Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mudbone and BJJ Math

One of Richard Pryor's classic characters, Mudbone, had a line that went something like: "Somebody ask me, well, Mudbone when's the last time you got some?  I told 'em, 'Yesterday.'  Cause that's as far back as I want to have to remember it."

I feel the same way about training jiu-jitsu.  Maybe my answer to "when's the last time you trained?" will never consistently be "yesterday."  But if there are 365 days in a year, then training at least 15 times a month, at least 180 times a year, means you're on the mat virtually every other day.  And over the course of a year, year after year, that's a pretty mean pace.

Training Year 2012: The Numbers

Here are some of the numbers for the training year just ended.

Trained a total of 161 times.  This includes classes, Live Training only, open mats, tournaments, seminars ... anytime I put on the gi, trained with more than one partner, and broke a sweat.

Had my best July in years this time around, training 19 times for the month.  The previous July high was 18 times.

At 161 sessions a year, I'm training about 13.4 times a month, and averaging about 3.35 times a week.  For Training Year 2013, I'd like to get the monthly number up to 15.

I had my best quarter of all time this training year: the February, March, April stretch when I trained 49 times for an average of 3.83 a week.

I trained 12 times or more a month nine times, and 15 times or more a month six times.  Another goal for the coming training year is to train 12 times or more a month every month, and 15 times or more a month at least nine times.

I'll spend more time on the substance behind the numbers later this week.  For now, I want to recognize the moment, for the positive, and acknowledge that uneven training (single digit training months in December and May) make these high attendance marks harder to reach.  161 falls just one short of my biggest training year ever (TY 2010).  More consistent training next year should make it that much easier to take that TY 2010 number out.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Training Day: Monday

Back on the mat to start the week.  Continued to work on the collar drag takedown, and the collar drag takedown to knee on belly.  Professor Carlos also had us drilling the armbar from the mount, focusing on a couple of key details about how to isolate the shoulder, surround the upperbody with your legs, and grab the opponent's near leg as you drop back into the armlock to prevent his escape.  Good details, and something to work on as I try to bring my armbar up to speed.

Felt a little raggedly in today's training, though it's usually worse during drills than sparring where I can control the pace a bit.  May be a little hangover from last week's 6-session pace.  We'll see this week as I ease back on the throttle a little bit, taking Saturday's training off.

159.9 on the scale post-train.  Very, very good for a Monday.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Training Days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday morning, Friday afternoon, and Saturday

Another six-day training week.  No surprise to finish up at 156 and change early Saturday afternoon.  There was a moment during the first class on Saturday when the idea of sticking around for the competition team class afterwards seemed crazy.  But stick around I did, getting in three good rounds of  work to finish off the week.

Very much a pace week.  I didn't work on any specific techniques from my own gameplan really, which isn't good given the amount of time spent on the mat.  But the high rate of activity was a nice change-up, taking advantage of the good weather and the "opportunity" of being newly self-employed for lack of a better word.     I need to make sure, as I slow the pace down a little bit this coming week, that I'm training some of the moves - especially from the guard - that I've been focusing on.  But overall it's hard to complain when you are punching the clock at this rate.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Training Day: Monday

A whole lot of the kind of training I really like: a little self-defense followed by about half an hour of nothing but scissor sweeps.

It may not be the most exciting training for some.  But as far as learning is concerned, there really isn't anything better than taking one key technique and working it over and over and over.  We aren't at the technological singularity yet, and can't quite assimilate knowledge like they do on the Nebuchadnezzar.  So the only alternative, as Daniel Coyle writes in his excellent book, The Talent Code, is the slow, often-painful process of forging muscle memory, building the neuro-circuitry that will allow you to access what Rickson Gracie famously called "the place beyond knowledge."

Some good training with new Gracie Barra Seattle purple belt Kyle, and blue belt Cordelia, a judo black belt if I overheard correctly, with very good movement on top (i.e., spinning armbar, kimura set-ups) that had me scrambling to recover guard.  And a great guard/pass guard specific training with Mark during the Open Mat (four two-minute rounds).  I might start spending every Open Mat with this kind of training.

I also got to work on some of my rear mount escape demons, specifically Saulo's detail about falling to the side rather than straight back, and trapping the fall-side leg BELOW the knee rather than above it.  Felt like a breakthrough.  We'll see what happens the next time I'm rolling with one of those casca-grossas from the last few weeks.

A very heavy 162 on the mat post-train.  At least it's Monday.  Should be a very heavy week of training as I try and set a new training year record of 163 sessions in a year (August - July).  To get there, I've got to train every day this week - twice on Friday - and then on Monday and Tuesday of next week.  It shouldn't have been this hard; a few more sessions this spring and I'd be waltzing across the finish line in front.  But, things being as they are, I'm just going to have to take the long road to the goal.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Coming to the Pyramid in Long Beach, October 7, 2012.  A little more info is available here.  Training Camp begins August 5.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The State of Small Man Jiu-Jitsu

Reality check from Dan Faggella of MicroBJJ
However, as we've seen, there's a big trend in this
direction for the small man BJJ competition game, 
and generally nobody wants top because you're 
over 4 times more likely to be swept than to pass.

(You can read that and pretend its not a big deal
if you want)
and what he calls "Dan's 'One Day This Will Be Famous' Quote":
Neither player wants to take top positions unless it
means he's going to end up on the back or in side
control, so neither player chooses to leave their hip,
and instead fight for very difficult transitions and
otherwise occupy themselves with random leg-lock
 There are a lot of ways of dealing with this if you are part of the under-160 (or, as I like to think of us, the "pound for pound" crowd).  At first I was reluctant to admit that this was the reality of small man jiu-jitsu.  As some one is under 160, but has a very big man jiu-jitsu game based on top control, mount rather than back, and a relatively static approach to transition and attack (more phalanx than Blitzkrieg), I had invested years in a style that had served me well enough.  It was heavy, and it was mine, brother.

But over the past year or so of training against bigger and better challenges, a lot of what brought me here isn't keeping me here.  And no where is this more apparent than in the guard, where length and size have made my customary options incomplete.
I'm not about to start playing the dueling squid game that has made so much under-160 jiu-jitsu almost unwatchable at the highest levels.  But I do need to adopt a more kinetic guard, if only to better deal with the challenges that are increasingly commonplace.  And the source of that kinetic energy has got to come from more dynamic leg work, the kind I'm seeing out of the de la Riva and Reverse de la Riva (both outside and inside grips) guards.  

These "half guards" which similarly focus on isolating one side of the passer are probably what I can benefit most from the contemporary small man jiu-jitsu game.   And even if the de la Riva complex is mostly used as a set-up for the berimbolo - a great transition I'm nonetheless ambivalent about learning - there are still aspects of the position that may help revitalize my work from the bottom.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Training Day: Friday

The Good:
Waking up to the sound of summer thunderstorms to make the 6:30 am Friday class.  Ending the day after training both the 6:30 am and the 11:45 am class with a gi weight of 156.5.  Learning how to finish option #2 of the Effing Pass (leg rope w/sleeve) in the noon session.

The Bad:
Ending Live Training Friday afternoon the same way I ended Live Training Wednesday afternoon.

The Ugly:
See "The Bad"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Missed a planned training session last night.  But it probably wasn't the worst idea in the world to take a day off between sessions.  Maybe last week's 6x training blitz caught up with me, but I was feeling a few aches and stiffness that I hadn't felt before.  But insofar as they were in all of the usual places, it seemed like a little time was all that was needed to get back on track.

Efficiency in the guard is about knowing what you want to do in the guard.  Nothing is more exhausting than being lost and struggling to find the right direction.  Skill, speed, and size aside, part of what is so challenging about training with Professor Carlos  in recent days has been my lack of a process, especially when it comes to playing guard against a standing passer.

My tendency has been to try and play a "leggy guard".  But there is nothing in my experience or body type that would recommend such a strategy against anyone, much less someone with the Anderson Silva/Jon Jones combination of length and agility.  Instead, as I have discovered with light featherweights I train with who have great ability (and speed rather than length), the goal has to be to (a) reduce the length advantage by concentrating my attack, and (b) reduce the agility advantage by making movement either difficult or a liability.

Easier said than done doesn't even begin to describe it.  I've started to train away from "small guy" jiu-jitsu in an effort to embrace my inner pessadissimo.  But when there is no way to escape the 10-minute moment in which you are very much the small guy, there is no alternative to adopting strategies that are specifically geared toward turning this bug into a feature.

The question, though, is this: do I take a more Marcelo Garcia approach to this dilemma (drags, X-guards and single legs), or a more Rafa Mendes approach (berimbolo, berimbolo, berimbolo)?  There is something tempting about the latter - and something worthwhile in finally learning that great berimbolo reverse.  And those who questioned Rafa as an absolute candidate have to be satisfied with his performance against Rodolfo Viera at the Abu Dhabi World Pro in 2011.

At the same time, there's no doubting what Marcelinho has been able to accomplish as an absolute competitor.  And I suspect that a significant fraction of that success is a much a matter of method as anything else.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Training Day: Monday

The fact that I've spent the past hour eyeballing Ryan Hall's Back Attacks DVD over on eBay at a nearly-too-sweet 30% discount tells you much, but not all, of my training on the first training day of the week.

To the good, Prof Carlos had us working on the standing guillotine off a double leg defense, the counter to the standing guillotine, and a variation of the running escape from side control.  The latter was especially good for me, having struggled from this position in recent days against larger and/or stronger opponents.  Ironically, I had spent Monday morning watching the volume of Saulo's classic DVD series that focuses on the crossbody position, specifically, chapter 13 which dealt with the running escape.

Live training gave me the opportunity to test out my side control escape on at least one occasion to positive effect.  But my rear mount defense has really deteriorated over the past year and repairing it has become as critical as developing a Unified Field Theory of Guard Passing was a year ago.  Hence, me, Ryan Hall, and the eyeballing over at eBay.

Some say bend at the waist to pin the leg, shuck the leg, wide step and hipscape in (Saulo).  Others insist on getting your back to the mat as the prime directive (Marcelo).  Still others advocate a theory of "relative hip height", insisting that the key is to avoid having the attacker's hips at the small of your back at all costs (Hall).

So obviously there are plenty of ways to escape the back mount.  What I need to figure out, as I did for the guard and have begun to do in earnest with the guard pass, is the way of movement to escape that best fits the way my body is most likely to move - especially under duress - and to move that way for a while until it sticks.

More rear mount escapes/counters from Robson Moura and Kurt Osiander.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Training Days: Friday and Saturday

As far as my triple-date training plan for Friday, suffice to say that two out of three ain't bad.

A late scheduled change precluded training Friday evening.  But I did make it to Coach Z's 6:30 am class and Professor Carlos's regular noon class.  Collar drags were the theme of Zee's class, a nice alternative for me insofar as I remain stubbornly against adding the armdrag to my sitting guard game.  Professor Carlos had us working knee-on-belly transitions from side control, as well as the kimura from the top position.

On Saturday I arrived a little bit before competition team training began, so I missed out on some bow and arrow choke work Prof Carlos had the class doing for the Fundamentals session.  I managed to get in two long rolls, one with John and one with Professor Carlos, for about 20 minutes of training.  Alex was back visiting from New York and we talked about doing some no gi training after class.  Unfortunately, I somehow missed my place in the queue and ending up sitting out the Open Mat.  Hopefully when he comes back through in August, we'll get a chance to train some.

What's working?  Armbars, strangely enough.  I've been working more on the closed guard.  And while that mostly means stuff like Rap Star (which is still awful) and the Barataguard, it doesn't exclude old school stuff like armbars and omoplatas.  If I'm getting armbars from the guard, then it means that I'm making some major gains in my guard game because I've never been a big "armbar from the guard" guy.  So it's been nice to train this way some.

Weight has been on point to finish the week: 158s and 157s.  This has been the first time I've trained six times in a week in a very long time, and now that crazy goal of training 21 times this month and setting a new training year record might not be as crazy as it seems.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Training Days: Tuesday and Wednesday

It was maybe a year ago back when I was competing that I first heard Prof Rodrigo's formula for pre-competition training: Train Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Rest Thursday.  Train Friday and Saturday.

I'm guessing that rest on Sunday was somewhat obvious.  As I get nearer to a point where significant off-mat conditioning seems to hurt more than help, this is the kind of schedule I'm trying to establish going into the 2012-2013 training year.  Saturday training will be on a "do when can"  basis, hopefully at least every other week on average.  And if I end up working a 9-5 something this fall, my Friday afternoon training date might get curtailed.  But for now, the six weeks between now and Labor Day Weekend, this is the plan.

Got in some good training Tuesday and Wednesday.  Tuesday evening, professor Rodrigo had us working a guard pass sequence and agility drill, moving laterally in a Feitosa-like combination of the single scoop and the stuff.  The emphasis was on the footwork, making sure that both knees are never on the ground as we switched back and forth with the three different options (scoop, backstep, re-scoop).

Wednesday afternoon was all guillotine training.  Not easy on the neck, but a must-do if you're going to have this essential submission down pat.  Prof Carlos had us drilling this as part of a counter to the double leg, with an emphasis on "rocking the baby", putting the choking elbow on the mat and lifting the off-elbow high.  We also worked a switch-like counter to the guillotine that emphasized a complete 180 degree turn to ensure freeing yourself from the choke.

Training has been good this week, training with Prof Rodrigo during Tuesday's session and Prof Carlos during Wednesday's.  In that regard, things pretty much feel as they last did - though it seems like it has been awhile since I'd trained with either.  Both continue to be different versions of overwhelming, the Time Machine and the Tornado, and while it is difficult to "learn" en media res, so to speak, there is always something "ambition-stoking" about the experience.

Nice weights after training.  158.0 on Tuesday.  157.0 on Wednesday.  I'm looking to celebrate Friday the 13th by training three times in 12 hours: Coach Zee's 6:30 am class, Professor Carlos' 11:45 am class, and Coach Garcia's 6:00 pm class.  Once in a lifetime, baby.  Water flowing underground.

The Clock

Monday, July 09, 2012

Training Day: Monday

A lot to like in today's training (not the least of which was my post-train weigh-in of 158.0, very nice for a Monday!).  We worked standup for the entire class, the third takedown of the series Prof Rodrigo highlighted a few months ago that was another version of Rip Cord, or the collar drag takedown.  Prof Carlos, teaching the class, had us move to knee on belly (a second step that actually helped you stay put during the takedown and not walk right into the guy's guard), and then to side control and mount.

Side control escape King of the Hill for the final 8 minutes or so was a nice way to finish things off.  I wasn't as sharp as I'd like to have been, especially with my footwork.  So it was good to work the position.

I got to work with Mark after Live Training (a session with Angela and a session with Mark), focusing on the new Shaolin half guard sweep series I've been writing about.  Just a few reps, but it was essential to start the process that will hopefully add a whole new dimension to my ability to attack from the half guard.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Planning for Training Year 8

With less than a month to go before Training Year 8 begins in August, I'm settling in on guard work, specifically closed guard work, as my main area of improvement.

What I want to do is focus on is attacking the arms, either through the King Crimson series (kimura, crossover sweep, omoplata, guillotine, kimura2back) when the elbow is wide, or through the Mendes Brothers series introduced here when the elbow is tight.

The Mendes Brothers attack consists largely of the triangle and the armdrag.  There may also be a wristlock in there.  What I'm looking to do is to add to these attacks the baratoplata from Professor Rafael Freitas of GB New Mexico, as shown by Profs. Rodrigo and Carlos here.

The third option in attacking the arms will be the Rap Star guard (arm wrap choke, armbar, omoplata, triangle, and sweeps).  I've typically not been taking a sharp enough angle when attacking with Rap Star, and ultimately have had difficulty controlling the arm and getting enough space to properly use my inside leg.  So I don't want to give up on Rap Star as an "arm-oriented" attack strategy from the guard.  Ideally, all three options will flow into each other and make it more risky for those who try to kill space from the top to do so.

There are some finish details about the baratoplata that I need to work out.  But I think this "barataguard" is a good project to develop my closed guard over the coming 12 month training year.

From the half guard I'll keep working on the "long range" game with the Shaolin sweeps with the take-the-back variation, as well as the Foster and Faria sweeps (more about all of this, including video, here).

From the open guard, I'll continue with the Leandro Lo sweep, plus the DLR sweep/backtake combo.  I'll have a post on my submission goals for TY 8 later this week, a (hopefully) high probability submission strategy that could also be referred to as "King Crimson".

Very much inspired by some great performances from my teammates this weekend at The Revolution.  Looking forward to getting back on the mat on Monday.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Training Day: Friday

Open mat work on the day before the Revolution tournament.  I got in some good time with one of our larger blue belts, then a round with Brian, then a final round with Angela.  I had planned to spend some time focusing on the long half guard sweeps and backtake I wrote about in the last post.  But live sparring is typically not the place to get that kind of thing done, and today's training was no different.  As usual I did work a lot of half guard.  But it was pretty much standard fare from my good side.  So there's that.

Guard passing continues to be a strong point.  I'm doing a lot of successful knee cross passing against the half guard (maybe I'm not meant to do backstep half-guard passing, after all).  In a very long Open Mat session with Chaim (arguably two, regular sessions back to back for about 20-25 minutes of straight training), I was working hard for the Effing Pass and again, while not successful in getting the pass with any consistency, I was able to stay on the offensive when on top.

As always with Chaim there is escape and survival training involved.  I'm doing a bit better in both instances, getting the initial explosion and space creation in that initial 1-2 seconds.  What I need to do is to find the third and final second that has me replacing guard, or getting back to my feet, or some other neutral position. More often than not, I think that position will be a half guard, and it makes sense to begin looking for entries to the half guard out of my basic escapes.  But here, the other big issue is will and determination to keep pushing through to the third and final second rather than giving up after the first two.

159.5 on the scale post-train.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Open Mat today with the 4th of July holiday.  I got in some good open guard drilling with Glenn (X-guard sweeps for him, Leandro Lo sweep for me), helped a new guy with armbar defense, and managed two sparring sessions, including a long roll with Jeremy, who I haven't seen much less trained with in some time.

W/re2 the Leandro Lo sweep, I think the key is in abandoning the spider control as soon as you get the leg locked up.  Otherwise, I feel as if I'm leaving myself vulnerable to a potential footlock or ankle lock.  Maybe even more importantly, I am able to get to the top after the sweep much faster if I get rid of the spider control (i.e., foot on bicep).  This is more or less what I discovered drilling the sweep with Mark awhile back.  But it was good to be reminded of the issue.

One thing that is becoming clearer about my sparring is that the guard passing work of this year is really starting to pay off.  My guard passing confidence has never been higher, which in some ways isn't saying very much because I've never felt as if guard passing was a strong part of my game, anyway.  But confidence is confidence, and I've got it.  I'm finally starting to enjoy attacking the guard.

The flip side of this is that I've been spending so much time working on my guard passing game that my guard has started to suffer.  As always "guard" for me is just shorthand for "half guard".  And while I have no intention whatsoever of giving up the half guard as my go-to guard, I also need to grow the guard out a bit if I'm going to be able to use it effectively against bigger and more talented opponents.

The issue is that I'm not controlling the space, and am spending too much time fighting from a flattened position.  There are three ways to fix this: (1) re-prioritize the frame, either at the shoulder or with the knee, (2) use the butterfly hook more aggressively to change the balance and attack with a hook sweep from sitting up, and (3) crush the space with a deep half attack.

Right now (2) is the option I need to focus on particularly.  I was able to get a reverse out of a fairly flattened situation at one point today with the Foster sweep, which was a reminder of not only the value of the butterfly hook, but also of the kimura grip.  I really don't have a sweep out of (1), though this may be a good place to start, including this variation that gets you to the back.

Last, (3), especially with the Faria sweep, is another option I need to train more.  I got a lot of insights out of the Pan and Mundial this year when it comes to understanding the Faria sweep from deep half, and I've been letting those insights ripen on the vine a little too long.

160.5 on the scale post-train.  I would have liked to knock another pound off that number for a sub-160 midweek count.  But assuming the end of week number on Friday is where is should be (i.e., 157-159), Wednesday's 160+ is no crime.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


Learning to Love the Mount

Five videos to get you loving the mount as much as you love the back.

Roger Gracie.  Raphael Lovato Jr.  Rubem Patrick.  Marcos Schubert.  Professor Magoo.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Deep Thoughts on Strong Chokes

Two of the most powerful chokes in jiu-jitsu: the clock choke and the katagatame, both require you to put your forehead on the mat to finish properly.