Monday, April 30, 2012

New PR for Q3

Although it feels very much like I'm limping out of April (Doomsday is no joke), the healing power of the data reveals that this past third quarter (FebMarApr) of training year 2012 set a new PR of 46 training sessions over the three month period.  My previous record for FebMarApr was 37 sessions, so we're looking at a major move here.

I just missed having my best quarter ever by three training sessions, which I blame 100% on my inability to train through the transition out of The Daily Planet.  I'll be out of town for a week next month, but I'm looking to top that 49x best quarter ever over the next three months, starting with a PR-testing performance in May.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Training Day: Friday

One of the more helpful reminders about today's training was the importance of technical conditioning.  I've spent a lot of time lately working on my base conditioning, adding a little more standup work (i.e., forward and backward sprints) to better conditioning my heart for short-term maximal effort.    The idea has been to bring on the heat fast and early, and then settle into a high-grade, more aerobic pace for the majority of the conditioning session (i.e., alternating cardio power with HICT).

"Free for all" guard passing and sweeping is technical conditioning, the intermediate step between the jiu-jitsu conditioning I've been doing before Live Training and the technical drilling I've been doing often instead of that third and final sparring round.

We've been doing this "free for all" passing and sweeping for the past few months from time to time, and I think that as more of us become used to the freedom to do whatever we want during these drills, we won't just start to appreciate them.  We'll start to long for them.  I know that it's quickly become one of my favorite drills, and I always find myself scrambling to think of the pass or sweep that I've been wanting to work on whenever the Profs put this drill on the agenda (I'm talking about you, Double F pass ...)

Prof Carlos did a nice variation of this kind of drilling by combining "Free for all" with specific A/B guard pass or sweep options.  One of the things that is very effective about this approach, IMO, is that it reinforces the "game" or "play" nature of training, the controlled experiment environment that is most conducive to the kind of testing and retesting that makes technical improvement that much more swift in development.

One of the tropes of The Talent Code was the notion of Brazilian soccer players excelling due to a "play" environment that encouraged innovation, and East European musicians achieving perfection as a result of very limited,very focused, very deliberate and rules-based training.  More and more, I feel as if Profs Rodrigo and Carlos are combining both approaches, helping us build more movement, more muscle memory, more focus.  In many ways, I feel as if I'm training better than I have all year.

158.3 on the scale, post-train in the gi.  Watermelon juice uber alles.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Nice midweek training today.  I had planned on taking the fundamentals class, but a set of mishaps seemed determined to have me doing my regular conditioning + Live Training routine, instead.  Fortunately, Prof Carlos waved me over before I stepped onto my Own Private Training Mat, and I knew it was okay to join the rest of the gang for an hour of great fundamentals.

Toreano passing versus spider guard and the double unders pass were the highlights of today's training.  I love the way the Professors have upped the intensity and the focus.  It's too bad that I'll be out of town this weekend, because I'm curious to see how some of this renewed intensity and focus might be on display at the Inter-School event on Saturday.

A good Live Training session with the ever-tough Brian, and a very extended roll with Angela (+15 minutes!) where I got to really focus on my Double F pass (Feitosa/Faria).  It's been the greatest, potential breakthrough in my guard-passing since I began deploying the Flat Pass years ago.  Very, very happy about what's going on with that.

Also very happy with my slim and trim-ness.  156.9 on the scale, post-train in sweat-soaked gi.  This pretty much means that I'm in "takedown distance" of the pena limit of 154 in the gi without even doing any major weight-cutting, just a little gradual calorie restriction which is easier as the weather warms.  Truthfully, I really don't need to weigh-in any less than this 156-157 area.  But the temptation to see that 153.7 on the scale after one of these training sessions is a pretty powerful one.

Winning and Losing

Monday, April 23, 2012

Training Day: Monday

In a perfect world, I'd be able to spend 45 minutes doing my conditioning routine BEFORE the Fundamentals class on Mondays and Wednesday, then do the Fundamentals class AND Live Training afterwards.  And truth told, at least in the short term, I may be about to experience at least a fortnight of such perfection.

But we'll see.  The key to this latest turn in my conditioning has been to focus on shorter-interval work, with some short-term HICT work early on after the most intense part of the workout (sprints in the first third or so).  While I want to continue to pay attention to the cardio base that comes from LSD work, I also want to make sure that I stay heart and lung conditioned for the kind of high intensity that continues to come my way on the mat.

As Stephan Kesting pointed out years ago, part of this conditioning is just about helping keep you calm and collected under stress (something I think I was losing track of late in 2011 for a while when I was poorly defending back attacks).  I'm paying a lot of attention to breathing during the conditioning sessions, and hoping to be able to better translate that to class and Live Training.  There's a notion going around that one of the things that Rickson Gracie focuses on most when he trains is his breathing.  I can definitely notice a difference when I do so during conditioning.  It's worth working on.

159.2 on the scale, post-train, a great Monday number in the gi.  In addition to conditioning and a pair of 8-minute sparring sessions during Live Training, I got in some very nice drilling with Mark.  We focused on the omoplata from the Rap Star (arm wrap) position, and how the foot on the hip is key to both getting space and breaking posture to set up the omoplata.

Many, many reps.  And an ideal version of what I want to spend more time doing after training.  At this point, maybe just two "spars" is plenty if I'm going to get to spend the next 8-10 minutes instead drilling a specific position that I'm trying to add to my game.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Speed of Lightning, Roar of Thunder

It's difficult competing against superior opposition, staying focused and fighting your fight. We always love hearing about the victories of underdogs. But the fact of the matter is that most underdogs lose.

As a jiu-jitsu underdog every time I've stepped on the mat, I found something about this interview with Rashad Evans reflecting on his loss to former friend and teammate, Jon Jones, that touched me.
“I wanted to put more pressure on him, but didn’t I want to rush [into] those long knees,” said Evans. “I tried to attack when he least expected, but I didn’t throw enough combinations. That was the story of the night for me, not getting off first. I didn’t follow up. I have no one to blame but myself.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Training Day: Saturday

Good work today after a slow start this week. Profs Rodrigo and Carlos led the class, and I got to work with Prof Abel for the Fundamentals portion. We started off with takedowns, working on another one of the top secret, Gracie Barra Washington takedowns (the reverse ankle pick, desperately in need of a new nickname!), which I hadn't ever really trained much before. But one of the real gems of Saturday's training was the guard pass: a nice, tight, wedging type of pass the opens up the legs, then keeps them open with your own leg positioning, before doing a "windshield wiper" maneuver to get your legs from in between where they are wedging the guard open, to over and on top of the opponent's leg, pinning them into place as you pass.

Some very good work in Live Training, including a pair of tough rolls with purple belts Gordon and Nadir. I'm still trying to get over the intimidation factor of thinking that my game is not good enough even now to keep up with the younger purple and brown belts. And in many ways, Saturday's training helped. I've been focused on limiting my options when training so that I don't waste a lot of time (and often waste even more effort) sitting there "wondering" what to do. I've been happy to see that even when training with top guys like Gordon, Nadir, even Prof Casey last Wednesday, by focusing on the key moves I'm trying to make and not settling for anything but those opportunities, I'm doing better, staying out of bad positions for longer periods of time, and not getting as fatigued as I had been in recent months.

My conditioning may be helping on that score. I've been just doing the Live Trainings on weekdays and spending most of the class time doing my conditioning work. Most of this is not by design; the way things had been going at The Daily Planet, it was difficult to leave as precisely as I would have preferred. That, for better and worse, is likely to change in the near term. But the consequence has been being able to do my conditioning work at the Academy rather than in the home gym (as the expense, admittedly, of some instruction.)

Each time I take a regular class, I get a glimpse of what I'm missing with this approach. But, for now, I like the results I'm seeing: gaining a bit more confidence and "stillness" in my jiu-jitsu, a little more stamina and ability to "push through" when I'm feeling fatigued and ready to stop, and losing a little bit of weight, as well. So far so good.

157.5 on the scale-post train. Pena. Pena. Pena. Prof Abel asked me if I was going to do the Pan next year. And given recent events, I think I'm closer to a "yes" answer than ever before.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Training Day: Friday

Was actually too sore to train Thursday night, the conditioning I did before Wednesday's training coming back with a vengeance later that night. There's probably an argument here for training a little less frequently, but for longer durations, something I sent in Jei's general direction as a meme that might be explored in a Roll.Adapt.Win poll. After all, it's all about adaptation, figuring out what combination of regularity, intensity, and duration will give you the results and the progress you want. I'm finding that training 3-4 days a week, right now at least, is leaving me with both enough recovery time and enough hunger to return to the mat, to keep me feeling that I'm training at a good pace that is conducive to improvement in the short-term and the long-term.

Today was mostly a combination of conditioning work and Live Training. I'd hoped to make the regular class; Friday is often a good opportunity for the weekly review. But any time on the mat is better than time off the mat, so it was good to get what I could get. During Live Training I got to spend some time with Brian, including some focus time on lower body attacks, specifically straight ankle locks and kneebars. Of the two, I think I was most impressed by the potential behind the kneebar attack we drilled; a modified backstep pass type entry.

159.2 on the scale, post-train. Subtracting 5.5 pounds for a wet gi puts me exactly where I want to be. And to say that I'm looking forward to training tomorrow would be the understatement of the century.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Extremely nice to be on the mat today. It's no surprise how great it's been to be able to have a place, and a people, that you can rely on every day regardless of the madness of the material world.

Just conditioning and Live Training today. Laps, long and short sprints, long and short side shuffles, seoinages, double legs, hipscape laps with alternating alt upas ... I had a pretty good sweat going before I got on the mat to Live Train with a trio of beasts: Pat, Prof Casey and Prof Shawn. 10 minutes each. Yikes.

Not a lot of risk-taking on my part, which is not good. Then again, when you're training with guys like those mentioned above, I think a little sympathy for the poor 44-year old devil in that regard is understandable. Breathe. Move. Anticipate.

158.2 on the scale, post-train. I've been rocking the Warrior Diet - Slight Return ever since I got the news that Doomsday was coming to town. In part this has been a function of tweaked-out nerves and the accompanying loss of appetite. And another part is just a matter of making the best of an unwelcome situation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Meanwhile, Back at the Daily Planet ...

See you Wednesday.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Training Day: Friday

"I always wonder why
My mama left town
New Haven ain't a bag of salt ..."
-- "Too Tough to Die"

Watching Vancouver struggle to even the score against the L.A. Kings on one of the more eventful Fridays in the last five years ... The 13th, indeed ...

I'm very grateful for the training today: starting off with some cardio power spin moves drills (3 1-min sets with typical 38/28 HR splits) near the end of a pre-Live Training conditioning of 100 takedowns, 100 hipscapes, forward and backward mat sprints, etc.

Live Training was a good roll with Prof Casey, mostly me working standing passes from the top, and a pair of back to back rolls with Angus, who's developed a couple of new submissions that were worth watching out for. I'm still having a difficult time getting comfortable in Rap Star, and am not really finding the angles to be really effective with the combination threat. This may have to do with the "guard-fitting" notion I've been thinking about: the idea that, for me, my half guard is most effective against larger opponents, while my Rap Star "entangling" guards are better reserved for smaller opponents with superior flexibility and movement.

I'm going to keep working on it. But basis today what I really need to work on is converting good-to-great half guard positions to good-to-great deep half positions, especially the Bernardo Series I've been studying. From the top, I'm still not backstepping, at all, and need to get over my risk-aversion (or just find a few smaller training partners to help me build a reasonable confidence level).

A good day on the mat. A necessary day on the mat. Warrior diet is working. Armbars (WTF?!) are working. Breathing is working. 161.4 on the scale post-train, guessed in advance to the tenth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Nice tight training session today with Prof Carlos. As per the new intensity and focus, we worked on just two moves, which work well in combination: the foot grab sweep against a standing opponent, and the conversion to the armbar when the guy defends by grabbing your lapels. I got to work with both Mark and Sensei Kyle.

Okay work in Live Training, though I'm starting to slip back into old habits and not focusing enough on getting the game where I want it. That, more than anything, is among the toughest battles: focusing in every single day on what you want to work on, and making sure that for at least a little while, you get to move through those transitions.

Had a nice, post-training conversation with Jei of Roll.Adapt.Win and author of one of a handful of great jiu-jitsu blogs you need to be reading more often than this one, Journey Jiu-Jitsu. He turned me on to an up n' coming purple belt whose got some interesting concepts on guard passing, in particular, that are in many ways similar to some of the concepts Prof Marcio Feitosa presented in his instructional with Budo Jake of Budo Videos. More than that, though, it was nice to talk major concepts AND practical applications. I'm already conspiring to add another training session this week just to get more practice in ...

160.7 on the scale, post-train. Again, I'd love to be clocking regularly sub-160. But knowing that top YOUNG guys like Rafa Mendes are probably walking around and training between 162 and 160 has me a little less fanatical about getting below 160.

Back at it Thursday night. I'm going to show up to watch the competition class at 5:30, though I've got major concerns about my being able to make it through what is guaranteed to be a brutal first 30 minutes. I think I'm doing okay in getting my training average up above 4x a week. But to the degree that there is still a tiny, competitive flame still burning ...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Faria Fandom

Here's "classic" Bernardo Faria. The deep half sweep setup has the added gi control and hiding of the outside wrist to avoid the kimura. Also Faria's deep half uses control at the top of the hip, rather than dominating the leg exclusively. What I think this does for him is give him an early entry into his "go-to" guard pass, the over-under (and thanks to Professor Carlos for showing me and reminding me that detail on the "over"!).

He doesn't maintain any control over the trapped leg as he bridges over, something that was my obsession about the half guard in general a few weeks ago. I'll have to get a feel for how much control over the leg I get with that gi grip. Bernardo seems to have no problem getting the reverse; there's never a threat of the guy being able to block it with a backstep, for example. And that's got to be because of Faria's grip on the lapel.

As to the pass, I'm thinking both this pass and the Feitosa Stack pass from Rolled Up over at Budo Videos, would be among the good options to get to the side.

Training Days: Friday, Saturday, Monday

One of the downsides of writing for a living and training jiu-jitsu as frequently as I have been over the past month is that it's that much harder to get the energy to post at the end of the day. I'm working on rectifying that. I'm thinking about jiu-jitsu constantly, thinking about ways to express what I'm learning in this "second life" as a faixa preta ...

What's interesting is that I'm spending a lot of time going back over my old notes from when I was a blue belt and purple belt, back when I was trying to cobble together a jiu-jitsu game that suited my more deliberate/less dynamic style. Somewhere along the way, if you're not careful, your jiu-jitsu can become little more than a reaction to what happened yesterday. In this trap, everything becomes tactical, progress ever more incremental, and instead of integrating parts into a whole, you find yourself one day on the mat with a jiu-jitsu that seems almost chaotic, a riot of misses and single-movements, the world as seen through the lens of a tumbling camera.

One of the tricks I used to think about was what would a book or DVD of my jiu-jitsu "game" look like? What would be the main sections? The chapter headings? The bonus material at the back? I think this is another way of integrating the disparate guards, sweeps, passes, escapes, transitions, and finishes that you know and use, but rarely with the fluidity, precision, and confidence that you demand.

This is where the "training beyond the training" comes in, what Lloyd Irvin means when he compares the work done before and after the scheduled training period to doing homework outside of a class in physics or history. I've been trying to designate a few moves every day that I'll always look to work on with a willing partner: always basic items and details, the connective tissue, again, to help turn the parts into a whole.

Weight has been pretty good over the past few days: 158 and a half on Friday, 160 and a half on Monday. Looking to get in another four-day training week after taking Tuesday off.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Where Art Thou, Faria Fanboys and Fangals?

From Caleb, of Fightworks Podcast fame, doing Pan 2012 coverage this April.
Here's a question for you, Shawn (Williams). A thought question.

We know that the Mendes brothers have come up with a series of techniques that have made them very successful over the past few years - or, at least, employed. I won't say "invented" but at least make use of.

Bernardo Faria has a very unique sequence that he tends to do regularly that you might expect guys to start emulating, as well. Why aren't more people, at least vocally, professing to be a follower of Faria the way we hear people jump on the Mendes brothers?
I"m sitting here watching the rebroadcast of the Pan and paying muito attention to Bernardo Faria's signature guard pass - one that Prof Rodrigo has taught us a hundred times here at GB Seattle. I think I am about to start "emulating."

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Training Day: Thursday

Some good, hard work tonight. I went in early, shooting for the time when the new competition classes will start, and climbed into the ring to get in my conditioning for the day (another 3 sets of 20 rep threshold training). Unfortunately, it ended up killing my ability to do Live Training after class. But with both Friday and Saturday on my training schedule this week, I'm sure I'll get plenty of sparring in this week.

I'll admit that it bugged me not to spar. I don't think I've sat out a Live Training in years. But we really drilled hard in class: takedowns (fireman's carry) and escapes (side control and mount escapes). And while I was able to keep up with the pace an always-game Jason, there was nothing left in the tank when it came time to spar.

This is likely one of those "know your limitations" moments. But while I think there's a lot of benefit in drilling through fatigued, my experience has been that dead-tired rolling and sparring only leads to despair and bad habits. So tonight I sit it out, and let the coals go from black to red and gray.

A lot of good things coming down the way at GB Seattle in terms of training. Prof Rodrigo hinted at a lot of it tonight, and I'm looking forward to seeing what develops over the next several weeks and months. A very exciting time to be with Team Red.

158.4 on the scale post-train.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Great to get on the mat today. Prof Rodrigo has us working on a pair of transitions: pulling guard from standing and cross choke from guard, and pulling guard from standing and the crossover or kimura sweep.

There were a number of issues that he was looking to address: increasingly our technical aggressiveness by chaining attacks (guard pull + submission, guard pull + sweep), picking up the training pace to provide additional cardio conditioning, and encouraging us to focus on details to create the proper "muscle memory" that will allow us to execute techniques effectively regardless of whether we are tired, confused, competing against a larger opponent or a more skilled opponent, or whatever.

As you might imagine, I couldn't be more thrilled with these developments - and some of the things Prof had to say about the new competition classes on Monday and Thursday evenings. A lot of repetition, a lot of focus, a lot of standup and movement ... it's going to be a great spring of jiu-jitsu, IMO.

Got to train with a couple of the regular folks: Mark, Brian, Coach Angela - for a couple of extended sessions. I don't know if that's what Prof had planned, but it was nice to work into that plus-10 minute range where you really have to dig deep to keep your technique on par. A very nice workout, and one in which I felt I was able to really focus on some of my technical priorities like the Rap Star guard, for example - which is my number one closed guard priority over the next few months.

Looking forward to getting back after it tomorrow.

159.8 on the scale, post-train. Not a bad, not a great number for midweek.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tuesday Conditioning: Threshold Training

Trying to intensify things a bit in advance of the Gracie Barra Washington Invitational Friendly at the end of the month, I'm switching to threshold training for Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Threshold Training - Matwork
3 sets of 20 reps
starting HR: 15
#1 35/20
#2 40/25
#3 40/29

Notes: Each set lasted about six and a half minutes. Three minute rest in between sets. I also only did 10 alternating backrolls, despite the 20 rep count, and made up the difference with a set of 10 pushups.

A Pan 2012 Recap from Bloody Elbow

The 2012 Pan Ams took place this last weekend and with over 3,200 competitors it goes down as the largest single BJJ event in history. The mats were full to bursting almost every moment of the four day event and there is almost too much to talk about.

Read the rest here.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Caio: Rafa = P4P Best

Caio Terra: “Rafael Mendes is Jiu-Jitsu’s number one pound for pound”
“To me Rafael Mendes would also win the absolute at the Pan, if he’d competed in it. I’d put money on him,” he told friends shortly after Rafa Mendes grabbed Rubens Cobrinha’s arm and coaxed a tapout in the featherweight final.

“I have no doubt in my mind that he’s the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world right now. I don’t think anyone doubts that anymore, especially with the superiority he showed at this Pan,” said Caio in conclusion.


It is hard to express the incredible sense of pride and fellowship you get when of watching your teammates, friends and colleagues compete at an event as huge as the Pan.

A thousand thanks for Budo Videos for making it possible with their great, multi-mat viewing technology. A thousand thanks to the IBJJF for evolving and growing the greatest jiu-jitsu tournament for our community. A thousand thanks to all the guys and gals I train with every day at Gracie Barra Washington, whose effort and enthusiasm is a never-ending source of hope and inspiration.

Training Day: Monday

162.7 on the scale post-train. It's a Monday.

Got on the mat after the first lesson: a reverse sweep with the crossed arm out of the knee block guard. But managed to drill the second, loop choke from the guard, with Mark. Mark's always been a good training partner, but today he was really instrumental in helping me figure out what wasn't working for me when I was working the choke (detail: sit up).

Some good work in Live Training today. I'm focusing more and more on closed guard whenever I can, trying to work Rap Star after some great back and forth with Professor Kevin on Saturday. I'm find myself in half guard more than I'd like, and am trying to convert into butterfly guard whenever it happens and work from there. So far, so good. I've also been turning my sparring sessions into "guard/pass guard specifics" on the sly. This is something else I really think will help me over the next few months.

Hoping to really turn up the intensity over the next month: training every day and trying to "reprogram" my jiu-jitsu circuitry along the lines of some of the moves and transitions I've been thinking about and dreaming about for years, but have never really put in the dedicated work to make real.

Professor Rodrigo talks a bit about how the black belt level is where you really begin to learn jiu-jitsu. I couldn't agree more. No wonder Master Helio liked to train in his blue belt.

GracieMag Coverage of Pan 2012

Pan 2012: the day Rafael Mendes was waiting for and other stories
Though it was the day known around the world as “Fools Day,” what happened this Sunday, the last day of the 2012 Pan, was very much serious business, however hard to believe it seemed.

Ever since 2009, when they first faced each other, every time Rafael Mendes and Rubens Cobrinha have stepped into the competition area together all eyes turn their way and they put on truly riveting displays.

The score between the two was already amply in favor of Mendes. Still there was something missing, and Rafael knew it.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

From Personal Bests to Pan Am Mania

As of this Saturday's training, where Prof. Rodrigo had us drilling both the lateral counter to re-grip against the spider guard and a move I'm calling the sprawl toreano, I'm 16 sessions for the month , 3.75x as my 4-week training average, and in pretty good position for my best quarter of training ever. I'll need to hit the mat 18 times in April in order to reach a new quarterly best (current personal best is 49x in three months), but I'm thinking it's doable with a little discipline. April has historically been a good training month for me, with two of my three best months in the past three years being April and May (both with 17x).

Already this has been my best third quarter. I'll only need to train six times in April to reach a new personal best for the "coming into spring" months of February, March, and April. No need to make excuses, but I've felt like it has been a real battle this year breaking out of hibernation mode and getting into the academy. There have been some illnesses, and the car breakdown last week. But when I step back and look at the numbers, they show pretty good attendance, all things considered.

That said, the current goal is to put a great deal more focus into my training. Saturday's session, both the instructional from Prof Rodrigo and some after-class work with Prof Kevin really helped put a few things into place. It didn't hurt to have the Pan Jiu-Jitsu tournament this weekend to keep the jiu-jitsu spirits in a giddy mood, and there was quite a lot I learned about watching everyone from blue belts to black belts give it their all on the tatame (sneak preview of lessons learned? Omoplatas are back. Bow and arrow chokes are the finish of champions. Never let the other guy get his grips.)

More on the goals later. A good, exciting and contemplative weekend of BJJ.