Friday, March 23, 2012

Training Day: Friday

Good training today. Managed to join the class early on, and trained armbars and armbar/omoplatas from the guard with Mark before we went off into Live Training. A good six-minute roll with Mark, another good 8-minute roll with Angus, and then a full-length, black belt-calibre, 10-min roll with Professor Carlos.

Right now, the goal when training is to develop a series of familiar movements, to create a map of the game in which every road leads home - whether "home" at the moment means submission or mere survival, pass, sweep or escape. An ideal moment that I want to better exploit came at the end of training with Professor Carlos. I've already been caught a couple of times with chokes from back control and, now more than 20 minutes into the sparring session, I'm beginning to feel significant fatigue.

Professor is urging me on, and I'm trying to keep up. But as difficult as the cardio battle is, what is making this exponentially more difficult is that there is no familiar path that I slip into. It's become clearer than ever that, indecision is as fatiguing as any unsuspecting increase in training intensity. Like that great line from Dan Inosanto, my first favorite "MMA" quote, that ends: "When you're tired, you're not even smart."

But, again, jiu-jitsu. The trick isn't to do the impossible, to become someone who never gets tired. The trick is to become someone who doesn't need to be "smart" to perform at the necessary technical level. That is to say that the solutions have to be in your body, in that place "beyond knowledge" as Rickson Gracie famously put it.

Time on the mat is necessary but not sufficient to achieve this, I think. It requires a real focus, day in and day out, an every day interrogation: Am I breathing? Am I using strength? Am I getting my partner/opponent to give me what I want or am I trying to just "take it" from them? Am I using space to my advantage?

Helping a couple of teammates on the lesson of the day was a huge reminder of helpful it is to work and re-work the basics. Every time I explain something to someone, I feel like I am teaching myself, a real reward of the process. Even if at the end of the day I feel more comfortable as a "tutor" than a "teacher", there's no doubt how fulfilling it can be to help solve problems.

A surprise wrinkle in the schedule will allow me to make it to training tomorrow for another 4x week. I feel like the universe is giving me a lot of time to train, almost a suspiciously generous amount of time to train historically speaking. There's no sense in not taking cosmic advantage of every bit of it.

160 and change on the scale post-train. To the extent that the featherweight limit is 154 in the gi, it wasn't a horrible number. But here's hoping Saturday's post-train weigh-in is a couple of pounds lower.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

About That Conditioning

Doing a lot of cardio power matwork ahead of Live Training during the daylight sessions: 3-count seoinages and baianas, hipscape laps with bridges, four-squares, and technical lifts; stand-from-guards and spin moves to the back ... I'm surprised at how sore I've been all day, especially in my legs, which is a testament to what I've been able to cobble together by way of a 30-45 minute cardio power conditioning workout that is 100% jiu-jitsu oriented.

I'm paying for the fruits of my labors today and tonight. But I'm sure I'll be better for the wear in a few weeks. After six years, it's been great to ache the way I used to once again.

Learn to Play

"People always talk about, "He can run. He can jump." So can a deer. But you wouldn't put a deer in the game. Just learn how to play basketball."
--Charles Barkley

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The End of Violence

Thinking about the bounty hunting scandal in the NFL and the announcement of major penalties against New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and defense coordinator Gregg Williams ... how would you feel if you learned that a MMA fighter was paid a bonus for injuring his/her opponent? A little extra for a broken jaw, or for managing to break an opponent's arm before he/she had the opportunity to tap ...

It seems to me that there is a big difference between appreciating the necessary violence of certain sports like football and MMA on one hand, and fetishising violence for violence's sake, on the other.

Training Day: Wednesday

One of the laments you hear from college professors is that every year the students get younger. That's absurd, of course. What is actually happening is that the professor is getting older while the students stay the same. However, the subjective sense of that experience is different. You don't necessarily feel older. But these kids ... they just seem younger this year than last ...

This is what I meant a few days ago about "swimming to keep from drowning." And it's really been a theme of training for me over the past several weeks: the feeling of training with guys who a year ago were like Labrador retrievers splashing giddily in backwoods creeks, who now have become, if not certified pit bulls, then at least Rottweilers with grit to spare. Every day I train with someone, a blue belt with a couple of stripes or maybe a brand new purple belt and I think, "Wow, either this guy has gotten a lot better since the last time we trained, or I'm getting worse."

The truth of the matter, as always, is probably somewhere in between (and hopefully more angled toward the former than the latter). At the end of the day, it just means going back to the drawing board of what's working and what's almost working, and continue to tweak out what passes for athleticism or cleverness or whatever until nothing but jiu-jitsu remains.

159.7 on the scale, post-train.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Healing of the Nations

Took Tuesday off from both conditioning and a planned training session. Doing double duty on the modified tempo training has caught up with me, and my chest and shoulders feel completely smashed. Focusing on technical improvements, post-training HICT (did two, five-minute sessions - hipscapes and technical lifts - after training on Monday), and some LSD conditioning over the balance of the month to get mi corazon in the right shape for more aggressive training in April.

Right now, nothing is more important than laying the foundation of my half guard - or relaying the foundation, depending on how you look at it. Reguarding to closed guard. Sticky paw. 4-dimensional attacking. Patience. Deception. Agility.

Back at it Wednesday.

Monday, March 19, 2012

About That Revolution

It looks like Gracie Barra Washington won the overall adult competition, gi and no gi. And we came in second, an extremely close second, for adult gi, losing out to Saulo Ribiero/Lovato Jr NW by two gold medals (we tied them overall on points.)

Major performances from Professor Carlos and Angela, both of whom won gold on Saturday. Parabens!

Training Day: Monday

Training week is off to a relatively quiet start. Many of the regulars for the daylight session were not in attendance today, and I really didn't get much of a chance to work with the move of the day (headlock escape on the ground using the legs). I did get in a good roll with Nick, working on maintaining the sticky paw and fleshing out my all-new QUAD half-guard game. With no real partners to drill with after class, I did two, 5-minute rounds of HICT (hipscapes and technical lifts), which I want to bring back to my regular training, and some ghost half guard drills, focusing on the two main reguarding techniques, left and right.

You can't always get what you want, sang the Stones. You can't always get it at all, sang The Who. Here's to a little self-reliance when it comes to making the necessary gains for technical improvement. No date has been set for the July revolution. But my target for returning to the mat as a competitor, and taking this new black belt out for a spin, is summer.

163.2 on the scale, post-train. Mondays, mondays.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Training Day: Friday

A "just what I needed" session on Friday. Worked a review of the guard passes of the week (the arm pin 2 standing cross grip 2 stack and the toreano) with Brian. Many little details worth remembering, especially keeping the forearm to the outside of the knees when doing the shoulder toreano so that you can use that arm to trap the head.

Some good feeling out of Live Training and even better feeling working with Mark on some technique afterwards. Hook sweeps out of a tight butterfly guard are working. Drilling half guard guard replacement is working. Movement is working.

157.7 on the scale post-train. Not a bad way to end the week.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Training Day: Thursday

"Swimming is not a sport. Swimming is a way to keep from drowning."
--George Carlin

These days, training jiu-jitsu is less a way of getting better and more a way of avoiding getting worse.

When I compare the hours spent on the mat, before class, during class, after class, watching instructional videos, watching competition videos, taking notes, creating drills, breaking moves down into the most elementary particles possible ... when I compare that with on my actual on mat performance, I weep like a pre-Socratic philosopher. It is hard to describe the sense of slipping, almost like accelerating on ice, and the panic of not knowing whether to apply more force, more energy to the system or to back off entirely for fear of spinning out of control and winding up in some ravine somewhere.
I've pretty much made my peace with the fact that I'm not getting any younger, faster, stronger or that much smarter, for that matter. But the feeling that my technique has not improved significantly in months is like a waking nightmare - and yes, the fact that the months in question are the few months with a black belt in my gear bag only makes it that much more bitter to taste and difficult to digest.

Some good techniques in Prof Rodrigo's class. And were I a better man, I'd probably spend a little time talking about them.

161.7 on the scale, post-train.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Found myself running another Live Training by the end of class today. I trained with both Chaim and a good-sized white belt named Colin or Connor, I think. Pretty good movement with Chaim - maybe we'll end up helping each other to some degree - and it's always interesting to train with really big guys who are just learning a little jiu-jitsu. As is often the case, I'm training with bigger guys rather than smaller but, at this point, I'll admit that it's getting harder and harder to care.

Professor Carlos had us working on one of the classic guard breaks, the one where you trap the arm on top of the guy's stomach with a double collar control, grip the sleeve, stand up, switch the sleeve grip and then reach back and scoop through the ankles to open the guard. From here, dropping back with elbows tight into the double-unders/scoop/stack pass, sprawling on the stack and then using the shoulder shrug as you come around the side to finish the pass. Very good basics to work on. It's complicated but true: you always learn a valuable detail whenever you train technique. Sometimes the trick is to block out what isn't as critical in order to focus on and remember the one or two key details: blocking the hip, keeping the elbows in tight ... that will help you in not just this position, but in a number of other positions, as well.

No weigh-in. I got a little distracted and forgot to hop on the scale. I'm a little afraid that this means a fairly fat weigh-in come week's end, whether I train Thursday night or not.

Back to Basics (Again)

At the black belt level, the learning process starts over again. If a new black belt is honest with him or herself, they realize they know very little about their chosen art.

--Roy Harris, Progression in Jiu-Jitsu

Modified Tempo Training

Week Two, Session One of Three

Pushup / Glute March / Pushup

21 reps
60 sec rest
25 reps
60 sec rest
21 reps
60 sec rest
21 reps

5 minute rest between exercises

Monday, March 12, 2012

Training Day: Monday

A good start to the training week. Today was all conditioning and training. I spent a few minutes warming up with forward and backward sprints, then some seoinage drills before doing five, one-minute cardio power workouts (spin move, four corners drill, back 2 belly 2 knees, technical lifts and another round of the spin move). Heart rates were pretty typical (39-41 beats per quarter minute immediate, 28-31 beats per quarter minute after 60 seconds rest. But it's really proving to be a good way to get energized before going directly into Live Training.

Two rolls today. I probably should have had a third. But I was so in "Control My Destiny" mode that I felt like I needed to turn down the offer for another roll. Again, I probably should have taken it - I would have gotten to train with Freddy and Freddy is on my "A list" (along with Brian and Mark, who I did get to train with) in terms of teammates I'll train with under any circumstances. For better or worse, I've started loosely characterizing potential training partners so that I can keep focus on what I'm trying to achieve when training with them.

That's not to say that I won't train with this person or that. But it is to say that I have to be as efficient as possible when it comes to training. After all, I paid for this Gracie Barra gi. And if you are someone who by habit or purpose is going to do little to help me improve my jiu-jitsu game, then our training time together will be infrequent and short.

162.4 on the scale post-train - not a big surprise given that this weekend was the first grilling weekend of 2012 and the hops did flow (we always grill on New Year's Day - rain, shine, sleet or cold - so that one doesn't really count). That said, if I can get the number below 160 by end of training tomorrow night, all will be well (or, at least, well enough).

Friday, March 09, 2012

Training Days: Thursday, Friday

Professor Rodrigo Thursday for the evening class and Brock leading the class with Brian on Friday for the daylight session. The instructional in both instances was pulling guard from standing and then transitioning through de la Riva guard to sitting guard and the tipover sweep. There's nothing I like better when it comes to the instructional part of classes than just working the same technique over and over and over again. You can literally feel the technique being carved into your muscle memory; you lose your train of thought or get distracted for an instant after doing the same drill for five, ten, twenty minutes and all of a sudden realize that your body is on auto-pilot, behaving just as you have been programming it only minutes before.

One of my wife's favorite psychologists, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it "flow." I'm convinced that it's a critical part of learning that lasts.

Live Training was typically a mixed bag. I need to spend a lot less time sparring and a lot more time in specific training. I don't mind some light sparring with smaller or less experienced folks to improve my range of motion. But as far as goal-oriented activity is concerned, the guard/pass guard specific I did with Peter Thursday night was as good a session as I've had all week.

What's working? Twist Back is working. Sticky Paw is working. Breathing is working

I want to increase my guard vocabulary along the lines I've been thinking about: refining my shin guard game and adding finishes, developing Rap Star guard ... But there are some critical issues with reguarding out of half guard that I've got to deal with immediately.

I'm also realizing that I haven't worked out of deep half or X-guard all week. What's not good about this is that I'm trying to make sure that the half-guard becomes more a movement, a way of climbing around my opponent, than a "position" per se. And that means moving from half to deep half to X and back again until the opening (the sweep or backtake) appears.

Friday's training ended on a very weird note. Maybe it's the full moon, or the solar flares, or the fact that today's date is "3/9/12." I was 158.5 on the scale post-train, which is the other key number of the day.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Training Days: Monday, Wednesday

A couple of good daylight training sessions in the first half of the week. Professor Carlos has us working on a kneeling guard break with a specific calf block on the pinned leg (pivoting on the inside knee and swinging the lower leg over the knee above the thigh) on Monday. Wednesday, I arrived too late for the class, but was able to catch up with Professor Rodrigo who had been pretty sick last week.

I also managed to get in some Live Training on Wednesday, three eight-minute rounds with JM, Angela and Will. It was pretty much exactly what I needed to get back into things: plenty of movement, diverse body types and jiu-jitsu styles. Professor Carlos told me that we'd be training together on Friday, and I suspect that he has something special (i.e., leglocks) in store.

Maybe I'll have a little tienda of my own. I've made a re-commitment to the half-guard over the past couple of days, going back to basics of the position: the reguarding, the off-balancing, the transitions. Professor Rodrigo, like a lot of Brazilians and old school guys I suspect, refers to a lot of the different "variations" of guard like X-guard and sitting guard, as just "half guard", and I think there's a lot to thinking this way that will help me really take maximum advantage of the position that has defined my jiu-jitsu guard game ever since I had one.

What's working? Kesting's Banana Peel reverse, which is new and gives me something specific to do when in a deep skirt counter to the knee cross, is working. The Blood Zeke and Feitosa Stack Pass are working. Book 'Em 2 Flat Pass is working. Spin Move is working. Push-ups are working.

Looking to add the Double Sticky Paw (DSP) backtake from half. The "Sievert Slide" backtake after crossing the arm in closed guard (this one just picked up this afternoon, thanks Prof and Chaim!). Maybe the single-leg takedown off the shin guard.

A very not nice 162.1 on the scale post-train. A sub 160 Friday daylight weigh-in and I'll call it even.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Lost Week Ends

Made it to training Monday afternoon. But from Tuesday on it was all fever and fatigue. Not as bad as some others got it this time around, including it seems Prof Rodrigo, but enough to put me well off my Daily Planet game, to say nothing of nixing plans to compete at the intraschool today on Saturday.

Not much to muse on as far as the downtime is concerned. It's interesting that it comes right after two of my most aggressive training weeks in years, having gotten my weekly training average above 4.0 for two weeks in a row. And I'd been seeing warning signs in the scattered colds and flus among some of the BJJ training brethren throughout the area. But the important thing is that the worst is pretty much behind me and, assuming I'm careful and cautious enough to avoid a relapse of some sort, I should be back to rebuilding my training pace on Monday.