Friday, April 30, 2010

Training Day: Friday

Some very good training to finish out the week. The self-defense moves were counters to the standing guillotine, which we have worked on in the past, and the fundamental was based largely around rear mount.

The transition from turtle top to rear mount in particular was something that really stuck with me. The idea, which Rodrigo introduced earlier in the week, was the idea of dropping the one knee to the mat and then using that knee as pivot to spin around into a sitting position for the rear mount. This is better than the more common "rolling" approach, which too often leaves you with less control over the back as the potential momentum of the roll creates issues of its own.

Rodrigo emphasized a couple of key back control issues, the idea of attacking the neck to get the guy distracted when you want to put in the hooks, the three-choke variation from the back plus the "flat-out" move to the side control choke from the back, the idea of staying low on the hips when attacking the turtle ... all of this will be helpful in putting together an improved take the back game.

I remember freezing during my first match at the last tournament when I took the guy down and he went to turtle. In sparring on Friday, I looked for opportunities to let the guy roll to all-fours or the turtle position so I could work the positional attack. It's something that I'm really liking, and I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be the answer to my current dominant position-to-submission logjam.

I'll still continue to work on my Roger Gracie game from mount. But given my growing preference for chokes when it comes to submissions ...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

More from the 2010 World Pro BJJ Cup: Mendes, Estima and More!

Here's some more footage from the World Pro Cup. First featherweights, Rafa and Gui Mendes, teammates and brothers.

Then the lightweights: Gilbert Burns vs. Claudio Matos

And here's the big upset of the event, featuring Braulio Estima and Claudio Calazans.

Women in Jiu Jitsu: 2010 World Pro Under 63 Kg Final

Luanna Alzuguir vs. Beatriz Mesquita

A Classic from Kesting: Kimura from Side Control

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Training Day: Wednesday

Lycanthropy kept me from making the full class today, but I did manage to get in two rolls, both with Andrew, during the Live Training session. Not what I would have preferred, since I only plan on training three times this week. But better than not training at all.

I feel like I'm doing a better job of maximizing my training time over the past few days of training. Working with my grip series (Eagle and Tiger), I'm finding it easier to think about the guard as an environment instead of just a series of techniques and positions. Of course, there is no way to get to the pure "environment" feeling without going "through" the techniques. But it does remind me of that great quote from Rickson Gracie in Choke:
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.

That's what I'm after increasingly these days: being able to feel where I am first and foremost as a way of better anticipating and responding to what might come next. In that great Gracie Magazine issue that talked about what it took to be a champion, I thought Minotauro made an interesting point about the relationship between competition and learning that I think applies to training and learning, as well.
"A champion isn't just produced by a championship. Compete frequently, and that way you will sharpen up your instinct and gain experience to change tactics while under pressure. Not to mention the fact you face competitors you've never seen before. In other words, take on new moves and less-conventional games. Thus you learn not to be surprised.

That idea of avoiding surprise I think is also key. I remember so many times finding myself with a great opportunity - the guy who turtled after I took him down in my first match at the last Revolution tournament - and freezing because of a lack of familiarity. I still can't remember the last time a guy went into a full on turtle in training. Competition, yes. But opening it up in general in the academy - and focusing on feeling and sensibility - is a great way of avoiding the impact of the unknowable when it arrives.

163.2 on the scale post-train.

Women in Jiu Jitsu: Gabi Garcia of Alliance

Gabi Garcia: Alliance’s Abu Dhabi Pro Heavyweight Champion
The FightWorks Podcast: How long have you been training jiu-jitsu, and why did you begin?

Gabi Garcia: I have trained for 14 years. I began to train by way of my uncle, who trained jiu-jitsu and because I was looking to pick up a sport after having tried all the others like volleyball, basketball, and hockey. I began to compete in jiu-jitsu and since then I never stopped. My uncle stopped but I have kept going. Tournaments offer the adrenaline of competition and because of them I can not stop jiu-jitsu. Competition is in my blood.
Courtesy of The Fightworks Podcast

Fowler's "Unstoppable Sweep"

Here's a great open guard sweep from one of my favorite guys, Mike Fowler.

Monday, April 26, 2010

WEC LW Champ in the Gi

This kind of thing warms my heart to see: World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion Ben Henderson putting on his gi and purple belt and going to work at the Arizona International Open.
I've already squared off against one MMA fighter in the gi. I wonder if there's a chance that I'll ever be on the opposite side of the tatame against "Smooth."

Training Day: Monday

A good early session today.

I overheard that the Saturday session was incredible, with 10-11 black belts showing up. I just couldn't make it, having promised some home/errand time this weekend. There was also the issue of my bad knee, which was giving me a little trouble on Friday. All things considered, it was probably for the best to skip this past Saturday's event - though hopefully there will be video.

Today's training started off with some self defense: the guillotine choke off the shot. One of the details here was to bring your second arm way back and then drive it between you and the attacker as you go for the guillotine. This will help prevent your arm from getting hung up on the guy's shoulder.

The Fundamental this week is all about the back - though we did do some back/rear mount work late last week, if I remember correctly. Here, we focused on staying low on the hips from rear mount - not high up on the back or shoulder - and getting an under-the-arm grip on the lapel for body control. Be careful here of getting your elbow trapped, which will make it possible for the guy on the bottom to initiate a counter.

We worked on control using a sitting position and the squeezing the knees against the hips. To get to the back from the rear mount + turtle position, you slide the knee up at the guy's elbow/knee defense, let your other leg slide flat behind you, and then pulling on the lapel, roll over to the side.

The lapel hand is the one that will feed the gi to your choking hand. If the guy rolls all the way beyond the side, then here is where you want to use the knees to maintain control. Sit up, and with bent legs squeeze your knees together, trapping the guy's hips.

From here we worked on the choke series: necktie, behind the head and the bow and arrow. Rodrigo pointed out that you can attack with the bow and arrow, for example, even if you don't have a hook. What you do is continue turning the guy with the choke grip and use your knee to drive the guy over on to his side. There are other good choke options as you move in this direction.

Tatame was good. I felt good both in rear mount and escape during the Specific, and was able to work both by Eagle and Tiger grip series from the guard during the Live Training. I was also able to effectively play some deep half - ironically still doing the walk/turn sweep more than the others that involve the hook.

Conditioning wasn't too bad for a Monday. I skipped my session on Saturday, so I wasn't exactly sure what I'd see today. But while I was pretty beat, I felt good and energized and probably could have trained another round if I had been able to stay longer.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What I Hate About Jiu Jitsu Message Boards

I click on a link on one of my favorite (or at least most frequently visited) jiu jitsu message board. The link promises footage of a match between Lloyd Irvin black belt J.T. Torres and UFC welterweight contender and fellow black belt, Dustin Hazelett.

The fight is ultimately underwhelming. JT submits Dustin fairly quickly with an armlock from the guard. Essentially, JT pulls guard early. Dustin goes to a conventional, Roger Gracie style collar and sleeve standing guard open and pass. JT manages to break Dustin's posture and get control of an arm. The posture break and arm seizing are not quick. Neither is the tap, which comes after a few moments.

So what do I read from one of the otherwise more popular (or at least most frequently commenting) commentator?

"Just goes to show that there are black belts and there are black belts."

I'll admit that I'm not having the greatest day, but this comment infuriated me. To anyone paying attention, Dustin looked incredibly tentative, like he hadn't been in a grappling match - to say nothing of a full-on, gi jiu jitsu match - in years. He let JT hang out after he stood up in guard, not once trying to force a leg down and put pressure on the closed guard. Then, after JT attacked with the armlock, Dustin's defense seemed non-existent. He didn't lower his body to smash and stack JT, at all. In fact, it wasn't until someone shouted from the sidelines to "raise the hips" that JT was able to apply the requisite pressure to get the tap.

In other words, there were plenty of intelligent things that could have been said about the performance. Taking nothing away from either competitor, Dustin did not have a single correct reaction in that match. Not one.

Instead, I recent a snide, Orwellian cliche about some black belts being more equal than others. From someone who should know better.

What I love is that this kind of thing comes from the same people who are swift to suggest that anyone with any renown whatsoever who earns his or her black belt was "overdue" in doing so, as if the instructor or professor who awarded the black belt had been bogarting the damn thing for years (as seemed to suggest in the recent case of new Felipe Costa black belt, Ryan Hall).

The only thing worse than arguing on message boards is arguing about them. So I'm through here. But it is little surprise to see so many of the folks who used to be message board regulars a year or two ago clearly deciding to reallocate their online time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Training Day: Friday

Sitting here watching the DVR'd Canucks-Kings game ... Vancouver just went up 1-0 ...

Good training today. Since it was Friday, we reviewed the techniques from the week. On the self defense front we worked defenses against the front bear hug over the arms. Here you block the hips, sprawl back a bit, get an over/under and work toward the back before stepping back in front with the hip throw.

What made the technique different were two finishes: a farside armbar off a knee on belly and a choke,

We more on chokes, as well as armbars, from the mount. Some of the details about the choke: turning your palm up on your initial choking hand after you secure the grip and then bringing your elbow down so that your forearm is flat against the guy's chest - were really worth knowing. Also on this tip was the idea of spreading your knees a bit and lowering your stomach down as you squeeze (WRISTS!) the choke.

On the armlock from the mount, one detail that was especially worth remembering is that you want to isolate the shoulder first. That is what gives you access to the arm. You don't just grab the arm out of midair. You block the shoulder, which makes it impossible for the arm to get away.

A nice trick on the keylock from mount: Pressure the opposite arm (ideally the one on the bottom if the guy is doing the "deadman's defense") and move up high under that side's armpit as if working for the armbar. Then slide your grip down the lower arm and push the other arm to the mat, putting your elbow in the ear, as you go for the americana.

Some good specific work with Lance and Connor, but no real sparring today which was too bad. I'm still not transitioning to some of my preferred open guards when guys go to standing (i.e., shin guard, cross guard, x-guard), and that's something I really need to focus on over the next month or so.

Fortunately, I've got a pathway in the flow chart that tells me exactly what to do against standing passes. I've just got to learn it and follow it.

Why I Read Jordan Breen

Comment From Mark from Bellingham: Randleman-Gracie ...Who ya got and why?

Jordan Breen: Gracie. I once watched Randleman get painstakingly keylocked over a process of 40 days and 40 nights by Ron Waterman

Courtesy of

Ryron and Rener Look at the BJJ in GSP v. Hardy

I'd love to see more jiu jitsu pros do presentations like this:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Interview with New Black Belt Ryan Hall

Arte Suave style!

Deep Half to 50/50

This moves makes me want to learn a sweep or two from the 50/50. I have no interest in leglocks or heel hooks. But a sweep from this position would be fine with me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jake Shields: Strikeforce MW Champion

I haven't yet seen Jake Shields' heroic victory over favorite Dan Henderson. But this snippet from Gracie Magazine, on Jake Shields is nice to see.

Jake Shields and “American Jiu-Jitsu”
Although he was already the reigning middleweight champion of Strikeforce, to many, Jake Shields was not the favorite going into his title-defense with living legend Dan Henderson. However, after dominating on the ground and making it to positions that could have brought the contest to an end, the belt remained around the waist of Shields, via unanimous decision.
I've always loved the way that Shields has talked about jiu jitsu in MMA. And he makes some worthwhile points in this quick piece, as well. I'm looking forward to my issue of Gracie Magazine in the mail.

Training Day: Wednesday

Great to see Bryan back on the mat today. I got held up and missed the warm-up and first self-defense technique (I'll pick it up on Friday), so I wasn't really able to ask him about the quick turnaround. But it was still nice to see given how scary things seemed for a few moments at least on Monday.

Working a lot on the mount this week. On Monday, we worked bump and rolls and being alert to the threat of the choke by posting on the chest. Today we worked on some issues from the top, particularly avoiding getting rolled in the bump and roll and letting the guy get to turtle. From here, an under-the-arm lapel grip to help you roll the guy to the side as you reach around the neck with the other arm.

One key detail here was to keep the choking arm's elbow on the mat. You don't want to roll too much. Having the choking elbow on the mat provides for a lot of leverage and you don't want your choking elbow up in the air without support.

Did a lot of specific training, which I love. Did some mount/mount escape work with Benny and then King of the Guard with the lightweight division of the class. I'm feeling increasingly comfortable and aerobic in both situations - though since the King of the Guard work was no-submission, I really wasn't able to work on Rap Star like I intended. I did manage to do some good pre-Rap Star grip-fighting in my sparring roll with Glenn later. But no full-fledged Rap Star guard.

161.2 on the scale post-train. I was hoping for an under-160 number, but dropping almost five pounds in two days is fine with me. At a minimum, after my Friday training, I'd like to be another two and a half on the light side.

Guard. Half Guard.

"When I find myself in the bottom half-guard position, I'll work to establish an under-hook and then get up onto my side. Once achieved, I'll work to take my opponent's back or sweep him over to his back. You should feel a sense of urgency. Assess your situation, force movement, and get out of there..
--BJ Penn, from Mixed Martial Arts: The Book of Knowledge

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Thoughts On BJ

It's funny. Both Demian Maia and BJ Penn lost in the most recent UFC fights. But at the same time, I couldn't be more interested in their jiu jitsu games than I am right now.

I've posted a little bit about Maia and his half guard game courtesy of a "Judo Chop" from the good people at Bloody Elbow in recent days. What I haven't posted about has been my re-reading of BJ Penn's Mixed Martial Arts: The Book of Knowledge.

As far as I'm concerned, everything that Saulo Ribeiro's book, Jiu Jitsu University does for jiu jitsu people doing jiu jitsu, BJ's book does for jiu jitsu people doing MMA.

A part of what put me back in the BJ Penn section of my jiu jitsu library were Marc Laimon's comments in a recent interview with Jordan Breen of Laimon has always been a big protagonist of only remaining on the bottom for as long as is necessary to sweep, submit or stand. And it was fascinating to hear him talk about BJ Penn - BJ of the incredible natural flexibility - as having one of the best "stand up from guard" games in MMA.

And sure enough on page 185 of The Book of Knowledge is "Getting Up 101":
A lot of people wonder how I get up from the bottom guard position when the fight goes to the ground. The answer is I utilize this technique. It's one of the first moves that you learn in jiu jitsu, but a lot of jiu jitsu practitioners don't practice it on a regular basis because they are content working off their backs, which often gets them into trouble in MMA.
I want to add Or when grappling larger opponents. Or when grappling better skilled opponents. Or when grappling when fatigued ...

That's no fatwa on the guard. But to the degree this approach correlates with my own attributes (and lack thereof), it is worth keeping in mind. If BJ Penn, with some of the best hips in jiu jitsu AND mixed martial arts, has no problem standing out of the guard then, to steal a line, why oh why should I?

Even more to the point, the guards that BJ Penn shows in his Book of Knowledge: the Sit-Up Guard, the Damn Good Guard, in no way take advantage of BJ Penn's most apparent physical attribute (his hip flexibility). That is stunning to me - and potentially invaluable. Because BJ Penn, whose jiu jitsu skill is unquestioned, doesn't take on positions or approaches based on his physical advantages, the only explanation for his effectiveness lies in the techniques, the tactics and the strategies he chooses. The Sit-Up Guard, which is another version of my King Crimson suite. The Damn Good Guard, which is "just" Rap Star with a different way of controlling the far arm (BJ uses the inside shin, I use the sticky paw grip).

Rickson in the movie Choke makes the point that "the techniques are great", but what makes jiu jitsu special is the "sensibility". I've tried to access this sensibility, "the Force" a few times over the years and it is pretty clear that those "great techniques" are more or less a prerequisite to accessing any type of genuine jiu jitsu flow. But that said, the more I flesh out my jiu jitsu - especially the flow chart stuff I've been doing in my notebook on Rap Star - the more comfortable I feel about focusing on sensibility as much as technique.

That said, still far more the latter than the former, which is fine. I'm doing a halfway decent job of staying aerobic and thinking binary, trying to be as efficient as possible on the mat and remembering that if I feel any real, extended exertion, there's a good chance I'm doing something I shouldn't be doing (although "wrong" could include insufficient conditioning if I'm not careful).

Back on the mat tomorrow. Did a fairly intense LSD9 session earlier today. I'll spend May transitioning from standing only to mixed conditioning, and maybe even throw in some trial lactic capacity interval work to see if it will fit for the real 8 Week wind-up for the July Revolution.

"Why I Fight"

I'm no Dana White hater. At the end of the day, he seems to be far more responsible for what is good in mixed martial arts (MMA) than what's bad. And insofar as we are finite, fallible beings, that's enough to put Dana in the "plus" column as far as I'm concerned.

That said, I love BJ Penn for more reasons than sharing his surname. And I'm more than inclined to believe his take on his relationship with Dana White and the UFC after he won the UFC welterweight title from Matt Hughes.

Quote of the Day: BJ Penn Tells an Interesting Story About Dana White
Did I like him at the dinner table? Sure. But at the negotiating table? Not at all. The pressure to perform and safeguard other people's money had changed him, even though he was constantly bragging to anyone willing to listen about how 'big this thing was going to be.' Things between us would never be the same.

BJ's book, Why I Fight is the biggest MMA must read in years. I paged through a copy at the local Barnes and Noble over the weekend and have put the book near the top of my little birthday wishlist.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cardio and Skill Development

Here's an interesting take on something I've been thinking a lot about.

If you can learn to be better in the ring or on the mat, you'll be able to improve your cardio. The reason why is you'll be able to work less, therefore stretching out the cardio you have for longer periods of time.

Think of it like this - say you get your opponent in position for a guillotine choke. If you have subpar skills, you're going to have to rely on strength to sink in that choke. This will drain you pretty quickly - especially if you don't have the choke sunk in all the way.

Training Day: Monday

Big news of the day was a bit of a bummer: Bryan was trying to put on a triangle from the mount and ended up injuring his foot on the rollover. Like a lot of jiu jitsu injuries, the worst part seemed to be the first part. Bryan was able to make it down the stairs on his own and was hobbling around on his own when I left - which I'm going to take as a relatively good sign.

As I suspected, the self-defense moves we do as part of the new curriculum are repeated over the course of the 14-week program. Today, for example, we did the hip throw counter to the over-the-arm frontal bear hug.

Actually, Rodrigo added some elements to the finish here that were different. The first was a far side armlock after going to knee on belly following the throw. The second was a choke off the same knee on belly position, using a sprawl to really put the pressure behind the choke with your upper body.

Tatame was pretty good. Today I mostly focused on pace and trying to keep the my guard well composed. That was especially the case rolling with a larger blue belt who I've started to notice training in the early classes.

A hefty 166 post-train. Not much I can say about that. I'm hoping to walk that down over the next few weeks.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pan Jiu Jitsu 2010: Reflections from Feitosa

The stunning black belt debut of Kayron Gracie probably brought out the biggest and broadest smiles among the members of the Gracie Barra family. But as Professor Marcio Feitosa explains, there was plenty of impressive Gracie Barra performance to go around.

Feitosa appoves of Gracie Barra’s new crop at Pan
Kayron was truly extraordinary. A lot of folks found it surprising, but we who train with him knew he could win. Of course, we thought it would be tough going in at black belt, mainly for his fighting at middleweight. The guys coming up from brown don’t get any breaks when they make it to black, but we had faith in his Jiu-Jitsu, that he could put up a fight. I feel that what often wins competitions is where the fighter’s head is, and he rose to the occasion in the final (against Abmar Barbosa). He wasn’t intimidated and carried out everything he trained to do.

World Pro Jiu Jitsu Cup 2010

The consensus is that this event is going to have to be held at a different time of the year or it will always be competing with the Pan.

that said, here are the results of what looks to have been a pretty exciting event.

World Pro Jiu Jitsu Cup 2010 Results

Training Day: Friday

I've been spending most of the weekend restarting my jiu jitsu notebooks, the little red composition notebook I started back in 2007 before moving moving to a daily planner and more frequent blog posts.

The little red book is nice because I can draw pictures, make diagrams and do the sort of doodling that's more conducive to creativity than trying to complete thoughts in sentences and paragraphs is.

That may mean fewer posts overall. But the quality of them, so to speak, should improve.

For now, I'm focused on flowcharts to and from my main guard matrix, Rap Star. I'm putting together different sets of situations so as to make my decision-making as binary as possible. In a way, it is related to the Circuit Building Deep Practice work I was doing a few months ago, only using slightly different (arguably "older" technology) to help complete the network.

For example, one of the situations (or "constructs" to stick with the Matrix analogy) is "choke handfight." In choke handfight, within Rap Star, there are three general scenarios/environments that are advantageous and two that require me to make either of two general adjustments.

Really, there are only two environments: things are going my way (in which I have a choke, armlock and sweep options) or things are not going my way (for which I have two general options given the likely problems I'm encountering).

I believe in Dan Inosanto's line that fatigue, ultimately, makes you stupid. I'd love to see some good research on the relationship between physical fatigue (both cardiovascular/aerobic and more lactic conditions) and memory and cognition. That said, a part of dealing with any inability to think when under pressure and stress is to reduce the amount of thinking required. A set of yes/no, if/then, type of scenarios/environments is probably a lot easier to navigate than a gaggle of largely abstract instructions and directions when the BPM is up around 150-160.

Managed to make it on the mat for a chunk of the early session on Friday. One thing I'm very much looking forward to this week is getting back to a more normal training schedule and kicking it back up to 4 days a week on average. Congratulations, before I forget, to both Shawn and Kevin for earning their black belts this past week. We've really cut out the fanfare when it comes to promotions with the Gracie Barra 2.0 approach of this year, which is an interesting decision I'll have to ask Rodrigo about.

Nevertheless, the accomplishments speak for themselves. Parabens Shawn e Kevin!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wilson Reis FTW!

Wow. Just watched a great Bellator featherweight tournament bout between Wilson Reis and Shad Lierley. Takedowns, guard passing, mount, strikes, back-take, choke. I've never seen Reis look better.

Very inspiring to see Reis hit that "Wilson Reis pass" as well as some of the "wedge" type of half guard passes I've been pointing out in recent posts. But props to Wilson for looking positively Ricksonesque tonight.

El Nino

Maybe I'm the only one whose never had the chance to sit back and watch Nino Schembri at work.

Here's to a true legend of jiu jitsu.

More Guard Passing: Breaking Down BJ

And the "dope mount"

Here's a breakdown of the first pass in that BJ Penn compilation. I don't think it's the legendary nearside underhook pass that Laimon is talking about (that pass, I think, is a version of the cross wedge using the shoulder of justice instead of an underhook on the near side). But it's still a nice way to navigate the open guard.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Training Day: Wednesday

Traffic and other issues made for another late arrival on Wednesday. The trade-offs were getting to train with Cindy, Bryan, Benny and Glenn - and catching up with Pat for a minute, who was on the sidelines.

Mount is the theme for this week. I'll have to get the Fundamentals 7A lesson on Friday, but 7B included a mount escape with and without using the threat of a choke to bump and run.

I made it in time for the second move. Here was the more basic hipscape to guard recovery. One of the key details that Rodrigo showed was bumping the guy with your up knee before sliding your flat leg (which should be bent) up and into guard. This bump is hugely critical, and makes it a helluva lot easier to get that other leg into the game.

Another major detail Rodrigo added was swinging your legs together like a pendulum from side to side to get some space when the guy on top has a really high mount with knees in your armpits. All you need is enough space to get one elbow on the mat. That's enough to get to your side and get going with the rest of your escape.

Very interesting roll with Glenn after some serious specific work (mount/mount escape) with Bryan and Benny. Glenn caught me with a great half guard sweep. I'm not even sure which one specifically - sort of a deep single leg. But I was impressed by the way he stuck with the sweep, even as I worked to counter. Slow, methodical. That's what I love about the half guard sweeps.

A good day on the mats. Pretty heavy post-train at 166. But I'm not going to fret about it too much. I just want to work myself slowly up to the point where I'm training every day (as in M-F), which should take care of everything.

Another bright point. I managed to get into deep half guard and execute a fairly decent "walk twist" or Homer Simpson sweep. I still get an uncomfortable feeling that guys are about to take my back when I go for the deep half. But so far so good.

Marc Laimon with Jordan Breen

I forgot to post this link to an interview with "The Mastermind" Jordan Breen over at and Cobra Kai founder, Marc Laimon.

Laimon on Sherdog Radio.

Love him or hate him, Laimon cares passionately about jiu jitsu. This interview is a real treat.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nick Fury

More on Guard Passing

One of the theories I've always had about passing the guard is that one way to be consistently successful as a guard passer is to always pass the guard you want - not the guard the guy on the bottom wants.

An example of this, I think, is GSP's habit of passing to his right. This forces guys to play guard off their left hip, which tends to be most grappler's worst side. It's not 100%. But I suspect it is an edge.

We hear about this in basketball and soccer all the time - the idea of "force him left" - make him rely on his weaker side.

I think part of what works in the BJ Penn passes I posted earlier comes from BJ forcing guys to play butterfly guard - or variations off it - and then exploiting the fact that a good butterfly guard pass will beat most people's butterfly guard most of the time simply because very, very few grapplers have butterfly guards that are anywhere near as advanced as the rest of their guard game.

That's not to take anything away from BJ's guard passing. But I wonder if BJ and I are on the same page on this. If you read his books, then you realize that BJ Penn has an exceptionally practical jiu jitsu (witness his readiness to stand up from guard rather than insisting on fighting from the bottom). And the idea of forcing your opponent (or goading or tempting or tricking) into fighting from a position that is a weaker one for him/her and a stronger one for you is practicality personified.

BJ Penn and the "Near Side Underhook Pass"

Pan feed from Budo Videos broke down sometime this morning after I logged off for a little while. So here's some guard passing from BJ Penn. Interestingly, the work he does with the knees and flattening the legs is reminiscent of what Cobrinha was focusing on during his seminar.

I'm not sure if "near side underhook pass" is the best way to describe this pass. What is key to me is the way the knees and legs are used, as well as the switching back and forth from side to side. But a very nice pass I'd like to see about discovering ways of setting up.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Return of the Son of Building a Better Guard Game

Doing some major flow chart work on my guard game got me thinking about this oldie-but-goodie.

Closed Guard Lockflow from Jersey Shore BJJ

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Pan 2010 Preview

Apparently, the correct nickname for the Pan American Jiu Jitsu Championships being held this weekend in Irvine, California is "the Pan", no longer "the Pan-Ams".

Six o' one. Half dozen o' the other, to me. But here's the best "Pan" preview I've been able to come up with.

Pan Jiu-Jitsu Tournament 2010: The Black Belt Competition Environment
Heading in to this coming weekend’s 2010 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Irvine, California, we wanted to reflect a bit on who will be returning to defend their titles from last year. As the second most important event held in North America under the auspices of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, the Pan (formerly referred to as the “Pan-Ams”) has traditionally been a “must compete” event for jiu-jitsu’s most talented athletes.

Cyborg's Tornado Sweep

Anyone who has rolled with Henrique at our academy has likely found themselves on the Dorothy and Toto end of the Tornado. Here's a few tips on how to get your own cyclone on.

Pam Am To Stream Live April 11th

I plan on getting all errands and the lion's share of the yardwork done on Saturday just to make sure I can spend as much time as I can in Irvine on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Pena 2011 or Bust?

It's far from official, but I'm more than half thinking about competing at next year's Pan Ams - hopefully as a Senior 2 Brown belt.

And the more I think about it, for a variety of reasons, I think Griff may be right after all in putting me in the pluma category along with guys similarly-sized guys like Cobrinha, Ryan Hall and Professor Christiano.

Pena is 154 pounds in the gi, 149 without. Without killing myself, I've managed to reach a walk-around weight of about 154-155 in recent months and, truth told, the vast majority of the reasons why I haven't been able to stay down there and instead have drifted back up over 160 are reasons that can be dealt with and reduced - if not eliminated.

To that end, here's some familiar advance on the topic of losing weight.

How to Lose 20 lbs. of Fat in 30 Days… Without Doing Any Exercise
It is possible to lose 20 lbs. of bodyfat in 30 days by optimizing any of three factors: exercise, diet, or drug/supplement regimen. I’ve seen the elite implementation of all three in working with professional athletes. In this post, we’ll explore a variation of the “slow carb” diet as used by Dean Karnazes, an ultramarathoner famed for completing 50 marathons on 50 consecutive days in 50 different states. The most impressive part of this, for me, is that he did so, not with the typical anemic marathoner build, but with a well-muscled mesomorph body.

In the last six weeks, I have cut from about 180 lbs. to 165 lbs., while adding about 10 lbs. of muscle, which means I’ve lost about 25 lbs. of fat. This is the only diet besides the rather extreme Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) that has produced veins across my abdomen, which is the last place I lose fat (damn you, Scandinavian genetics.

Training Day: Wednesday

Fundamentals: 5b: Tue pm, Wed am, Thu pm

1. Counter to rear bear hug w/ arms pinned (step back and hip lift)
2. Side control escape to turtle (going flat then to knees)
3. Side control escape to turtle to double leg takedown

#3 is the one I want to focus on the most. There are a ton of times you'll find yourself in this situation and being able to convert and get the reverse is key.

From the turtle, you want to grab behind the knee on the leg on the opposite side as your head. Bring your knee on that side up and, as you do this, post on the mat with the hand on the other side (the head side) and posture up sharply. This will help secure your grip on the leg and set you up for the takedown.

Once you have upright posture, reach behind the knee on the headside and post out with the leg on the headside. The takedown is a kind of circle, as you bring your posted leg around like a big sundial.

A lot of power in this reverse. But the key is to get the mechanics down right: Grip. Crunch (knee to grip and posture up). Post. Run.

Did a lot of side control specific and definitely felt my cardio being tested. One of the things I want to do is to break these drills down into key movements that I can then add to my conditioning routine: side control escapes, mount escapes (mount is the focus for next week, BTW), rear mount escapes). For example, today's side control escape to turtle involved a bridge, hipscape to belly, and belly to knees. I need to be able to do repeated 60-90 second rounds of moves like this in order to really get these moves ingrained in muscle memory/circuitry.

A good day on the mat. I'm still having an impossible time working in some of my focus areas, tending to "wing it" more often than not. I'm still very much in the market for some under-165 training partners who are into a little drilling before or after class, and I suspect that's where I'll get a lot of my improvement time in. But all of that is a work in progress - and another goal for 2010.

Last Night I Had a Vision ...

Maia by Armbar

I'm curious if they are going to be showing the event at the club down on the Lake that Bruce - who I haven't seen in a million years - bartends at, Jillian's. It's been awhile since I've bought a PPV and I've never done the UFC at Jillian's ...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill

Team Lloyd Irvin: Preparation for the Pan Ams

I don't know how long this video will be up. But in many ways it reminds me of exactly how I'd like to be spending more of my time at "home."

Speaking of the Dark Side ...

Shinya Aoki Unrepentant Arm Breaker Coming to Strikeforce for Gilbert Melendez
Great pre-fight coverage compilation from the good people of Bloody Elbow


Monday, April 05, 2010

TAS: On Style, On Fighting

Form V: Shien / Djem So
While a Soresu user stayed on the defensive, however, and only counterattacked when necessary or when an opening appeared in his opponent's defense, a Djem So practitioner was not nearly so passive. Immediately after defending against an opponent's strike, a Djem So stylist would follow with an attack of their own, bringing the force of the opponent's own blow against them and seeking to dominate the duel.
It probably helps to read Gumby's classic primer on Jiu jitsu and Lightsabre combat from On the Mat.

Unfortunately, while the On the Mat guys are great, their website is terrible from an archiving perspective. Here's a cached version.

Pe de Pano Wins Again

Pe de Pano Wins Fifth Straight
Six-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Marcio Cruz needed little more than a minute to submit David Yost with a rear-naked choke in the Art of Fighting 7 “Payday” main event on Saturday at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla. “Pe de Pano” cinched the fight-ending hold 1:22 into the first round.
Jordan Breen, "the mastermind" over at referred to Marcio Cruz as one of the most accomplished heavyweight grapplers in the world - especially in the gi. That's worth remembering. Pe de Pano doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves from many in the current generation who are infatuated with smaller fighters (and Roger Gracie).

But there is a not-too-crazy argument that Pe de Pano was Roger before Roger was: 6-time Mundial champ, 5-time Brasileiro champ, 8-time Pan Am champ ...

Renzo on Hughes

Some interesting points about the guard here, as well.

Gracie: Guard is the Key Against Hughes

Training Day: Monday

Cual es mas macho? El academia o el fitness club?

6a: Mon am/pm, Wed pm
1. 1-2 punch, front kick to shot with in-to-out reap takedown
2. Headlock escape on the ground: bridge and post, bridge and roll
3. Armlock from side control (arm on northside of head)

I never really wondered what it would take to make me feel unwelcome in my own academy. Unfortunately, I know exactly what it would take and, having experienced it for the second time in the past several months, I can at least take growing refuge in the notion that I'm better equipped to deal with it than I was before.

Day one of TAS felt both uncomfortable and strangely comfortable at the same time. It will probably just take some getting used to. But after darting in that direction and then recoiling in a fit of guilt again and again over the past two or three years, that direction has increasingly become a welcome destination - and maybe even the key to getting where I want to go.

Class kind of fell apart after the specific training involving headlock escapes and the side control. Things dissolved into an open mat which typically has been disastrous in terms of finding a decent sparring partner quickly and getting my mat time in before I've got to run. TAS is helping out tremendously on that score - at least it did today - and will be my guideline going forward whenever the moment arises.

That said, some halfway decent work in sparring with Troy. I didn't get to work on any real guard passing. But what I was able to do from my back in terms of both defending the pass and maintaining an aerobic pace went pretty well - especially for a Monday.

No weight today because I wasn't in the mood to play the scale game. But I'm feeling pretty good (again, especially for a Monday) and there are no deadlines to make.

Return of the Son of Training in Brazil

I'll admit that I don't ever remember reading a "bad" article about training in Brazil. But this most recent one from Mark Mullen of Gracie Barra Calgary is in many ways especially nice, concise and certainly has a special appeal for those of us in the 40+ crowd whose nightclubbing days are increasingly behind us.

Training BJJ in Brazil
As I lay gasping on the cold pavement of the Trans Canada Highway, the 18 wheeler that had just plowed me over belching diesel exhaust into my face, my life essence slipping into the next plane of existence, my last thoughts were "Shit!! I never made it to Rio de Janeiro" I bolted upright, awake out of that feverish dream, heart pounding. I had daydreamed about going to Rio to train jiu-jitsu for over 10 years, but never found the right circumstances, time or money.

I resolved right then and there in the darkness that I would go to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the next year of my life.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Bloody Elbow's Judo Chop: Maia Over Quarry

As the Sherdog forums have become increasingly unreadable (save for the Grappling forum, at least), I've spent more time over at Bloody Elbow. More and more, Sherdog is what I listen to (at least on Tuesday and Thursday), but Bloody Elbow is what I read.

This series, "Judo Chop", is an example why. Here's a review of just one move by Demian Maia in his fight against Nate Quarry. One of the things I love about this is that it comes out of the half guard and is a counter to the whizzer. I've made this takedown in my arsenal for awhile, but it is nice to see how Maia uses the setup to get the high percentage takedown.

Bloody Elbow Judo Chop: Demian Maia Pulls Half Guard on Nate Quarry, Starts a Dogfight
But the cool part of the move was the way Maia pulled half-guard on Nate Quarry, entangled his legs, got up on his feet, fended off Quarry's whizzer and ended up on top. It was like Maia was some sort of human superglue, all he needed was a brief contact to ensnare Quarry in a fatal grappling bout. There are more gifs in the full entry so you can see for yourself.

The Anakin Syndrome

Part of what I've been struggling with over the past few months is trying to find a way to train as an advanced jiu jitsu practitioner.

One of the things that used to really puzzle me when I was a white belt and blue belt is why so many advanced guys, brown and black belts, avoided the regular classes like the plague. Now, of course, I understand quite a bit more why that was the case. But it still begs the question: how can brown and black belt continue to improve at a rate comparable to the growth rate of, say, a purple belt or advanced blue belt?

I've been flailing away to improve the same basic half guard game that I was doing when I was a two-stripe blue. That's no exaggeration. I've become more effective, to be sure. But it still the same pair of sweeps.

And it has seemed impossible to build upon this. I've sketched out all kinds of tactics, and added a conditioning element that should help improve my agility from the half guard. I've bought Jeff Glover's deep half guard DVD. But I'm still stuck.

Right now, there are few more critical priorities than expanding my half guard game. Staying aerobic will always be at the top of the list since that's what's going to allow me to train every day, every session, to be the one turning the lights out at the academy every couple of evenings. But expanding my vocabulary from the half guard is key to becoming better from the bottom, having more options and being able to dictate where the match takes place for any length of time.

So what does that mean? More live training, for one. At the present pace, I should be "brown belt eligible" sometime in July-August of this year (not when I'll get my brown belt, just the earliest possible time). Continuing to take the Fundamentals curriculum is critical to that schedule. Still, I only need to do as much of that as I need to in order to advance. The A session, the B session and a Friday review (A&B) is plenty to get my Gracie Barra card punched three times a week.

I'm thinking about training the full early sessions on Monday and Friday, the early Live Training on Wednesday, the late Live Training on Thursday and the full evening session on Tuesday (which includes the Advanced Program). This is an everyday training schedule with two out of the five days solely 30 minutes of Live Training (Wed/Thu).

Technically speaking, my goal is to focus on the transition from half to hook half and attacking with the hook sweep. This is a sweep I've been trying to add to my game for about a year now. If I can get this into the mix, then I'll move on to the deep half entries. But for now, half to hook half to hook sweep is all I'm interested in from the bottom for the next week or two.

Also, I'm done with the "Move of the Day" cheerleading. This goes a little into what I was writing about before about feeling as if I'm giving more than I'm getting. I spend a LOT of time being pretty pedagogical come training time and, to be frank, there aren't a lot of other advanced belts who do. And I'm starting to think that they are a hell of a lot smarter and more accomplished than I am because of it. If nothing else, my experience at the Cobrinha seminar this weekend was an example - however extreme - of where I'm headed if I don't start to embrace a bit more selfishness when it comes to getting what I need in order to improve.

For awhile, I thought that my role in jiu jitsu was ultimately more bodhisattva like than buddha like. "Teaching others and helping spread the art of jiu jitsu" turned into a fallback goal sometime when my competition record as a purple belt eclipsed the 0-8 mark and I realized that being a sport jiu jitsu champion was unlikely in the extreme.

But the fact of the matter is that I'm not that interested in being the world's most knowledgeable and magnanimous jiu jitsu guy in the room. To be blunt, I'm far too much the misanthrope for that and, thinking about it now, I feel like I really should have known better.

What I really want from jiu jitsu is to become good. Extremely good. Rickson Gracie - Leo Viera - Demian Maia good. And short of going all Anakin Skywalker about it, I'm not interested in anything that doesn't help me get there.

The Jail Break: Getting out of side control

Powder Keg: Triangle Choke from the Dog Fight

Saturday, April 03, 2010

My 2010 Pan Am: Updated

At the Cobrinha seminar today, Griff remarked that I was taking a picture with the best guy in my division.

I should be so fortunate. Rubens Charles is a multiple time featherweight division champion - 152 in the gi. The lowest I've ever weighed in was about 151.5 or so - stripped and ripped.

Weekend Update w/ Cobrinha

For an unfortunately long stretch of time last fall, I fell into the notion that I was putting more into jiu jitsu than I was getting out.

I'm not sure how I ended up shaking off that sensation - attrition, most likely. Some of the worst aspect of training late in 2009 disappeared on their own, others - well, I just don't know what happened. I just stopped feeling that way.

That sensation has started to return - punctuated by three-hours of utter exasperation at the Cobrinha seminar today. I don't want to go into it. But it was like a flashback to some of the worst training sessions I had in the fall of 2009.

Grif noted that since the new program was launched at Gracie Barra, my blog posts had become shorter and - I'm inferring a bit here - significantly less interesting. I think I've put a least a little sugar in the bowl as far as March posts go, for example. But his point is very well taken.

With any luck, this is just the early spring lull before a productive summer. But there are some signs in my training that are starting to remind me of the Jiu Jitsu Heart of Darkness I experienced last fall. And I have no interest in repeating any of that again.

We did a pair of takedowns: a guard pull fake to a single leg setup that resembled my Rip Cord takedown a bit. A collar drag takedown. Cobrinha also did a lot of work on passing the spider guard, which is always good stuff. His key points were in (1) squating and standing as you circle your hand to break the spider grip and (2) packing both knees in one direction and using your knee between those legs to pin the hips. Most of the moves were variations on those. My efforts to drill these techniques on Saturday was subpar due to circumstances beyond my control. But hopefully I'll remember them enough to work on them next week.

Many thanks to Griff for the photo. Standing next to Cobrinha, I look old and fat. My wife suggested otherwise, but I'm not having it - even if she is the best training partner I've got in the only thing that really counts.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Training Day: Friday

A review of the material from earlier in the week. You can see the Fundamental lessons for Week 5a here and Week 5b here.

Not a lot to report on the sparring. Rolled with Stephen and got caught in a baseball choke. Then spent some time rolling with JM and showed him that one half-guard flip I've been using when the guy manages to get a lock around my head.

Feeling a little floaty and undetermined lately. Haven't been able to find the space to work on any of my main moves: the deep half entry, the slingshot. I have etched on my whiteboard the admonition to "Stay Aerobic", which may prove to be accomplishment enough.

GSP on Hardy, Fighting, Winning

My goal is to win. Tonight, my goal is to win. I did not want to engage the battle where my opponent is the strongest. I wanted to fight him where he is the weakest.

Even though I probably could have stood up with Hardy - it's mathematic (sic). If I were to stand up with Hardy, even though I think, I believe my standup is superior, it would have been a risk because that's his main asset. If I go to the ground then I know my ground is much better than his. So it was smarter for me to go on the ground and take the fight (to) where he is the weakest.

That's how I fight. I want to have a long career and I want to be champion for a long time and I want to be the greatest. I wanted to take him out and to take him out I had to fight him where he was the weakest ...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Tempo Training Week 2, Session 2

Second day of tempo training this morning. Three sets of 10 instead of three sets of eight and I could really feel the difference of those additional reps. During both my second and third series, the second and third sets were broken. Finished, but broken, and broken pretty badly.

I kept the active rest segments the same. All the adaptations are going to have to come as a result of the increased sets of lunges.

What's interesting is that while my quads were definitely feeling the effect of the weighted tempo lunges, I felt more pressure in my hips than I did last week. Arguably, it was the pressure in my hips that forced me to break the sets midway through the protocol.

It will be interesting to see what happens next week - whether most of the "attention" returns to my quads or stays with my hips. But it's all a part of the building I want to do over the next 6 to 8 weeks en route to becoming the most dominating guard passer I can be.

Vella's Spider Guard Pass

A lot of times when it comes to learning new techniques from jiu jitsu DVDs and videos (the "visible" jiu jitsu, I suppose), there is a tendency to focus on the little guys.

While I tend to think that smaller jiu jitsu folks tend to have a relative advantage when it comes to technical options compared to their (our!) heavier brothers and sisters on the mat, this video is a nice reminder that size is no barrier to effectiveness.I'm more interested in the way Vella passes the spider guard than the choke - though the choke looks perfectly legit. It's just that guys get themselves so tangled up in trying to pass the spider guard without dealing with the grips first. Vella shows a very effective, very efficient way of dealing with both.