Saturday, July 31, 2010

Training Day: Saturday

As good as Friday's training was, Saturday's competition training might have been even better. I got to the academy a little late, but was able to jump right in with some "King of the Guard" work before we moved on to some specific training and then some sparring.

A lot of good folks there: Jesse, Lance, Sauleh, Casey, "Buscape", Tom, JM, Anthony, Ruben - in his brand new purple belt! - so many that we had to do sparring in six minute rounds. It's really going to be something else when we move into the new facility in another month and can have everyone training at the same time. I'm guessing the intensity on competition training days will go up all the more.

Didn't work on deep half as much as I'd have liked to. I did try out the Skeedaddle with the cross sleeve grip during my stint of the King of the Guard and it is more or less taken the place of the Guy La Fleur sweep as my sweep of last resort.

157.6 on the scale, post-train. I did a few tempo-style sets of lat pulldowns after training. Going forward, those will be for after training on Monday and Friday since those are my tempo training days. Right now, it looks like my training schedule for August will be jiu jitsu on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and every other Saturday. I'll do tempo training on Monday and Friday, and explosive-repeat on Tuesday and Thursday. Saturdays I don't train will be 60+ minutes of LSD.

I'm also doing some specific stuff over the next six weeks: twice a week Atlas program of lactic conditioning for shoulders, and 3x a week of hip flexor-based core work (glute bridges, leg lifts, decline sit-ups), to deal with special problem areas. I'm also going to try to spend August improving my flexibility and getting a modest little supplement habit down (fish oil and Vitamin D after meals, ZMA before bed).

Friday, July 30, 2010

Training Day: Friday

A great day on the mat on Friday. There was one moment when I looked up and saw Alex, Casey and Lance coming up the stairs that really hit me. Although things have gotten better over the last several weeks as I focused on preparing for the tournament, I think a part of me was really missing the regular presence of some of the advanced guys, the guys who have been brown belts for awhile and would always be able to push me and expose the holes in my game during sparring and specific.

Most of that has to do with my switching to the early classes, I suspect. But it was great to see so many advanced guys on the mat today.

I got to roll with Alex and with Rodrigo, who was also doing some training. Alex was using some five-finger guillotine-type control against my half, which was a new counter to learn to re-counter. Rodrigo had an extremely efficient grip to block my #2 sweep (inside hook flipback) from deep half. I tried to go for the #1 deep half sweep (the Homer Simpson), but although I think it is the correct re-counter, I didn't manage to pull it off.

I was surprised at how readily I was able to get into deep half (and eastside deep half, at that!). I've spent the past few days looking at just a few clips of Jeff Glover, who has the best deep half in jiu jitsu as far as I'm concerned, and maybe that filmwork is starting to pay off a little bit.

My conditioning continues to be in really good shape. I'll get put to the test for sure at tomorrow's competition training. But I like what I've been able to do in training and Live Training for the past few weeks. This was the goal of the whole 8 Weeks Out program: to get to the point where I could train for longer and longer stretches, getting more and more opportunity to try and test technique.

Still relying a little too much on the smash side of the Jack Johnson smash/scoop pass from standing. But I'm having no consistent balance issues, at all - with or without standing posture. I'm also hurrying too much with the side control finish series, running through the "steps" instead of surveying the terrain carefully, seeing where the opportunities are and then coming up with the right deception that can turn opportunity into edge.

158.0 post-train. I'll see where I am again tomorrow post-train. But 158.0 is an excellent number to finish the week with under any circumstance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Good Glute! On Strength Training and Mount Escapes

Bret Contreras, "The Glute Guy," is someone I ran across over at His series, "Inside the Muscles" uses a quantitative approach to determine how to get the best mean and peak activation from the main bodyparts based on different lifts. If you are at all into strength training, Contreras' articles are worth a look.

Inside the Muscles: The Best Back and Biceps Exercises

Contreras also has a blog that I was reading earlier this evening. Here's one entry that especially caught my attention.

More Random Stuff
10. The Barbell Glute Bridge is Huge for MMA

I keep meaning to write an article on strength training for MMA purposes but I never seem to get around to it. As many know, I’m really strong at barbell glute bridges. In fact, I can currently barbell glute bridge 545 lbs for 6 reps.

How does this help in MMA? I could go on for an hour about how glute strength and glute power will increase striking, clinching, take-down, submission, and take-down defense abilities, but one specific situation is worth mentioning; the full mount.

Needless to say, I've added glute bridges to my strength training routine starting in August. This is about much more than mount escapes. Getting your butt off the ground is critical for just about every submission from the guard - armbar, triangle, omoplata - and this is probably one of the main reasons why my closed guard is so weak relative to my other guards.

Training Day: Wednesday

These days it seems like every training day brings with it a new minor discovery. Today's training helped me both see the shortcomings of my Guy LaFleur sweep as well as a possible solution that also improves my overall Skeedaddle game.

More work on side control, the dive2knees and runaway fullguard as I code them. Monday was the pushscape hipscape guard recovery approach to dealing with side control.

Deep half is becoming more and more popular, with more and more black belts working the position and counters to the position. I'm still thinking that I'll embrace the deep half starting in August, hopefully with a little X-guard tossed in, as well. As Jeff Glover makes clear on his Deep Half Guard DVD, the X-guard is really just a mirror image of the Deep Half, so excelling at one position gives great opportunity to be effective with the other.

Also, the more I think about it and watch both guards in action, I realize that both allow for the guard player to be under the opponent (which I like), but not to have that opponent's weight on them at the same time. In the deep half, it's because of the focus of all limbs on the one leg (a la Glover). In the X-Guard, it's because of the destablizing outward pressure put on the base (high on both inside thighs).

Spent some more time watching Glover's deep half DVD after class. Both his head trap half guard counter and his deep half sweep against a standing opponent are must-drill - as are the three basic sweeps: Homer Simpson, inside hook to double unders pass, outside hook to the back.

Looking to train Friday and again on Saturday for competition team training. Rebecca is taking me out to dinner Saturday night to celebrate my faixa marrom. We're going to Ipanema Grill: a bit expensive, maybe even a little kitschy. But given the ocassion, she'll accept no substitutes so why should I?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Still Raining, Still Dreaming

One of the things that I'm learning about competition is how limited, how small a winning strategy often is. Lloyd Irvin has really popularized this notion when it comes to jiu jitsu. But that said, Rodrigo has been encouraging us to "do what works for you" ever since I started training some five years ago.

It makes almost too much sense. Ali? Footwork and a left jab. Roger? Mount and choke. Frazier? Left hook all day. Marcelo? Back and choke.

Everybody has an edge. The trick is to identify it as early as possible and then own it. There are guys who have made great careers in the NBA out of nothing more than being able to consistently hit a 20-foot jump shot on demand.

When I extract "what's worked in competition" from what's only been "tried," the path to success when the clock is on is clear: pull half, Rodeo to the top, finish at the shoulder/elbow/wrist/neck from side control. What I need to do in the weeks leading up to competition is to refine those specific situations and to plan for potential counters. And that is pretty much it.

At the risk of making excuses, I think a lot of my struggles in competition have come from failing to see things in this light. I know that a lot of my "cardio" issues, especially at blue belt, had more to do with cognitive confusion than my ability to grapple for 5-6 minutes at a clip. Dan Inosanto famously said that "if you are tired, you aren't even smart." I'd say that the opposite is also true: if you aren't smart, then getting tired while fighting is very easy to do.

Being smart in this context, the competitive context, is about having a gameplan - however "small" - drilling the gameplan and then executing the gameplan. It's a very small circle of trust, or maybe more accurately, a very small circle of risk, that you want to court in competition. That may make for some less-than-novel training sessions in the month before the event. But under stress, that less-than-novel training is what your body will remember before "you" do.
That's the kind of circuitry you want to build, to harken back to insights of The Talent Code.

One of my biggest goals at Gracie Barra Seattle is to help build a culture of drilling before and/or after class. You look at basketball or soccer players before and after practice. They aren't playing full-on matches with each other. They are doing 10-20% moves with each other, practicing little small moves: back to the basket out of the post, a feint to the corner and drive toward the goal, that "highlight move" in slow-motion. I remember reading in one of Lloyd Irvin's e-mails years ago something to the effect of think of how much better you'd be if you spent five minutes after every class practicing a certain sweep or escape for two or three weeks. That five minutes would probably cost you one "live training" sparring session each day. But think of where you'd be with that one sweep or escape or guard pass or submission in a month's time. In the eight weeks leading up to a tournament, those five minute sessions would really add up. Imagine if they were 10-minutes after every class. At the end of eight weeks, that's four hours worth of focus on one or two critical positions and situations, minimum.

The only person I ever saw do anything remotely like this was Steve W, one of the most valuable training partners during meu purgatorio na faixa roxa, who never hesistated to ask someone to drill a takedown or sweep from the guard or a finish before or after class. It's the kind of thing that I think really benefits a team exponentially over time. I also think it makes sparrng more productive because guys can spend time developing technique independently, outside the context of competitive sparring.

In other words, if I'm working on the deep half guard during a time when the coursework for the academy is on passing the guard, then the only time I'm going to get to work on my deep half guard is during sparring. But sparring is not the kind of ideal, controlled situation that's best for developing a new technique. Even if I wait to train new techniques on less experienced guys (which is the sensible thing to do), that training still not the kind of controlled setting that is key to getting new technique down from the roots up.

It's wildly inefficient when you think about it. The only option is drilling, outside of the class, as much or as little as you can get.

5-10 minutes a day. 3-5 times a week. Armbars from the guard ... escapes from north-south and side control ... pass the guard. Whatever you want for your game, it seems like that's best the way to get it.

Not So Deep Thought Miscellany

1. If I average 17 trainings or more each month over the next six months (July inclusive), then my "training per week average" will be just north of 3.75 for 2010. In 2009, it was 3.26. "Training" includes any time I put on the gi and get on the mat and sweat. So that includes seminars and competition days, as well as classes.

2. Now is the time to work on the absolute worst positions. My left hip half guard has gotten me into more trouble than any other position over the past year. I need to spend more time drilling both my attacks from left hip half (especially the Rodeo sweep and/or skeedaddle) as well as my transition back to right hip half. (My chair drill a la Kesting will be critical pre-train training for the next six weeks.)

3. Now is ALSO the time to get in touch with my inner blue belt and try out the most "I could never play guard like this" guards. You won't see me pulling rubber guard over the next six weeks. But I've always had a soft spot for Pe de Pano's cross guard, and the next person I catch in a triangle choke will be the first one in a long, long time. So now is the time for cross guarding and triangle choking. Call it the Braulio de Pano guard.

To that end, I'm going to go ahead and give myself permission to bring the deep half into my guard game. If I'm going to be a half guard guy, then I might as well be a HALF GUARD guy, and the deep half well done is definitely worth doing.

No disrespect, but there's a lot of half guard out there - even at the top levels - that I'm not especially blown away by. There are only a few guys out there who have been doing half guard for awhile and have really mapped out the terrain. This makes sense, of course, since there is a whole world of guard that is NOT half guard. But it does potentially mean that there is an edge for those of us who are 99% half guard (especially if we leverage our understanding of the half guard from the bottom to become excellent at passing the half guard, as well).

4. Strength and conditioning wise for the next six weeks, I'm working on lactic capacity for shoulders to help with my standup and some explosive repeat and threshold training on the aerobic power side. Tempo training twice a week (pushups) is also geared toward improving upper body aerobic capacity. If I can't train on Saturdays, I'll put in an hour of pure aerobic capacity/LSD.

5. This is probably a good time to start doing some no gi. I don't see myself competing no gi anytime ever. But as part of the sentiments expressed in #3, there is no better time to take off the gi. Right now, I'm thinking about a MTRF(Sa) training schedule that would give me one no gi session a week. That's plenty.

6. Despite - or maybe because of - everything, the more I think about the Pan in 2011, the more excited I get. Don't ask me why.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Training Day: Monday

Started the day off with some tempo training (pushups). I've just finished Week 2A's workout (5 sets of 9 tempo pushups - 6 minutes active rest - 5 sets of 9 tempo pushups) and am starting to feel my chest and shoulders really being activated during the workout.

Warm-ups at GB Seattle have started to drift back toward the standard that Rodrigo set a few years back. We're still doing the GB favorites, but Rodrigo and Carlos have brought back the runs and are spicing up the specific sparring with squats, pushups and abs work. Personally, I love it - there's nothing harder to pay attention to than a sleepy class - and I suspect the extra intensity will pay big dividends over the next several weeks.

Notable today was a huge adjustment in my spinning armbar, working to trap the arm higher up and much, much closer to the elbow. That was probably the day's biggest breakthrough. The choke series from side control is still a "must drill" move every time I get into side control, and hopefully over the next week or two I'll be able to add in the backstep to the back move, which will really set the attack series up nicely going forward.

From the guard, things remain a little unfocused still. I'm getting away with a lot of anti-guard over the past few days, a cross grip here, a hook sweep there. I don't mind a little drift in the week following a tournament. But this is really the best time to start laying new foundations - or improving on the old one.

Superfight! Rafa v. Cobrinha?

One of the more interesting debates in the jiu jitsu community is whether or not Raphael Mendes should accept the terms of a $10,000 superfight with Rubens "Cobrinha" Charles.

Here is the announcement of the original invitation.
According to the initial proposal by the sponsors, who are situated in Atlanta but are in no way linked to the Alliance academy where Cobrinha teaches in the state of Georgia, the rules are straightforward: it is to be a gi Jiu-Jitsu match where the one to get the submission wins. The winner takes home a 10-thousand-dollar purse.

Here is the response from Rafa Mendes.
But I find it hilarious to read that I’m “afraid” to fight. I can tell they really don’t know me at all, because I’m extremely confident. If I were afraid to fight or “lose,” I wouldn’t enter the absolute like I did in Abu Dhabi, where I’d face opponents much bigger and just as good as him (Cobrinha), like Bráulio, Rômulo Barral, Demente, Vella, Big Mac. If I were “afraid,” I’d go to a different sport. I started competing when I was 12 years old and I’m nowhere near close to stopping, so all I want to say is that the notion of “challenge” has been with me for a long time and it makes me want to fight a lot more still.

Here is a response from Alliance leader, Fabio Gurgel.
After a group of investors offered to sponsor a fight to submission with no time limit between the champions Rafael Mendes and Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles, there was a small and short-lived upheaval in the world of jiu-jitsu. The rivalry between two high-level athletes stirred the younger practitioners, and the possibility of a return to jiu-jitsu’s origins, when the submission was the only thing that mattered, thrilled the older and more experienced.

And here is the response from Rubens Charles
I still feel 10 thousand dollars is a good purse for this type of match. And, of course, if they pay me more it’ll be even better. But that’s not realistic in the Jiu-Jitsu world yet. For us to be able to demand bigger purses we have to make our contribution, or in other words, we have to start somewhere, otherwise we’re not going to be able to make this sport a professional one. I’m certain that no one is going to pay huge sums of money for a sport that still has so much to grow. I hope one day someone will be able to make a lot of money making matches, but we clearly have to start somewhere so that we may have such progress.

At the end of the day, all I hope for are more jiu jitsu investors and more jiu jitsu superfights.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Training Days: Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Some very good training this week. The side control choke/armlock series that I stumbled on the day before the Revolution tournament has been working very well in sparring, as has my adjustment when it comes to attacking with knee on belly. From that perspective alone, it has been an incredible week of typically "quantum" growth in my jiu jitsu game.

Couldn't be happening at a better time, either, with Rodrigo deciding that the time had come for me to move from purple belt to brown belt. I remember the training session I had immediately before and after getting my purple belt, a nonstop submission-a-rama at the hands of one visiting blue belt after another (or at least that what it seemed like). It was quite a premonition of what many days and nights on the mat as a purple belt would be like: taking more than my share of lumps trying to get in sync with an ever more diverse set of training partners, struggling to be more competitive with some of the best people at my level, to stay fit, to stay healthy, to stay happy.

So it's great to be finding myself in the midst of more than a few technical breakthroughs - especially insofar as they are apart from my areas of focus for the next several weeks. Hopefully, this means that in six weeks time I'll have not only a nice new submission series from side control, but some major and badly-needed improvements in my guard game as planned, as well.

A few quick notes on conditioning. I'm doing the six-week tempo training program for pushups from 8 Weeks Out (twice a week). That's specifically for the kids, who aren't getting any younger or weaker. I'm also doing the explosive-repeat and threshold training once a week each for cardio. If I'm feeling especially wild at heart, I'll do aerobic capacity/LSD on Saturday, particularly if I'm not going to train.

So far so good. There are a few physical changes I want to make over the next couple of months, but they are relatively minor. The main focus will be on technical fixes, getting better at moving in both directions (or at least better in transitioning to my preferred direction if I get stuck on the "wrong" side), and adding another dominant position suite of submissions and attacks (likely the back).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Valhalla: Faixa Preta

Just found out that Valerie "Valhalla" Worthington was awarded her black belt this past Saturday.

From one "hard gainer" to another, Val, well-done.

Masters and Seniors

The IBJJF International Masters and Seniors Tournament begins in Rio this weekend.

Link to brackets

Some of the likely highlights include the return of Wellington Dias to Senior 2 pena (and a defense of his Senior 2 absolute title, as well). At Masters, Eduardo Telles has moved down one division to try his luck at meio-pesado after winning the pesado (and the absolute) title last year. And at Masters Pluma, Felipe Costa will make another run for the gold after his second place finish a year ago.

Fedor: Jiu-Jitsu is "Nothing Special"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Getting Here from There: There Edition

"He not only tapped out. He tapped on the floor then he tapped on my man ... Oh yes, I have found my sport."
--Jim Brown, on Royce Gracie's submission victory over Gerard Gordeau, UFC 1

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

250 Weeks

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Want Ye Revolution?

One of the things I like the most about the Revolution tournaments being in Bonney Lake is the time it gives me to reflect on the 45-50 minute ride back. As far as I'm concerned, the Revolution may not be televised. But it should always be held in Bonney Lake.

A lot of great jiu jitsu, including a scandalous slam endured by Professor Carlos as a sealed a finishing triangle on a black belt from BTT. There seemed to be a higher than usual number of injuries, with both Brock and Nate suffering foot/ankle issues. One especially positive note were 1st place finishes by Lance and Sauleh, who is now 1-1 with Jacob from Marcelo's.

I also got another go at Jacob and while I lasted a bit longer this time, the end was startlingly similar. Determined not to fall victim to his very fast low single, I locked up and tried to play judo with him first. That wasn't going anywhere. His base was too strong and we seemed to pretty much stalemate. I pulled guard, but landed with my left hook inside rather than a full closed guard. I shifted into half guard, but unfortunately I went to my left hip instead of my right - a weaker side for me.

Things pretty much went downhill from that point. I like the decision to pull guard, but I should have gone ahead and pulled half guard, which I've done successfully in competitions at this level in the past. Also, I need to focus almost exclusively on left hip half guard so that I don't have to worry about getting to my "better side".

My second match was a little more straightforward - and my second loss of the day. Here, my opponent pulled guard after a shorter stalemate standing. I went for the Flat Pass, but didn't get FLAT so the guy had a little more mobility than he should have. Still, I came close to passing on the first attempt. The next mistake was to attack again with the Flat Pass. Here I did an even worse job of getting FLAT and he managed to attack with the triangle. I defended the triangle well enough - I was pretty prepared to deal with the potential of getting triangled. But I got caught with a strange half kimura, half straight armlock. It wasn't necessarily the tightest lock in the world, but it was twisty and I was having a hard time tracking the pressure (i.e., which direction would make things worse or better).

You have to choke my brains out to get a tap. But I've never had the loosest shoulders in the world. After a bit of a struggle, I conceded the match.

0-12? 0-13? 0-14? I'm too lazy right now to look it up, but I'm carving out one hell of a purple belt competition career. That said, I used to have a biochem teacher back in high school who said that he'd give an A+ to two kinds of test result: someone who got every question right and someone who got every question wrong. He figured that anyone who was able to get every question wrong - without exception - probably knew almost as much about biochem as the guy who got every question right.

For the record, I got a "C" in biochem. And was grateful for it.

A lot more to say about more important things, including some much-appreciated wisdom from Rodrigo. It was great to catch up with Griff and to spend some time hanging out with Brock, Rene, Tom, Lance, Pat and some other folks as the tournament played out. You forget how many people you haven't seen until you see them - one of the nice things about tournaments, they have a bit of a family reunion flavor to them that I never get enough of. I caught up with Andy Wong from Impact BJJ in Oregon who wasn't competing but was in town to support some of their guys. Their Oregon Open is in October, one month before the November Revolution. But it would be fun one of these years to take a small team down to Beaverton (3 hrs by I-5 South) to compete and support their event.

All in all, a good jiu jitsu day. I would have liked to do better, to have been able to test my best half guard against Jacob in our match and to have put my new-found guard passing confidence to better use against my second opponent. But my training for this tournament was excellent, my conditioning top-notch, and my nutrition good if not great (I was 155 when I woke up, seven pounds under). I didn't execute as I think I'm capable of. But I was definitely prepared and ready to go.

As it is, I've now got plenty of homework for the next six weeks and more than ample opportunity to improve.

Come for the story. But stay for the slide guitar.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"... an excrement of some sky ...

and we degraded prisoners
to hunger until we eat filth

while the imagination strains ..."

Training Day: Friday

A good training day surrounded by a lot of not-too-good off-mat.

Before training I did some skills work on JOEL, specifically a new choke series from side control that looks like it has been developing slowly under the surface of things for the past several. I was able to put some of it to use during today's training, which was pretty incredible. I'll be working on it more over the balance of the year.

My pre-fight existentialism got a little more nihlistic when Rodrigo told me my first opponent would be this wrestler from Marcelo's that I lost to in November. It was a terrible fight on my part, as bad as my worst loss to Sauleh (pick one, there are plenty), and while the Hollywood version of all this has me relishing the rematch, the reality version of me on the other hand wouldn't have minded a better chance of winning a jiu jitsu match after losing the last 11.

To that end, there is a huge chance that this will be the last go at competition for me. As much as I like the way training for competition hones and focuses things, losing over and over and over again does little more than make me feel badly about all the effort I put in.

As we say in the trading business, the easiest way to stop losing money in the market is get out of the market. So to steal a line, if "competition" is moving up, then I'm moving out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Enter The Matrix


Neo is plugged in, hanging in one of the suspension

We're supposed to load all these
operations programs first, but
this is some major boring shit.
Why don't we start something a
little fun?

Tank smiles as he plops into his operator's chair. He
begins flipping through a tall carousel loaded with micro

How about some combat training?

Neo reads the label on the disk.

Ju jitsu? I'm going to learn
ju jitsu?

Tank slides the disk into Neo's supplement drive.

No way.

Smiling, Tank punches the "load" code.

His body jumps against the harness as his eyes clamp
shut. The monitors kick wildly as his heart pounds,
adrenaline surges, and his brain sizzles.

An instant later his eyes snap open.

Holy shit!

Hey, Mikey, he likes it! Ready
for more?

Hell yes!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Training Day: Wednesday

"Ju jitsu? I'm going to learn ... Ju jitsu?"
--Neo, "The Matrix"

That's the best way to describe what has been happening over the past few weeks as the Gracie Barra Fundamentals curriculum has been re-engineering my standing guard pass game. In the Practice and Competition Gameplans, all of this is just called "Scoop". But the details, variations and focus Profs Rodrigo and Carlos have been giving this pass have been pretty much everything I could ask for when it comes to finally developing a Unified Field Theory of passing the guard.

More good training on Wednesday. I'm finishing open mats these days, a testament to both my improved technique and improved cardio (believe me, Patience is the mother of both). As ambivalent as I am about competing in tournaments, one thing I do appreciate about them is the environment that is created as guys are training and preparing for competition. I'm not convinced that competition itself makes anyone better. But I have no doubt that preparing and training for competition will help you see jiu jitsu for the martial art it is. And there is definite value in that.

158.4 post-train. I actually made a pre-train gi weight of 167.4, which was a great sign on our allegedly, notoriously overweight scale. My home scale (a cheap one, I admit) tracks the academy scale pretty well. So I'm not necessarily convinced that the academy scale is as far off as I'm told. Neurosis aside, it's probably a good idea to have an academy scale that adds pounds rather than taking them away.

Werdum: How the Tap Was Won

Film Room: How Werdum Submitted Fedor

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Training Day: Tuesday

It's been interesting to see that over the past several weeks as my focus has shifted toward developing a coherent guard passing game, my guard game has deteriorated into something I'm calling the "anti-guard."

The anti-guard is almost 100% about getting back to the top. It's a lot of what I've seen both Rodrigo and Marcelo Garcia do: a sort of engaged sitting guard with hooks combined with a readiness to drop into overhook (Rap Star) or underhook (traditional half) guards. I'm trying to add the Shin Guard option to deal more aggressively with standing passes - and unfortunatelyreally missed some great opportunities to work the Shin Guard during Tuesday's training.

It's an interesting world on the bottom when you more or less strip out the submissions. I'm finding that I'm starting to actually see the submission opportunities better now that I've more or less committed to not trying to pursue them. We've been doing a lot of "sweep no submission" guard specific work pretty much all year to improve our reversing game from the bottom, and this has been tailor-made for my guard game, which has always been far more sweep-oriented than submission-oriented.

So, the anti-guard. Pure feeling and position. Maybe the collar and the knee. Maybe the sleeves. Maybe hooks. Maybe a drag. As far as the "competition gameplan" is concerned, I'm all about the Rodeo from the bottom. But in terms of training and learning, the anti-guard has been an interesting experience so far this summer.

159.4 post train after arriving at 165.4 (I predicted 165.3!). If I can lower this number by a pound each training day, then I should be in fine shape for a decent breakfast Saturday morning.

P.S. Fundamentals included the safe clinch/hip throw counter to the front bear hug over the arms and the double underhook/double scoop pass. I still prefer the single scoop, so to speak, though the double is a very good step-up for the dual options of the single.

P.P.S. My first Frankenstein choke/Step-Over choke (Saulo p. 356-357) in ever. Elsewhere, I got some great work on defending some pretty aggressive open guard, including deep half and DLR, from standing. What worked well was mostly putting pressure on the far shoulder with a stiff arm or on the middle of the chest with my head and keeping the lunge pressure on with my forward knee. That and not getting too stretched out and trying to either square-up or angle in from somewhere between 1900 and 2000 on the clock.

Kesting: 5 Triangles You Need to Know

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lloyd Irvin: Jiu Jitsu Quant

An utterly must-hear interview with Lloyd Irvin by Caleb of Fightworks Podcast. Irvin's points about Atos and the Mendes brothers are both obvious and all-too-insightful. And his thoughts about the future of jiu jitsu in terms of potential mainstream audience are, arguably, brutally honest.

#219 Lloyd Irvin, Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros

What I love about this interview is that it is the clearest indication that Master Lloyd is a quant at heart. He talks about things like his theory on focusing on the highest percentage submissions, based on watching hours and hours of championship footage, about focusing on what has worked historically.

My boss over at The Daily Planet would love this.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Training Day: Saturday

The best training day of the week just got a lot better. With Rodrigo's latest schedule change, Saturday training is now "competition team" training. Nothing but specific training to start and several rounds of sparring to finish, it was a great two hours of rolling with a pretty good variety of guys - including Brock, Clint, Benny, and Profs Rodrigo and Carlos.

Nothing super remarkable. My conditioning was very good, and I was able to train pretty much straight through the two hours (I did arrive just after the warm-up). I'm feeling more and more competent and comfortable passing the guard. But I'm still feeling as if my guard is essentially a "safe clinch" - only on the ground.

I'm doing a decent enough job of avoiding the pass - or too much danger. But I need to focus more on getting the game to flow to places where I want it to. I'm still playing a lot of "Get Smashed Half Guard" and am getting away with it - which isn't good. Of late, the best transition has been to Rap Star from Get Smashed - that or going for Rodeo sweep with the lapel ...

A very nice 157.4 on the scale post-train. I was actually around 162-163 in the gi before training, which is plenty of room for next week.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Training Day: Friday

Working with Bryan is about as pedagogical an experience as you can get on the mat, short of working with one of the professors. This was the second time in a row that I've gotten to work with him during the Fundamentals in a while and it was a reminder of how incredibly helpful an interested and engaged training partner can be.

Truth told, in the past I've found myself in drills with teammates who really seemed to want to be somewhere else, sometimes. I don't mind the sentiment; it is the nature of Mind to drift, is it not? But at least help me go through the right motions, so we don't feel cheap afterwards.

None of that with Bryan, who is helping put the single underhook pass into my guard passing vocabulary. Both the basic stress stretch and the cut inside if the guy gives you a lot of heavy leg and hip out need to be worked and worked again. Given that I don't have anything in my guard passing game that even resembles the single underhook pass, there is only upside in adding it.

Feeling very sloppy and out of sorts on the bottom lately. When I'm in full-blown Rap Star or half, things are more or less in focus. But I found it harder than usual to get into good guard positions on the bottom. Some of this probably had to do with it being relatively late in the training session, and the legs starting to feel heavy. At the same time, a little focus and a little effort can probably save me a lot of panic and a lot of effort down the line.

One of the secrets to my cardio issue is not having a specific agenda for each situation. In the absence of that, I end up splashing around in the water, making little progress, barely treading water, and wasting calories of valuable energy.

Roger Gracie put it perfectly in an article that appeared in April this year.
Champions need to be patient. I like the metaphor about the drowning man. If he starts debating about what to do, he'll lose air quicker and could make rash decisions. To start swimming willy-nilly could take him down even deeper. Now, if he keeps his calm he'll make it to the surface much more easily. The same applies to Jiu-Jitsu ...

159.0 on the scale, post-train. Not great for a Friday. But given where I've been on the scale all year, I'll take it.

"Competition Team" training tomorrow. It will still be nice to be able to sleep in.

Standing to Takedown

Slapbox the left collar to the right grip. Stick and move with the right grip, opening up the stance. Look for the right sleeve. Got it? Shoot the right grip around the neck for the kubi nage or around the waist for the o goshi.

No sleeve? Then set up Rip Cord on the left ankle with a hard left jab step. RIP. DIP. SKIP. Osoto gari the standing leg.

Or safe clinch to o goshi/reverse bodylock takedown with knee block.

Locked up? Look for the popgrip double leg or pull half with lapel. Or reverse to left tricep grip for kubi nage and kata guruma takedowns.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

"Double Armbar" Probably Sounds Even Cooler in Portuguese

Courtesy of Gracie magazine

O (My) Goshi

A possible solution to my growing risk-aversion when it comes to takedowns. It's hard to believe there was a time when takedowns were the strongest part of my game ...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Training Day: Wednesday

It's been a long time since I've been as bone-tired as I was during parts of Wednesday's training. It was my third training in a row, something that is a little atypical but not unheard of. But the combination of the conditioning routine I did Tuesday before training that evening and the heat of Wednesday afternoon took me to the limits. I felt like a jiu jitsu zombie.

We continued to work on guard passing for the most part - Week 3A, for those of you playing along with the GB Fundamentals curriculum. I'm getting more and more comfortable with the underhook pass from standing, and Wednesday had us work on the variation from the knees. That one I'm a little less comfortable with - having spent so much time focusing on the physics of passing the guard from standing. But the principles are the same, so working to develop one should help the other.

A couple of things standing out. I need to get better at the crossbody to knee on belly transition. I'm leaving too much space to catch guys my level. I think a part of what I need to do is transition to be "better side" and work the knee on belly from there first, instead of just trying to work it in whereever I find myself.

Ch-ch-changes continue to mark the academy. On the whole, they is very much for the better. But newness almost always takes some getting used to. And despite my personage as a radical commie bastard, I'm a pretty conservative guy in my personal affairs and don't take readily to changes in scenery or substance.

159.2 on the scale post-train. I realized that in 2009 at this time, I was about 4-5 pounds lighter on average. Hopefully, my 2010 number will continue to slide lower between now and next week without a whole lot of additional effort (i.e., starving).

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Training Day: Tuesday

Fundamentals Week 3a began today insofar as Monday was treated more or less like a holiday-training session. We're back to working on passing the guard, which is always worthwhile practice for me. I'm trying to get to that point that Mike Fowler talked about when he started to really love the challenge of passing guard. And given my history of guard passing, that's a very good thing.

The underhook pass from standing was the main technique. I worked mostly with a new, young guy Igor, focusing on counting out the steps (always a good training tool), keeping my lapel elbow tight and underhooking the leg right under the kneecap. Drop the underhook side knee by the hip to block and sprawl the other leg back as you lean forward, bringing the guy's knee to his nose.

Good hard training on Tuesday. We did a bunch of rounds and I got to roll with Lance, Wellington, Elliott and Bruce, who I don't think I've seen in half a year, among others.

Managed to get Brock to show me the slingshot sweep that I've been meaning to add into my sweep game for almost a year now. He caught me with that sweep a few classes back so I wanted to see what he liked about the sweep and what details were working for him. I doubt I'll be training that sweep too much right now, with the tournament a little over a week away, but in the second half of the year, it wil be right up there with the deep half in terms of training priorities.

Far Side Kimura from Rap Star

My version of the kimura from Rap Star or Overhook Guard is derived from the omoplata attack from the arm-warp in Kid Peligro and Rodrigo Medeiros' book, The Essential Guard.

They don't show a kimura from this position. But given the way they attack with the omoplata, I assumed that the kimura would similarly attack the inside/wrapped arm.

Here's a version of the kimura from Rap Star or Overhook Guard that attacks the far arm instead. What is especially nice about this kimura is the way shooting the far side leg helps create an excruciating angle for the shoulder lock.

Cleber Luciano with Sherdog's Technique of the Week: Kimura from Guard

Monday, July 05, 2010

Training Day: Monday

Just training today, as Rodrigo treated Monday as more of a holiday/competition prep day than a regular class session.

After the warmup, we paired up and drilled armbars and triangles from the guard (2 min/2/1). After that, it was straight into training. I worked with Dex, Rodrigo and Elliott, as well as with a new white belt I didn't recognize. The Dex, Rodrigo and Elliott rolls were 6 minutes each without a break, which was good conditioning, as well.

While I still need to work more on getting to 4-point positions after passing the guard, I was relatively happy with what I was able to do on the guard from bottom. Switching from Rap Star to straight half, for example, was a nice transition, and I like the hip lock I've started to develop out of Rap Star that is giving me both the time and the open space to dive for the straight half.

Got into an extended dogfight out of the half guard that eventually resulted in a reverse but took more work than I would have liked. There are certain areas of jiu jitsu where I need to develop an edge and the half guard/dogfight game is one of them. I noticed Rodrigo showing Dex and Tom how to resolve the dogfight position with a twistback type of reverse (bring the outside, free hand back behind the guy's near leg to trap it as you sweep him backwards) that avoid the standing tactic I usually take. Something to remember going forward.

160.8 on the scale post-train, which is very good for the Monday of a three-day weekend and a reasonable upside limit for the next two weeks.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Training Day: Friday

As has so often been the case over the nearly five years that I've spent learning and training jiu jitsu, many of the answers to the questions I've had about the present and future of jiu jitsu at Gracie Barra Seattle were only a training session away.

Without getting into the specifics of things, Rodrigo spent some time talking about how both he and new professor Carlos (and other black belts) were going to be actually implementing the GB Fundamentals curriculum and, maybe more importantly, how we were supposed to be learning it. It was a message directed at the blue belts and white belts, like most things at the academy these days, but it did serve to "release me" to use the Fundamentals classes in the way that will work best for me. To that end, I made at least 1.5 major breakthroughs on positions I'd pretty much abandoned.

And while I don't think either breakthrough will turn me into Braulio Estima from the closed guard any time soon, it was a pretty good "redemption" of some of the points Rodrigo was making in his speech.

The BBC's Tim Vickery on Brazil's Quarterfinal Loss to the Netherlands

Brazil defending deep, trying to suck the opposition forward and then launching the counterattack. Perhaps they could have killed the game off with a more aggressive posture in the first half ... And if you defend deep, you are only one idiocy away from conceding a goal. It's going to happen sooner or later and it happened with that almost accidental Dutch equalizer.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

"Or Be Enslaved By Another Man's"

I almost forgot to register for the July Revolution two and a half weeks away. The early bird discount was tonight - though I missed my shot at the free T-shirt by a mile.

Already starting to think post-tournament, specifically about some of my frustrations about training in the era of the GB Fundamentals curriculum, how advanced belts tend to disappear from regular class-taking, and what it's going to take to get me to the next level in jiu jitsu - whatever that is - more or less on my own.

Interesting training on Monday - on a host of different levels. Didn't hear a single person mention Fabricio's unbelievable win over the weekend. It was actually a little depressing. A few years ago, that's all we would have been talking about.