starting with a standing guillotine counter. The keys to the counter were (1) looking away from the elbow and toward the attacker's body, (2) overwrapping the shoulder with the far arm and (3) checking the hip with the palm of the near arm.

From here, you want to close the elbow on your overwrapping arm, then walk around in that direction until you can turn perpendicular to the attacker, with your far leg behind him.

The other self-defense move we did was from the bear hug. We practiced a version with the arms in and Rodrigo showed us a version with the arms out.

The problem of the bear hug clinch is when the guy gets hip to hip. So the first step is to sprawl back as far as possible and put your palms on the guys hips to maintain space. With your right arm, swim under for a deep underhook. With your left arm, reach under and grip it with a pull-up, underhand type of grip. As you do this you step around toward your underhook. One step behind him should be enough.

After this step behind, you are going to step back in front of the attacker with that same foot and with your grips attack with the hip throw.

On the mat, we worked on regaining posture from within the closed guard. Here, the difference from the previous version was that you dropped back with one knee (forming an L) and ducked down and away to free your head. You'll either duck under the arm or break through the grip with your head. I think either way works just fine.

The last piece of matwork was something I've been focusing on for the past few months: squatting against the guard. Here, the details were similar to what I've been working on: angling both the first and second step (Rodrigo added the detail of getting on the toes of the second foot), and getting both elbows in contact with the thighs/knees as you squat down. The lower the better and stronger on the squat - especially if you are doing it to get a moment's break.

Rodrigo pointed out the next step, which is to keep the elbows in tight as you stand back up, step back and pop the guard open with your tucked in arm - moving right into the underhook sweep. We didn't practice this. But I'm sure we'll see some more of it soon enough.

Tatame was mostly specific. On the bottom I mostly tried to break guys' posture as a way of continuing the lesson. And from the top I was more or less able to continue working the lesson, as well, since squatting against the guard is my focus for 2010.

With three weeks to go before the Revolution, I can't honestly say that I feel as if my game is tight. What's familiar is still familiar, and many of the newer things are falling into one place or another. But I still feel as if I'm getting my mat sense, post-holiday. A lot can happen in three weeks - and four-week training average is now back up to three times a week as of Friday. Maybe there's a peak in my future that I don't even see.

161.2 post-train on Friday. Heavier than I would have liked, but I'm pretty confident that I'll be down in the high-150s by the end of the week. If I do the right things over the next few days, that shouldn't be any problem at all.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Training Day: Wednesday

One thing about the new curriculum: it will certainly make it easier to keep current with my blog posts.

Wednesday's training included a basic self-defense, punch avoidance to takedown move and a nice improvement on the knee wedge strategy for opening the guard. The punch avoidance strategy was stepping to the side and ducking the strike and then stepping forward with a penetration step between the legs and a clinch around the waist. As with a lot of these moves, staying relaxed in the hips and bending your knees are key to getting the move correctly.

The guard pass - or guard opener - was terrific. One thing that I always worried about with the basic knee wedge in the middle guard opener was that it seemed to leave you temporarily off balance, with both knees together in the middle. The new variation has you put the knee out to the side first and then moving the knee to the middle. You really want to take the knee out the side, not just leaning that way while basically remaining square (the better angle always wins).

Tatame wasn't bad. I need to remain a bit more focused going into the second, advanced class. I don't feel very smooth at all right now, though part of that is maybe to be expected given my emphasis on standing guard passes, for example. I very much need to bring the underhook pass into my guard passing game, which will open things up on a variety of fronts. Plenty of time - but I do need to get on it if I want to feel as comfortable as I can over the next few weeks.

I'm also feeling more general fatigue thatn I'd like. That might have to do with some technical issues, too - which is typically the case whenever I start thinking "hmmm, maybe a little more weight-lifting woudl help ..." I was listening to Rickson Gracie black belt Henry Akins on the FightWorks Podcast the other day and - in addition to realizing how much Gracie Barra is embracing many of the same concepts - was reminded of the idea of the zero point, and how far from that point I often am simply due to a lack of focus in positions and situations I otherwise know throughly.

That said, as I wrote over at the Sherdog Grappling Forum, I'm excited about the new changes at Gracie Barra Seattle. Not that I needed it - I was rebounding fairly well from my "growing pains" year of 2009 - but it almost feels like a rejuvenation with the new curriculum. It's going to be a very fun spring and summer at GB Seattle starting March 1. I need to make sure that I'm training as much as possible (ideally MTRF) during that stretch of March, April, May and June.

159.8 on the scale post-training. Very encouraging to break down below 160. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to stay down here from now until the Revolution in March.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Hilo Lion Killer

Wednesday's training report coming tomorrow. Here's a great review of some of BJ Penn's rear naked choke finishes from Bloody Elbow

UFC 107 Preview: Bloody Elbow Judo Chop: The Lethal Rear-Naked Choke Set Ups of B.J. Penn

Guard Passing with Terere

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Training Day: Tuesday

A little tired and a little late, so a quick write-up tonight.

Three self-defense moves from the choke from behind (the Dan Severn choke): (1) look down away from the elbow and hip throw, (2) elbow up wrist down step behind with outside foot. (3) if he steps his leg between your legs, step to the side and turn your inside foot perpendicular, then step to parallel with the other foot and hip throw.

We did another self defense move from the bottom, starting from the Lift position, checking the standing opponent's far hip with the long leg, then DLR'ing the guy's near leg. I've got to remember to keep my knee up in the DLR. It's not a guard I use very much at all, so I've got some fundamentals to work on.

More later. For now, check out this highlight of Rickson Gracie's Budo Challenge.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Renzo in Seattle

Video Interview with Draculino

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Lookin' at My Gucci ..."

"It's About That Time"

New rules for Revolution Tournaments

Sitting, DLR Guard Versus Standing Drill

Some very, very nifty drill technique for getting into position to sweep from the sitting guard or the de la Riva guard.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Do You Feel Lucky Faixa Roxa?

Well? Do ya?
All the top guys at black were great at purple. It could be that a good purple doesn't turn out to be good at black, but the opposite is very unlikely. At purple, the champions make their presence felt."
--Fabio Gurgel, four-time world champion, leader of Team Alliance

Maia Gets Title Shot

Demian Maia to Fight Anderson Silva for UFC Middleweight Title

Courtesy of Tatame

Friday, February 12, 2010

Training Day: Friday

Got caught by the bridge and ended up getting to class a little late. Rodrigo was explaining the transition when I got there and spent the better half of the class going through just about every change that's going to take place. It was pretty thorough - though I wonder how much of it will be remembered and how much of it will just have to be "experienced" before people get it.

But I think new folks won't know any difference and those of us who've been around will probably be able to adjust pretty readily. There are a couple of interesting changes that Rodrigo hadn't mentioned before - like having everyone put their name on their gi to help people get to know each other better - which is just short of brilliant, even if simple. I'm still not sure how I want to do it - a part of me would love to have my name stitched into my gis somehow, but I think some guys have just used permanent black marker.

Rodrigo had to leave early, so Kevin Smith, who runs South Sound Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, led us through warmups and drills (arm stuff triangle), while Cindy finished by leading us into some guard/pass guard specific. I worked with Bryan, who showed me how Rodrigo was opening up his hip more - almost like you would in a flower sweep - made it easier to get a good attacking angle with the triangle choke.

I'll have to work on it, but that problem I have with the muscles and tendons connecting my hip and groin on my right side flared up big time as those triangle drills went on. And since I've never been a big fan of the triangle as a part of my own game, I'm not going to be in a huge hurry to train it at the expense of other things. Then again, maybe the hip adjustment will help keep that part of my leg/hip out of the equation.

W/re2 tatame, I'm still working the cross choke from the guard every day, trying to make sure I get at least one submission with it every time I train. I'm thinking that it will help me develop my cross choke from mount, which I'd really love to make my finish from the top (Roger style!). They are getting cleaner and cleaner, and also will hopefully open up other opportunities for sweeps especially down the line.

Ugh ... 163.2 post-train. Admittedly this class was more talk than train, so I shouldn't be surprised that I'm where I am. But this does need to be the last week of this kind of thing.

Halfway to the Revolution event, I don't feel too bad technically. More than anything, I feel as if I'm still fighting off the rust from the December/January holiday/post-holiday stretch. That's definitely the case weight-wise, and I will probably add another conditioning session a week for the next three weeks to keep things in check, along with adding another training night each week for 4x instead of 3x.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Training Day: Wednesday

Tonight was the first opportunity I've gotten to start teaching the Gracie Barra program. Rodrigo's been spending a lot of time explaining the transition, but it really isn't as complicated as it might seem. Once it's in place, it will actually make things a lot easier to see and anticipate and even prepare for mentally, which I think is a big advantage that's not being emphasized enough.

If I know that I'm going to be working on half guard sweeps all week, then it becomes very easy to start thinking and visualizing the half guard sweep. Everything is integrated: what you've done, what you're doing, what you will do. If you focus, it can really help build the right circuitry in a relatively short period of time.

It's the complete opposite of that ridiculous "keep your muscles/body guessing" approach to physical activity sometimes promoted by exercise gurus. Joel Jamieson makes the point in his great book, Ultimate MMA Conditioning that one of the biggest mistakes that fighters make is not coordinating all of their training. He's talking specifically about coordinating conditioning and skills training. But his points are clearly applicable to coordinating the development of skills training itself, as well.

I helped a new guy with the lift (technical standing) and the keylock from the mount. He caught on very quickly, which was a huge relief. I was terrified that Rodrigo would look over and see the guy struggling and think, "wow, what the hell is Dave teaching that guy." But that was just the paranoia of feeling a little responsibility on my shoulders. I think I did okay and the new guy seemed to do just fine.

Before that we worked on a new takedown that I had a bit of a difficult time getting. The idea is that you use a collar drag to get the guy to step forward, then you drop down and with your other hand get a sort of low single as you put that near knee to the ground. Your other leg is posted out and you sort of walk your away around the guy, pulling on the collar drag and powering into him with your shoulder, and taking him to the mat.

Part of the problem I had was that when you drag with your right hand on the collar, the guy is more likely to take his step with his left foot, not his right. I was having a hard time getting behind the guy because of this, and an almost impossible time getting behind the right leg with the drop down, penetration knee-step.

I think part of the issue is that you want to attack with this from a very low starting position, as opposed to a more standing up, judo stance. I'll have to try it some more, and ask Rodrigo about it. But it seems like there is some basic piece that I'm missing.

Nothing fancy in the tatame worth mentioning. We are doing a lot more specific work, which is fine with me. I'm sticking with the standing guard passes and getting more and more comfortable on my feet every day. One thing I do need to do is that now that I'm comfortable standing up, I need to make sure I squat back down for my attack. Especially I want to work on the over/under pass game that should flow right from this new standing guard pass approach combined with the passes we are learning as part of the new curriculum.

Still heavy post-train at 161.4. I'd like to start seeing this number in the high 150s by the end of next week, which will be halfway through my training for the Revolution tournament in March.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Training Day: Monday

First, the instructional. Rodrigo started out with a self-defense move after the warm-ups. The move was coming back to standing after getting pushed or knocked down. First, to fall properly, Rodrigo had us fold our hands across our chest (dying man pose), and then squat. This is to (a) keep you from reaching back to break your fall with your arms and possible hurting your arm and (b) get your center of gravity as low as possible in order to better to control the fall.

From here, from the squat, you essentially "sit" back out of the squat and breakfall by slapping the mat/ground with both hands at the same time.

Next is the stand, which we did as the technical lift. The correct process is: left knee up, right leg checks the attacker at the knee, while left hand defends against punches and kicks and the right hand plants behind. From here, kick the right, checking leg back and perform the "lift" to standing.

The move of the day was the scissor sweep. One mistake I was making was in not getting the shin block in place, which probably has to do with not getting a full rotation and turn over to my side. I've had some success with the scissor sweep over the past several months, so this was a very nice tune up. Rodrigo made the point that I need to make sure I'm doing this with proper technique because, based on the new class set-up, there's a more than small chance that I'll be showing this move to some new, white belts one of these days in 2010.

It was that kind of night. I'm not sure if I can sufficiently mask in metaphor some of the more interesting developments of the evening. We had to visiting black belts, Christiano from Gracie Barra Yakima and another guy I'd never met before Rafael "Barata" who had a GB school in Hawaii but is now in New Mexico.

The audio is messed up. So I suggest you just turn it down so it doesn't distract. But at least you can get an idea of the submission.

From my perspective, I did very well with both visiting black belts - "very well" meaning that I was able to attack (if not pass) their guards effectively from standing without being swept in 10 seconds. I got caught in Rafael's baratoplata twice and Christiano got me with a baseball type choke. But without getting into particulars, I was able to do something I've wanted to do for probably almost a year now and nothing would make me happier than to have the opportunity to do it again - and with a little more "Bob's Your Uncle" next time.

162.8 on the scale post-train. Not bad for the Monday after the Super Bowl, I suppose, though it's starting to get a familiar above 160. I overheard Christiano saying that he's at 158, which is relatively heavy for him compared to where he competes (at 154 lbs. in the gi, one division below me), which actually made me feel a little better about floating around north of 160 for week after week.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

You Deserve A Demian Maia Training Video Today

Thanks to Bloody Elbow for the find

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Training Day: Tuesday

Another hard training session this week as Rodrigo already has the competition pace established. We worked on takedowns after the basic warmup, more with the kara guruma. I noticed some of the folks who were doing this well, like Wellington, weren't going all the way down to the knee (the inside knee) when setting up the takedown. That was more or less how I was doing it, but there were instances when I felt I was not getting a good "circle" in the takedown, and was essentially just throwing the guy to the mat. Hopefully, I'll get to work on it some more. At least I know what I'm supposed to be doing.

On the mat, Rodrigo had us working with more x-guard - or half guard, as he called it. The first entry tonight was really nice, coming out of the hook sweep. Here, you are looking for the guy to sprawl out against your hook sweep. When he does this, attack the other leg with your underhook, and reposition your hips underneath him, pivoting your hook sweep hook back outward and away from you.

We also reviewed entering the X-guard from against a standing opponent. Here the move was essentially the same as Monday's - only with more emphasis on using the cross guard as the set-up.

Tatame wasn't too bad. Again, I'm focusing on standing to pass the guard and trying to steer the guard player into uncomfortable situations from which he just "gives" me the pass. Later, working with Lance, I focused on a "Mendes" like duckwalk guard passing style which helped me avoid sweeps - though I half-forgot exactly how I wanted to attack from this new posture. I'll be working more and more out of it as I keep up the whole Standing Guard Pass Campaign 2010.

I was 165 and change before training and 160 and change after. I'll probably do a little caloric restriction tomorrow to help speed things along on my training/conditioning OFF day. Hopefully, I'll be on the light side of 160 by the end of the week.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Training Day: Monday

A goodly sized class to start things off on Monday. A couple of very new folks that Brock ended up working with, and some not so new folks that Lindsey took down stairs for training.

Upstairs with Rodrigo we worked takedowns and X-guard. The takedown drill was a variation on the fireman's carry/kata guruma takedown I remember Rodrigo working on with us late last year. I remember working with Reuben one Friday and having a terrible time getting it right. Working with Benny (the Blue) Tuesday, I was able to do a much better job. I'm glad, because this takedown along with the others that Rodrigo has been working on with us all go together very well: the collar drag to Jacare ankle pick, or to seoi nage and now to kara guruma.

We also worked on some X-guard entries from the sitting/butterfly/Cobra guard. Here you have a behind the back grip and a knee grip out of the guard and, as before, you dive under the leg to get into position below the hips. Dive with your knee grip hand leading, and use your front hook to lift the guy up. You will be driving down a bit in the direction of your knee grip (knee grip shoulder dipping first).

If you can't get the leg high enough with your front hook, or if you just don't have the hip dexterity, you can slide your outside leg through so that both knees are away in the sort of Double X guard position Bravo shows in his first book. But with the right lift with the hook, it shouldn't be too hard to get into the position.

The other variation we worked on was entering the X-guard from standing. Here, you go to double sleeve control with feet on hips. Then switch to a cross guard. Get an underhook on the leg of the sleeve grip side and use your cross guard hook to help create the space necessary to slide the other leg/hook inside.

A very bruising training. We did some specific sparring where we rotated from partner to partner after about two minutes. I went with Benny, Casey, Nate, Lindsey and Lance. Very grueling. I did a little specific sparring afterwards but I, like most people who attended both classes, was pretty much spent.

A horrifying 163.2 on the scale post-train. That at least explains why I've felt so fatigued and sore. My "cardio" per se doesn't feel especially poor - but the extra six pounds, I think, are having a bad effect. I should be closer to 155 than 165 - especially after training. We'll see what the numbers look like after Tuesday.