Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bloody Elbow's Judo Chop: The Evolution of the Guillotine

Holy Mother of God, Judo Chop does it again.

Judo Chop: C.B. Dollaway Gets the Elbow Lift Guillotine
The elbow lift accomplishes a few things. It prevents the opponent from bulldozing into you to relieve the pressure. That works with the old-school full guard Guillotine, which I haven't caught anyone with in forever, and I do think it will be phased out as time passes. The elbow lift can also be used to help keep someone on all fours if you are on your knees setting up the choke. Leo Vieira did this beautifully against Ryan Hall at ADCC 2009. Ryan was on his knees in the front headlock, and Leo was on his knees. He lifted the elbow up and over Ryan's back so Ryan couldn't posture up. Then Leo threw the leg over the shoulder and the tap came almost immediately.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

R is for Rhinovirus

Feeling under the weather since late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, and have missed training yesterday and today.

None of this bodes well for my participation in the Seattle Open this weekend. But I'm looking forward to doing a little training on the Eastside tomorrow and seeing how I feel. If all goes well, then another session on Thursday and/or maybe even Friday will be the next step. I've got until Thursday evening to register, so we'll just see how it goes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Training Day: Saturday

Great training today on Saturday. Being the sentimental type, I couldn't resist training on the final day of Gracie Barra Seattle 2.0, the late great "treehouse" on Airport Way, and managed to get in some great sessions with Clint, Ron, "Buscape" and a couple of other folks. The priority right now is to get my half guard game back on a real 1-2-3 reset/transition 1-2-3 track, as well as returning to a "prime directive" attitude when it comes to the underhook.

For almost a year and a half I've gotten into the bad habit of not making the underhook priority #1 when I'm in the half guard bottom. A lot of this has been laziness on my part and taking advantage of the fact that most folks don't really have a go-to half guard pass. Of course, every now and then I'd run across someone who would just slash through my half guard if given the underhook. But because I was able to get away with it against most folks, I continued to let the bad habit continue knowing that still, more often than not, I would not get passed and eventually get a sweep or full guard recovery.

Without getting into the long and short of it, it's clear that I've got to fix this and go back to the basics. As I've said before, it is fascinating how learning a new guard offense shows me what has been lacking about the old one and, fortunately, how I might be able to reinvigorate that old offense into something that can once again put points on the board.

A lot of good things to take away from today's training in a general sense. There is nothing better than training on a Saturday morning, as far as I'm concerned. And it was a great way to send off "the treehouse".

Still planning on getting in some training next week for the Seattle Open. I've wavered a little bit, considering taking a powder on the first shot at competition at the brown belt level, but how in the world can I miss the opportunity to compete in the FIRST EVER Seattle Open?

Me and My Jiu Jitsu Time Capsule

"Seven Lessons" by Lloyd Irvin (essays)
Batman Begins (film)
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki (book)
Oscar de Jiu Jitsu 2 (event/DVD)
"35 tips on how to become a champion" Gracie magazine #156 (interviews)
Deloused in the Comatorium by The Mars Volta (music)
The Matrix (film)
Jiu Jitsu University by Saulo Ribeiro (book)
"Marcelo Garcia HL" by scottp999 (video)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Training Day: Friday

Recently in the grappling forum over at Sherdog, someone started a thread about aggressiveness in jiu jitsu.

One of the things I've learned from studying Marcelo Garcia is that aggressiveness in jiu jitsu comes primarily from having a plan, a 1-2-3-reset/transition-1-2-3 that gets you from unfamiliar or poor situations to better ones, and from familiar or good situations to finishes. In a sense, it is so clear, so obvious. But nothing undermines that obviousness like the calculus of physical combat, the ever more divisible units of anticipation, reaction, deception and panic.

So the trick is to turn that calculus into, at worst, algebra, cornering the variables with as many constants as you can. On my way to training Friday I get caught by the bridge so I'm going through my progressions from the 2 on 1 while Otis Smith thumps on the iPod: hook sweep, arm drag, cross to back ...

What I missed, and what could have served me well during my toughest roll of the day, was the gi grip break. I had just been reviewing this grip break earlier today. But when the opportunity to use it came, I couldn't put it together and ended up trying the no gi version - which didn't stand a chance.

Knowing what to do makes it a lot easier to move from one attack to another, makes it easier to be aggressive even if "aggressiveness" is against your nature or your "style". A little pick up in the pace, sure. A little more determination and patience, yes. But, more than anything else, it trick - the technical trick of it all - seems to boil down to just having a map of the terrain, and a means of getting back to that terrain if you find yourself off course.

For all my time working on the half guard, this is my biggest weakness with the position. Right now, my half guard is really just a set of moves from different spots - not unlike my guard passing game - rather than a coherent start-to-finish plan for getting to the top from half guard (or, again, for passing the guard). I haven't been evolving the position like I should have, introducing the shin block more frequently from long half, making the deep half a bigger priority when the space is there.

Learning a new guard set-up like the 2 on 1 at this point in my jiu jitsu training really exposes the deficiencies in my current half guard game, a game that has carried me through blue and purple belts and is still a large part of what I do when I end up on the bottom. But in order to make the half guard really work for me at this level and against the bigger, better guys I'm increasingly training with, I need to turn my half guard into the sort of problem-solving equation that will allow me to be more aggressive, spend less time on the bottom and create better opportunities for myself to get to the top.

156.6 on the scale post-train. A week out from the Seattle Open, that's just about perfect. Competition team training tomorrow. I'm still trying to decide what I'm going to do about next week, but there's a fairly good chance that I'll be spending at least one or two evenings navigating the 405.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ask Burien Top Team: Weight-Lifting ... How Necessary?

I would argue that it is far easier to gain a technical edge over a technically superior opponent than it is to develop a strength edge (or even strength compatitibility) with a stronger opponent.

In other words, I can learn and develop a sweep that will work against those who are, by all accounts, technically better than I am in jiu jitsu. But the guys who are significantly stronger than me right now are probably going to remain significantly stronger than I am unless I devoted a disproportionate amount of time to improving my strength - time that would inevitably take away from jiu jitsu training to some degree.

Because I want to improve my effectiveness in jiu jitsu, I think this is a terrible trade.

The rest of my ramblings here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Training Day: Wednesday

I've started only training the Live Training sessions since Monday. I've been toying with this idea for some time, and circumstances are starting to make it possible for me to give this approach a try.

The idea is to spend more focused time on sparring, to not get distracted by the 3, 4 or 5 moves of the day that accompany every Fundamentals class. For years, I've had a hard time "getting to" what I wanted to work on when the time came for sparring or Live Training in large part because my mind was still buzzing with what I'd just learned minutes ago. Now, within a few minutes of arriving at the academy, I'm on the mat working on whatever I want to be working on. For now, that seems like a good plan.

And maybe a common one. Nobody tells you how you are supposed to train once you get your brown belt. But you can see what brown belts tend to do - and that is to pretty much spend most of their time in Live Training and those Advanced classes that allow them to develop their games at a largely self-directed pace.

So that's what I'm trying - at least in the run-up to the November Revolution. We'll see how it works.

I'm still focusing on guard work, specifically hook sweeps and 2 on 1 control of the arm. I haven't done any specific half guard to hooks guard transitions, but I'm trying to get more and more comfortable with closing the distance to attack with the hooks. Between that and the 2 on 1, I'm starting to see a few things that I like. There was even an armdrag threat I was able to pull off at one point. Not every day you are going to see that out of yours truly.

Back on the mat Friday and Saturday. It looks like the school will definitely be closed next week, so I'm considering my options about training in the last few days before the Seattle Open. Griff's provided a couple of worthwhile things to consider, options I should take up in the weeks and months to come even if I don't take advantage of them here in late September. Especially insofar as I'm spending more and more time in Live Training, getting some work in with new training partners is well worth keeping in mind.

No weight today; I forgot to get on the scale before I was pretty much dressed and ready to go. I'll get in a Friday weight - which will give me a good, one-week-out snapshot of where I stand.

Roger's Half Guard Sweep

The sweep is a version of the "stuff sweep" with an emphasis on the backroll and over-the-back control as opposed to a butterfly hook.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Roger Gracie Cross Choke from Mount Analysis

Some great work from Ralph Gracie purple belt "TrumpetDan"

Judo Chop: Nogueira and the Deep Half

I've sung the praises of Bloody Elbow's Judo Chop series before.

Time to break into song once again:

Judo Chop: Nogueira v.s. Brilz: The Deep Half Guard Sweep, Part 1
Well here we go sports fans. I was so enamored of Antonio Rogerio "Little Nog" Nogueira vs Jason Brilz that only a special three-part, round-by-round Judo Chop could do it justice.
If you've never read a Judo Chop from Bloody Elbow before, stop, do not pass go, go directly to the link above.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Training Day: Monday

Just Live Training today. I got in some good work with Elliott, Benny and Dex. Maybe a little more work from the top than I should, but I'm not as good at pulling guard from knees/sitting as I could be, and I end up moving toward the top reactively.

Still having a little bit of a hard time finding my focus. I did get in some good work with the defensive Rodeo. But no Rap Star, no deep half, no slingshot ... all of these are thing I need to make sure I cover every day when I'm on the mat. Even the little bit of 2 on 1 that I played didn't take advantage of some of the action/reaction concepts I've been working on to make sweeps, reversals and take-the-backs easier and more efficient.

A part of me wants to chalk it up to it being Monday, the first training day of the week. But it's an issue that I've wanted to deal with for a little while now. And there's no time like the present.

166.0 on the scale post-train, dressed. Fair for a Monday.

1st Seattle Open BJJ Tournament

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Update (Training Day Friday, 8 Weeks Out ...)

Kind of depressing to see that the American Nationals tournament has had to extend registration in order to try and get more competitors. I noticed that local brown belt Hayato Atalig from Marcelo Alonso (a Carlson Gracie school, I think) has no competitors at adult lightweight. If I were thinking of competing, I'd be in the same boat: there are currently no competitors at senior 2 lightweight brown belt (although there are two in the open, a middleweight and a superheavy, I think).

Training Friday was all Live Training, per usual. I rolled with Angus, Rueben, Elliott and both Profs. Carlos and Rodrigo. I'm feeling myself start to drift again, technically, which means that it is a good time to get back to basics - especially the basics I want to take with me into the Seattle Open on October 2nd and the Revolution in November.

Specifically, I need to begin transitioning to a more diagnostic approach to training. I do what I do. Now I need to start focusing especially on how others are reacting to what I do, and what opportunities that provides me.

There are a couple of standouts: countering the knee cross/Royler attack from the half guard, a more aggressive side control escape (MGs's latest is a good reminder of the power of the bump to create space, something I've been preaching lately to blue belts I've been training with), a tighter takedown game and a better integrated suite of attacks from side control/knee on belly, especially the choke series.

I'm also looking at some schedule changes. Per the calendar, I'm actually supposed to be at the beginning of Week 2, not the start of Week 1 (the 8-week camp does not include Fight Week/Compete Week). Today I did the aerobic plyometric routine, three 5-minute rounds of 10s on/30s off double leg bounds. It was the first time I ever did plyometrics and it was the third set that was really the charm. I'll do another aerobic plyo routine on Thursday, with explosive-repeat (deadlift high pulls and squats) on Tuesday.

158.4 on the scale post-train on Friday. I'm behind pace in my training schedule, but assuming I train Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this next week, I'll be back on track . Right now, the week is setting up to be a five-day training week, and it should be a very good opportunitity to focus on some of those key areas I mentioned above.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Ryan Hall v. Hermes Franca

A lot to like in this video of Ryan Hall and Hermes Franca. But the back-take around 2:40 is probably near the top of the list.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Training Day: Wednesday

Working on guard passes as part of the Fundamental lesson right now, the single underhook pass with collar slide or Fundamental 3B for those of you playing the home version.

Trained with Jesse and Nick for Live Training. I'd been thinking about how best to deal with someone like Jesse for the past few days, so it was nice to get a chance to roll with him. With his length, things like the 2 on 1 seem not to provide me with enough control. But I did better with the 2 on 1 than with the deep half I'd thought might be a better approach, so you never know. I still want to work a lot more on the deep half - I'm seeing more and more guys attack with it, but I still think I might have an edge relatively speaking.

Rolling with Nick was especially good insofar as his strength meant that I'd have to focus all the more on technical solutions to problems I found myself dealing with. I've been a little sheepish about rolling with bigger, stronger guys since my shoulder started bugging me a month ago or so. But there are a lot of guys like Nick who are only a weight class or two above mine that it would probably do me good to spend more time working with - from both a training and a "teaching" perspective.

Had a couple of very interesting conversations about jiu jitsu today, one before training with Lance and one after training with Jesse. More about that tomorrow.

160.8 on the scale post-train.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What is Jiu Jitsu Conditioning?

A lot of folks are talking about strength and conditioning and how it applies to jiu jitsu. I think many of them are bringing biases and anecdotal observation to jiu jitsu from other fields, like MMA conditioning or, more often, football or wrestling conditioning.

This is understandable. Joel Jamison, whose work at 8 Weeks Out really got me thinking seriously about what conditioning for combat sports was all about, admits that his initial foray into MMA conditioning included a lot of lessons he learned from training football players.

Jiu jitsu is a young sport - however old the martial art of jiu jitsu is. We are at the earliest stages of trying to understand, scientifically, what it means to be above average in terms of "jiu jitsu conditioning." So some of what is currently advocated for jiu jitsu conditioning can be forgiven for being insufficient.

But what must be kept in mind are the unique aspects of jiu jitsu competition and training - especially at the highest (and a growing number of) levels.

Consider this: at the highest levels, a jiu jitsu athlete, a black belt, has to be prepared to fight three to five ten-minute matches, including the potential for overtime, with as little as five minutes in between matches (it could be even shorter in some instances, of course. But five minutes sounds like a reasonable minimum expectation in most instances.)

So on the BJJ athlete's longest day, the first day of a major tournament, the athlete needs to prepare for at least 50+ minutes of activity, with five minute breaks every ten minutes.

So whatever the conditioning routine is, the fact of the matter is that aerobic capacity has to be at a maximum. There is no way around this. Strength won't get you to the other side of 50 minutes. Flexibility won't get you to the other side of 50 minutes. Technical skill, as competition gets tougher and tougher each year, may not always be enough to get you to the other side of 50 minutes.

So you've got to be able to go for 50+ minutes at a nice aerobic clip. I always suggest that guys roll like they are out taking a Saturday bike ride or a jog on a tough course. The course is tough, and will require some real work to both navigate and finish. But just because the course is tough doesn't mean that you should make it any tougher on yourself. Try and keep an aerobic pace. You'll drift to threshold levels from time to time. But always think about bringing yourself down to that aerobic level where your thoughts are likeliest to remain clear and your technical capacity most accessible. Remember that great Dan Inosanto quote?

“If you are tired you’re not strong, if you are tired you’re not fast, if you’re tired you don’t have good technique, and if you’re tired you’re not even smart”

That is the truth.

What are the particulars beyond the critical need for above-average aeroboic capacity? One major distinction with jiu jitsu is the amount of time spent in relatively static, isometric positions.

Here, the real trick is to avoid wasting energy in these instances. But preparing the body, the arms, the hips, the shoulders, the neck, for being in these positions is as important as any other aspect of conditioning. Will your legs allow you to pass the guard in the ninth minute of your third match of the day? Will they be there to defend your guard, or lock in your triangle?

This is a local muscle endurance issue in large part. And at the beginning of a conditioning program like an 8 Week Program doing a lot of non-BJJ work to help strengthen those local muscular issues is a good idea (I'm focusing on hip flexors right now with decline situps, incline leg raises, etc.). As always though, with jiu jitsu, I agree whole-heartedly with Alliance's Fabio Gurgel who points out that moving your body through the range of motions you expect to put it through in training is more important than stretching or "warming up". Especially as the competition draws near, more and more time should be spent in the movements (sweeps, passes, attacks, guard replacements, etc.) you expect to use in competition. This is also a major insight by Joel Jamison in his work when it comes to MMA conditioning, and it was his reference to this point that initially got me thinking about the importance of this often-overlooked concept.

The other major issue with jiu jitsu that I think is unique is the concept of agility. I think this is what a lot of people in BJJ mean when they say "explosive". I think the idea of being "explosive" in grappling is extremely overrated. In fact, I think it is an example of MMA conditioning theory being misapplied to jiu jitsu conditioning.

When I think of the best guys at my academy, the guys who give me the most trouble, "explosiveness" is nowhere on the list of things I have to deal with. Not even close. It is almost always a matter of technical mistakes that my opponents capitalize on, forcing me into a narrower and narrower range of good alternatives until I am either able to change the circumstances for the better or concede the match.

I think this is true for most of those who train jiu jitsu. It may be different for MMA - or even for no gi grappling. But I think this is accurate as far as BJJ is concerned. It is for me.

And for those times when I have been overwhelmed at least in part by an opponent's physicality - size or "explosiveness" - there rarely has been a time when the counter to that physicality was greater physicality. This is what I call the "Frank Mir Folly", from Frank's unfortunate attempt to "bulk up" for his fight with Shane Carwin after losing the rematch to bigger Brock Lesnar.

But agility, the ability to move your body the way you want to, when you want to, is something that jiu jitsu athletes both need and can improve. This is the yoga, gimnastica natural, CrossFit connection for many when it comes to conditioning for jiu jitsu. But you can take care of all your agility needs in the academy (including home and garage academies). Hipscapes, bridges, hook sweeps, backrolls, sitouts, sprawls, breakfalls, technical lifts ... the list is long and very, very, very much worth making a part of the jiu jitsu athlete's conditioning program.

The point of agility isn't necessarily speed - though speed is a part of it. It's will-to-act and accuracy. It's being able to do exactly what your body can do exactly as you want it to exactly when you want it to.

Other smaller issues are things like flexibility, especially hip, hamstring and glute flexibility - though shoulder flexibility is an often overlooked area that more jiu jitsu athletes should focus on early in their training. All of these I would probably rank higher than lifting weights - as much as I've love throwing iron around from time to time.

I'm looking forward to reading and hearing more discussion about "strength and conditioning" in BJJ as more professionals from other fields start to enter the world of the gi and the tatame. And I'm hopeful that some will follow a approach that looks at the unique environment of jiu jitsu to develop conditioning strategies that really help those who train jiu jitsu train longer, better and more productively throughout our jiu jitsu lives.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Training Day: Monday

Just Live Training today as I start to get adjusted to a new tournament prep schedule of training every day. Part of the way I think I'm going to be able to get away with training five days a week will be by taking a few "Live Training Only" days - probably on Monday and Wednesday.

Got in some good training with Benny, Elliott and Glenn, who I haven't gotten the chance to train with in many months. I worked mostly for sensibility - most of the guys had taken the previous class, as well, and were on their second winds. It is a great opportunity, going forward I think, to really work on new positions that I"m trying to integrate into my game.

Nothing in particular stood out from today's training. Some good patience on the step-over choke from side control, waiting for the guy to turn on his side - and the same with a kimura attack from converted north/south. Being patient and relaxing my body continues to be a great way to lull opponents into the false sense of security that sets up the opportunity for the next attack.

Guard work was very minimal - I ended up playing on top for most of the training. The 2 on 1 continues to paralyze for just long enough for me to get an advantage and that advantage has consisted initially of being able to take the top position (I try not to immediately guard pass if we are starting from the knees since it's a semi-unrealistic situation to be passing guard).

160.6 on the scale post-train. Not bad at all for a Monday.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Training Day: Saturday

I got to training a little late, but more than made up for lost time by rolling with a lot of good guys - top of the list being a roll with Rodrigo. I've noticed that both Profs. Rodrigo and Carlos both like to attack the guard from standing from time to time, which on Saturday gave me a great opportunity to work the single X. I didn't get much farther than the cross guard before Rodrigo passed. But it was nice to feel myself almost instinctively flow into the positions I wanted to be in. That's what I need to do more of.

The most important detail of the day has to be keeping my balance during the first stage of my half guard pass series. Both Jeremiah and Clint were able to reverse me backwards as I put pressure on the lower leg of their 1/2 guard lock and wedged my free knee inside. I think a little more control over the upper body is what was missing and what led to getting reversed. I'll need to check back in with the Saulo DVD to see if this is the detail I'm missing.

Still working the 2 on 1. I need to make sure that I move in for the kill the second the guy becomes distracted by trying to free his wrist. That's an excellent ""take the lead" opportunity that I need to look for more often. I also need to look to bail out into deep half, not just half, when things are getting dicey. That's the kind of thing that will give me confidence to continue to train from the bottom against bigger guys and when I'm tired.

157.8 on the scale post-train. Sunday officially starts Pre-Week: 3 weeks out from the Seattle Open and 9 weeks out from the November Revolution.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Training Day: Friday

Live Training on Friday. I got in some good rolls with Jesse (who was killing me with his very tight, knee cross pass v.s. my half guard) Brian, Elliott, Ben, and a visiting purple belt with a very good deep half game (and single leg switch off the near leg ankle pick)

Nothing especially noteworthy one way or the other. I'm still easing into the 2 on 1. One thing I've decided is that if I end up on my left hip from the half, I'm going straight for the deep half. Insofar as I'm not yet "ingrained" when it comes to the deep half, I'm thinking there's a halfway decent chance that I might actually be able to go both ways on the deep half if I start now.

About that knee cross ... I need to be more aggressive in going for the Rodeo, which is a counter that's worked for me almost every time. I think a part of me feels as if it is a cop-out move, which is ridiculous. If I were trainig no gi, then maybe I'd opt for the Jeff Glover reverse sitout. But I tried that today with Jesse and just got mangled - in part because the gi provides for too much friction to be able to make that escape against someone with a good, tight pass.

Feeling a little more fatigue than I'd like, but then again we are training hard. Maybe I'm expecting too much. I'm doing a better job of competing - or at least surviving (see "Elliott: Back Mount") - when the body feels less than 100% willing.

The thing to constantly remember is that there are technical solutions to getting into better positions than the one you are in. Save your energy for following those solutions, and don't waste your energy on movements that don't contribute toward those solutions.

One good example was the deep half from the visiting purple belt. He did a great job of disrupting my base and putting me on the defensive. I focused on the far side underhook and waiting for the opportunity to step over the head.

I don't remember the specific resolution (I think over the whole 7 minutes I might have passed his deep half once and been swept once). But the point was that I was able to find a technical solution to the initial deep half attack. And that have me the "stillness", so to speak, to avoid making major mistakes.

Dropped by the new academy a few hours after class to help out a bit with painting. There wasn't as much work as I had anticipated, but it was great to see the interior of the new facility.

In many ways, it reminds me of Gracie Barra 1.0, the Tully's academy, in terms of its size and "industrialness." Our current spot a few clicks north is no powder room. But the original Tully's location and the new spot off 4th Avenue South definitely have a feel to them that is all business.

It's hard to express how exciting it is to imagine the new academy filled with students. Hopefully the MT classes will draw well. You can tell that there are a lot of newer folks who are into striking to one extent or the other. They provide a different sort of energy that will probably really fill the new gym - which is pretty sizable.

The idea of having tournaments there is obvious. I see why Rodrigo was so quick to restart the GB Seattle tournament series: The Seattle Open. Now that I think about it, the new academy reminds me of Tully's on the outside and the Fife Wrestling Room on the inside. Very easy to imagine seeing tournaments run in a space like that.

A good jiu jitsu day. 158.0 on the mat post train (168 and change in the gi pre-train). It was very nice to see the new room. It looks like it is going to be a great place to train.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Gracie Barra Seattle 3.0

How We Learn: Context Counts

Interesting article on learning and knowledge acquisition from the New York Times
“What we think is happening here is that, when the outside context is varied, the information is enriched, and this slows down forgetting,” said Dr. Bjork, the senior author of the two-room experiment.

Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time. Musicians have known this for years, and their practice sessions often include a mix of scales, musical pieces and rhythmic work. Many athletes, too, routinely mix their workouts with strength, speed and skill drills.

Rillion Gracie: A Guarda

Courtesy of
Is there any bad type of guard?

I respect all positions. If I teach a technique to ten different people, I know that, as much as I’d like it to be otherwise, each student will be more suited to one aspect and not the other. Jiu-Jitsu is an infinite art; a shorty won’t have the same game as someone with long legs. That’s why a master can’t go blindly labeling one guard bad and the other good. The secret is to make out the weaknesses and virtues of the position, never condemn, arrogantly. Now, the guy who wants to be a reference in the guard cannot just know one guard. He has to know other paths, for the day he encounters a rock in his way.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Notes on Shin Guard/Sitting Guard v.s Knee Cross

One issue I've been having when attacking with the shin guard from the sitting/Cobra guard is when guys cut the knee sharply in a Royler style pass. I remember the last time I rolled with Cindy no gi, she avoided my shin guard with a very sharp, almost sideways, knee cross.

The trick is to get more control of the knee. Enter the shin guard, but then move in close to really hug the knee. Your shin will be fully contracted against your thigh, but remember that the hook in this instance isn't so much a traditional butterfly hook (where you'd want your shin/lower leg further away from your thigh) and more a block to keep the guy's lower leg in place as you roll back into single X or the full X-guard.

The Jeff Glover Homer v.s. Standing sweep might be there, though you'd want to get rid of the hook and lock the lower leg instead.

Training Day: Wednesday

I've always had a very strange synchronity with jiu jitsu. I would be fixated on a certain problem, and then out of nowhere Mamazinho or Rodrigo would be basing the lesson of the day on that problem. In reality, it's probably simply a matter of most of the problems I had as a white belt and a blue belt were pretty common and always good for a lesson. But the experience was always exhilerating - making me think all the more that jiu jitsu "was for me."

Today was another episode in that series. I've been studying the 2 on 1 and looking for ways to deal with standing opponents. Right now, I'm looking at setting up the single X. But it was very nice to have Carlos teaching the cross guard (a relative of the 2 on 1) and the tripod sweep. There were some good details, like checking the ankle rather than the knee, and some more details that Brian picked up about using a torreano style pass to clear the legs after you "technical lift" to the top position. Now, out of the cross guard or 2 on 1, I've got the tripod sweep, the transition to the single X and, hopefully one day, the split back roll from Jiu Jitsu University.

Very good post-class training with Mark. We got in three sets of 10 armbars each, reviewed some side control escape fundamentals, and took another look at the pendulum sweep that he's said is one of his favorites. During a brief sparring session after, I made sure to attack with the pendulum sweep every opportunity I got to help give him a well-rounded sense of the position. One of the ways to get good at a position is to defend against it a lot. So as long as he has the pendulum sweep on his "A" list, I'm going to make sure I keep it in heavy rotation on mine whenever we get a chance to roll.

This is what it is going to take. I'm going to make something really special out of the time I spend at faixa marrom in terms of my own development and my own personal sense of contribution to the guys I train with every other day. I have a pretty good sense of what I need to do in order to be, one day, the kind of black belt I want to be and, with a few willing teammates, there's no doubt that I'll be able to get there. And any white belt or blue belt who's starting to feel a little lost in the mix and wants to roll along for the ride is more than welcome.

158.8 on the scale post-train after a good, but not especially rough training. I haven't figured out how I'm going to negotiate the final week of training leading up to the October tournament. There are potentially some training options that don't necessitate braving Seattle/Bellevue's notoriously terrible weekday highway traffic. But there's no way I'm going to take off the week before a tournament when I'm far more used to training four days the week of a tournament - including the Friday morning 24 hours beforehand. Maybe if I'd been a more successful tournament competitor, I'd feel differently. But I haven't been, so I don't. I need my mat time as much as, if not more than, just about everybody else I'm likely to face in the brown and brown/black belt divisions.

About That Home Opener

Just found out the that Seattle school will be closed for the entire week leading up to the GB Seattle Invitational.

Those who would like to continue training for the event instead of taking the final week of preparation off have been encouraged to train in Bellevue.

Or Yakima. Or Federal Way. Or Everett, for that matter, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Thoughts on the 2 on 1 & More!

While I look for a way around, over or under the psychic block that's apparently preventing me from working on the slingshot guard, I have been able to spend a lot of time on the 2 on 1. I haven't really pulled off the sweeps or the take-the-back. But I have begun to get more and more accustomed to the grips and controls, as well as the sort of opportunities they might provide.

One thing I noticed is that any fight to free the wrist works in my favor because it gives me the opportunity to be first with the attack. If I have the elbow then as far as the sweep or the back take is concerned, the wrist is just a compliment.

It's not quite the "deception" in my Batman Begins-esque formulation. But there are some of the same elements. Marcelo says that "any time you defend you are losing the fight"; Patton: "advancing constantly" ... One way to attack is by distracting the opponent, helping him waste his time and energy not just in defending, but often in defending attacks that might not even exist.

Back on the mat tomorrow. I did some hip flexor and abs work today, 6 of 20 glute bridges, solo armbars, decline sit-ups and incline leg raises. I'm trying to put this work in the same category, ultimately, as the stretching, which has become an early training year success story. The shoulder feels better every day - I don't know how much credit to give the Cissus, but I'm sticking with what's working.

In a lot of ways, the October 2nd tournament will be like having a home opener at a new stadium. Rodrigo plans to have the tournaments as a regular series, with three or four events a year. And while they won't be quite as big as the Revolution events, they will be sizable, "3-4 mats at a time" productions, with a good number of schools participating.

I haven't seen the new facility, even from the outside. I think a couple of guys trooped over there on Monday after training, but it will still be a surprise for me when I finally get to take a look-see for myself. From what I've heard, it will be hard to miss the old "treehouse" we've been training in for the past couple of years - which is good news, sentimentality notwithstanding.

Monday, September 06, 2010

500 Armbars a Month. Final Offer.

At this point, the 50% discount is probably more realistic.

I'm finding a few early adopters here and there - for which I am extremely grateful. But I'm no iPad.

500 armbars a month means 33 a night (3 sets of 10 with one extra rep per set for good measure) training 3-4 times a week.

6,000 armbars in year one alone.

Training Day: Monday

Live Training only today - given the holiday-nature of the day. That was fine with me. I've been debating changing my training schedule to include a lot more Live Training than usual. And while I haven't fully decided on a schedule for the fall, I'm close - and today's time spent Live Training only confirmed it.

Did a little Rap Star, but by far most of my time from the guard was spent working on the 2 on 1. Some nice success with hook sweeps and sleeve control out of that guard, but I'm still definitely getting used to it. There were probably some take-the-back opportunities that I missed, especially when guys got preoccupied with trying to free their wrist.

I also noticed that there might be a armbar/pendulum sweep option when guys over commit to trying to free their wrist using the other, free arm. Something to keep an eye on.

Speaking of armbars and pendulum sweeps, the first day of Operation Escola Na Escola is off to a pretty good start. I'm very much taking Griff's advice to build an environment that will help my jiu jitsu continue to improve - and hopefully at an even faster pace than it has for the past 5+ years. Like everything else in jiu jitsu, it's a matter of working on things a little bit each day - and to recognize that any work done after-hours will just continue to add up and add up over time.

A part of this is also about my sanity. There is a lot of change at the academy these days and while 99% of it is for the good, change is change and some of us deal better with it than others. As someone who can be a real slave for stability, I'll admit that this occasionally leaves me feeling a little lost and adrift in the school I've been training in for the better part of a decade.

"Escola na escola" should go a long way toward helping minimize these feelings, especially since I'm not likely to make my mark on Gracie Barra Seattle as an outstanding competitor or great teacher. As much as the Operation is about making my own process better and more robust, it is also about becoming a real asset for guys and gals who are blue belts and just really starting to get going in jiu jitsu. There's so much that I feel like I figured out the hard way over the past year and a half; if I can spare any blue belt some of the confusion and moments of jiu jitsu angst that I experienced, then the whole thing will be more than worth it.

159.0 on the scale post-train. I was about three pounds over in the gi before training - and in my heavier gi - which is fine. It's all IBJJF rules from here on out, meaning 167.5 in the gi about about 162 out of it are my marks.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Marcelo: Plan on Your Mind

Every time you go something you already have like 1, 2, 3, moves lined up, you know what I mean? You don't want to get lost. You don't want to get there and like 'Alright?' You've got to have your plan on your mind set up.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

September Skills Focus

Rap Star
2 on 1

Guard Pass:
Scoop/Smash from Standing
Watchdog-Royler-Cross Wedge (v.s. half)
Marcelo (v.s. half)

Choke/arm series from side control
Choke/arm series from knee on belly

What's Working: Daily Stretching

One of the great early successes of Training Year 6 (Aug 2010 - Jul 2011) is my daily stretching routine, which just notched a full month of consecutive practice.

The trick has been to cut my routine in half. The full upper body/lower body routine I do have 18 different stretches, some L/R, some with as many as six parts (like the standing hamstring stretch).

Holding each position for at least 30 seconds can make this a longer routine than I'd like, especially since I do my stretching at night between 8 and 9. It got to be easy to skip a night, then two nights, then struggle to make up the work later.

But by cutting the routine in half and doing upperbody and hip stretches one night and leg streches the next, I've managed to cut the daily routine down to where I don't feel as if I'm going to have to spend half an hour on the floor.

Maybe it would be different if I were already a flexible person and stretching was more a combination of maintenance and showing off (bitter much?). But as it is, stretching is no big pleasure and I'm usually pretty glad to get it over with. So props to me for finally getting a month's worth of stretching in the books.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Kron Gracie v. Bill Cooper

Training Day: Friday

First day back on the mat since Monday. The idea has been to let my shoulder recover a little bit and maybe the healing and the Cissus will be able to catch up. I'm pretty much determined to not stop training unless something gets dramatically worse, so today was a halfway decent test.

Between the Ibuprofen, the generic Mineral Ice and the adrenalin of rolling with guys like Shawn, Brian and Benny, my shoulder held up well. There were a few moments when I was a little hesitant to post on it. But by the time I was rolling with Benny (for the second time), it wasn't even much of a distraction.

I'm starting to feel it a little bit now. But as long as I don't feel any worse, I'm going to go ahead and keep training for now. There are so many things I need to work on that the idea of taking any significant time off right now is just not an idea I'm interested in entertaining.

What's working? Nothing special out of today's session, which was pretty much a Live Training session. I spent some time working out of Rap Star, feeling ways to free the off hand when the top guy seeks to control it. My guess is that when someone starts to crowd your Rap Star, that is the time to rotate over and attack with the kimura. I also think that lowering my off hand instead of raising it could not only make it easier to free that arm, but may also do a better job of setting up triangle attacks from Rap Star.

Found myself battling the knee cross pass also. Very, very tough battle. I tried to counter with the Rodeo. But the guard passer did a good job of controlling my inside arm. I'd been looking at a counter over at MG in Action just last night, and forgot a few of the details to use when the passer does a good job of attacking the inside arm.

I still need to keep working on my attack and counter-attack from the Cobra/Marcelo guard. It's been years - literally - since I paid serious attention to this whole area of my game (other than just using it as a platform for pulling half guard). This means the whole Marcelinho shebang of hand fighting, deep half guards (X and otherwise) and the holy trinity of straight armlocks, omoplatas and guillotines.

Some of that will come easier than others. But part of what will be most interesting will be in seeing what it is that makes it difficult for me to get into position to launch these attacks, and then to fix those deficiencies.

For example, Marcelo's guillotine attack requires a pretty explosive launch from "falling to your back" to "sitting up pitched forward." And there are exercises for that. His single-leg guard and straight armlocks both require some hip mobility and accuracy that I don't yet have.

But I'm working on it. The trick is to work as constructively as possible, especially if you are on the impatient side, as I am. The easy way is to do as I see a lot of advanced guys like Lance and Henrique do, which is to aggressively play the exact same position at every single opportunity. This is the most common approach to developing and stoking evolution in your game, and I've certainly done my share of this, especially where the half guard is concerned.

Still there are more optimal approaches, and these are the approaches I need to embrace over the next 60 days, up to and through the October 2nd Gracie Barra Seattle tournament to the final Revolution event of the year a little over a month afterwards. They include aggressively finding partners to drill technique with after class - even if that means not getting in much if any full-on sparring on a given night. At the end of the day, 50 armbars from the guard and 50 "bullet time to slingshot" sweeps after every class will do me far more good than just about anything else I can do on the mat. At least right now.

159.8 on the scale post-train. Not bad, all things considered. Back on the mat Monday morning.

"You and Only You"

"1. There is a MAJOR problem with the normal grappling structure if you want to have GREAT success in grappling.

2. This structure isn't set up for you to succeed, it's set up to provide the masses with a method of training and the basic information that you must have in order to have any chance.

3. To receive the very best from your training you must know what you need to do for YOU and only YOU."

--Lloyd Irvin, "7 Lessons"

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Return of the Son of the Injury Update

I'd hoped that September would mark the beginning of my brown belt project - and in a few respects, it will. But the fact that my shoulder is still bugging me means that I won't be able to train at the kind of clip and pace I'd hoped for a few weeks ago.

On the one hand, this is my first significant injury in a little over two years, which is pretty damn good. Two years ago, same shoulder, I was out for about six weeks. This time around, I'm trying to train through the injury, which I don't think is as serious as the one last time. Back then, I got some X-rays from a smirking orthopedic doctor whose attitude seemed to be "you train jiu jitsu, that's what you get." No medicine (which was fine). No advice (other than "stay off it").

So I'm in no hurry to waste my time and money again. I've been taking the Cissus, but I know I shouldn't expect anything significant on that score for another three weeks. The trick is going to be in just being careful, training smart, and learning as quickly as possible what I can and can't do with the shoulder.

Taking the night off to heal up a bit. I may get back on the mat Thursday evening, but it is more likely that Friday's Live Training class will be my next time in a gi.

Roberto Abreu v. Rolles Gracie at Grapplers Quest