Sunday, September 29, 2013

Song of Piton

Piton is the solution to movement.
Piton is the solution to speed.
Piton is the solution to flexibility.
Piton is the solution to strength.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Training Day: Saturday

A Saturday full of specific training from Prof Nate: guard/pass guard, finish from the back/defend Shark Tank style with a focus on the guard player and the finish from the back. A great way to spend the day.

Live training with a pair of tough brown belts (Steve and Pat) for eight minutes each. Almost a flashback to the days of training with Casey and Lance (and Steve and Pat, for that matter). Not the kind of training you get everyday, and it was every bit as challenging as it used to be.

161.4 on the scale post-train. WITStolo the guard replacement, the persistence, and the patience. There were more than a few Ryron Metamoris moments during today's training, and accepting that as part of my practice going forward likely will be key to arriving in one piece.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Training Day: Wednesday

Double legs from the snap down. Armbars from the "microwave" mount. Taking the back counter to upa escape from the "microwave" mount.

And Live Training. Versus half-guard. Working the lapel. Working the bicep, cross-carotid control. Working the head wedge. Working the pass.


Jiu-Jitsu Dream Mirror

"You have to think that you are better than you are."
-- T. Steele, 2006

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Does Jiu-Jitsu Need MMA?

If your initial conception of jiu-jitsu was formed while watching Royce Gracie in the early Ultimate Fighting Championship tournaments in the first half of the 1990s, the intervening years have been interesting ones.

The sport of competitive jiu-jitsu has soared in popularity - with live streams of jiu-jitsu competitions from as far away as Brazil and Abu Dhabi increasingly a regular part of the average BJJ fan's agenda, and the IBJJF expanding its tournament circuit into a new major North American city every time you turn around. As someone who began training as jiu-jitsu superstars like Roger Gracie, Ronaldo Souza, and Marcelo Garcia were dominating the sport jiu-jitsu scene, it was hard not to have an optimistic sense of where this growing emphasis on the jiu-jitsu black belt v.s. jiu-jitsu black belt notion of jiu-jitsu competition seemed to be going.

But watching the black belt debut of one of our contemporary era's up 'n' coming young superstars this evening, I felt my heart sink a bit. Certainly not as a reflection of the performance: an armbar victory is an armbar victory and all the moreso against a talented, proven opponent. 

Nevertheless seeing the entrails of what has become contemporary jiu-jitsu: the emphasis on gi grips, the guard-uber-alles positioning, the endless inversions ... While a part of me enjoys and envies the technical mastery involved, I'll admit that there's another part of me wondering if what seems like an evolution in the art of jiu-jitsu is actually something else entirely.

Fighting against evolution is a dangerous thing. Judo is engaged in this Sisyphus-like labor as we speak, seeking to rid itself of any aspect of Western wrestling by banning direct attacks on the legs. 

This is the same judo that was arguably crippled as a martial art (however bolstered as an Olympic sport) when the time allowed for ne-waza or ground fighting became limited.

But what is evolution? And, maybe more importantly, what is driving the evolutionary change? In sport jiu-jitsu, the driver of change is not increased exposure to new, foreign challenges from outside the art, but instead from increasingly nuanced, increasingly contrived innovations from within the art itself.

This doesn't mean that the result is inherently decadent - though there is a significant danger that this can develop. But consider the same phenomenon in other spheres of endeavor: political theory developed by political scientists, but never influenced by or tested by free citizens or voters. Economic theory developed by economists, but never tested by free markets or a business cycle. Theories of reality developed and debated by philosophers, but never tested by the real world of gravity and physics.

I spent many years studying contemporary poetry. And if there was one thing that characterized contemporary poetry in the 1980s and 1990s in particular, it was that contemporary poetry was only read by those who wrote it. That's an exaggeration. But not by much. It was a very insular world, one that had grown to embrace its own irrelevance to the broader cultural conversation. 

Some may find it hard to believe that it wasn't always so with contemporary poetry. Poets, even American poets, just a generation or two ago were names that most well-read people had heard of: Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Syliva Plath - even if they never really read that much poetry.

All that said to say that I think I know what an art looks like when it becomes more pre-occupied with its own internal dynamics than with the sort of challenges it was originally developed to deal with. That doesn't mean that the art is on the road to obsolescence or irrelevance or decadence. But it does mean that practitioners of the art should be aware of how their art is changing, what is driving that change and, should they decide so, what to do in response.

Eddie Bravo famously said that MMA without jiu-jitsu was bad kickboxing. Of late, I've found myself wondering if jiu-jitsu without MMA - or at least the sort of sensibilities that MMA and vale tudo bring - is a similarly sub-optimal state.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Teaching Day: Friday

Great time teaching the 6 am, "Dawn Patrol" class this Friday. Roethke has that wonderful line "when a week of rain is a year". That's how I felt being on the teaching side of the tatame after two weeks away.

Five students is a lot for a Friday morning. And I couldn't be more grateful. I'm curious as to how attendance might change as the days get more than a little shorter and the nights more than a little longer.

We worked on the turtle headlock counter from the curriculum, and the mount reversal. I saw Coach Peter showing someone how to set up a triangle choke attack from the closed guard Thursday, and loved it so much that I decided to throw that one in to Friday's lesson, as well.

159.4 on the scale, post-train. A new injury, right elbow, has me preoccupied. But maybe not as much as usual. I've got a compression brace that seems to work well enough - though we'll see come next week. I'm probably not going to make the 12x this month - I'll be lucky to make it to nine. So being more efficient in training, and training what I need/want to train, are all the more vital.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

WITStolo: Reverse Collar Drag

First time sparring in weeks. I hadn't necessarily planned on it. But tonight's black belt class was an hour of specific training - probably my favorite kind of training. So I rolled with it for as long as I could.

Tonight's WITStolo is definitely the collar drag reversal from the closed guard. I think a basic cross collar choke will be enough to properly set it up. Scissorhands was the weakest of my closed guard set-ups, but that collar drag reversal would fit in nicely among that set.

My body is still waking back up to the matwork. I felt a few tinges in my intercostals and my leg cramped up midway through the third quarter, so to speak, and didn't let up until near the end of the fourth. It's a reminder that I'm going to have to take it easy on the way back in.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rickson: Striking is a 50/50 Bet

Since I'm on my horse (or at least, back in the stable), let me add that I think that Rickson had a great point when he said that the problem with striking as a strategy was that it was a "50-50 game."

As you might imagine, Master Hickson continues to catch all kinds of hell for this remark in ye olde MMA forums. And while a number of folks have embarked upon some major counter-argumentation on behalf of the non-randomness of victory in the striking arts, plenty others remain just plain pissed off that Mr. 400-0* was unimpressed by probabilities that made pugilism more sport than self-defense.

But I when I think of knockouts like Rashad Evans over Chuck Liddell, or Rampage's Third Time Charm against The Axe Murderer, I can't help but think that Rickson had a point. Sure, there was Matt Hughes' armbar off of GSP's failed kimura from bottom half guard in their first match up. And we all remember the 24-hour fever over the "Von Flue Choke" (reminder: avoid trying to guillotine from the bottom when in side control).

Still simultaneous submissions, moments in which two potentially finishing attacks are deployed at the same time, couldn't be rarer relative to those photogenic moments we know and love as fight fans when two sluggers have moved from locked and loaded to near-full extension with their heaviest haymakers en route ...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Five Rules for Jiu-Jitsu Fighters in Mixed Martial Arts

A thread over at MMAFighting purports to provide commentary on Royce Gracie's take on the poor performance of his younger relatives in recent MMA contests.

I say "purports" because the comments seem to suggest that few of those opining have actually read the article.

Again, Royce's argument is an old one, one made by Rickson Gracie almost 10 years ago, and also amplified, in a way, by the man who is the best representative of BJJ-in-MMA done right, Demian Maia who said that his self-defense training was actually very applicable to his mixed martial arts training.

In any event, here are a few ways that jiu-jitsu fighters can improve their odds in the cage - using jiu-jitsu!

1. Train conditioning like a professional athlete
Top level competitive black belt matches in the IBJJF last for 10 minutes, plus overtimes. The minimum time for an MMA fight is 15 minutes, divided into three, five-minute rounds. Train accordingly

2. Stop striking
Rickson Gracie put it plainly almost ten years ago, and it is true today. If your edge lies in taking the fight to the ground, then your job is to take the fight to the ground. Everything that doesn't contribute to this ability is a distraction.  Fighting isn't a lifestyle. It's a game. And the best way to win the game is to have the greatest possible edge in one aspect of the game, and then force your opponents to compete with you there.

3. Takedowns Matter
I don't care if it's a judo throw, a Greco toss, or a folkstyle power double leg. Again, if your edge lies in taking the fight to the ground, then your job is to take the fight to the ground. Pick a takedown, a counter to the most common defense to that takedown, and don't stop until the round ends or the fight does.

4. "Nao Para!"
One of the things BJJ fighters can bring from the tournament mat to the cage is one of the most overheard commands from the sidelines: Don't Stop.

Strikers are told to move their heads and keep pumping the jab. Grapplers need to continue fighting for their grips and positions as priority one at all times. A jab won't end a fight, but some of the best knockouts lie right behind a well-placed fist in the face. The same can be said for grapplers when it comes to getting their best grips and most decisive positions.

5. The Patton Rule
Famous American general, George Patton, allegedly said, "Your job is not to die for your country. Your job is to make that other poor son of a bitch die for his country." I feel the same way about playing guard and fighting from your back in MMA.

In other words, your job as a jiu-jitsu fighter in MMA is not to show the world how great your guard is. It is to find out how good that other "poor son of a bitch" is off his (or her) back.  I don't have to run through the number of quality jiu-jitsu fighters who lost rounds in an MMA match because the judges preferred the top fighter's lay 'n' pray one-inch hammer fists to the bottom fighter's failed triangle, armbar and OMGaplata attacks from below.

I'm sure there are more. But these five would be a great place to start for most jiu-jitsu fighters - from Roger to Rolles - looking both to earn a winning record and showcase "the gentle art" at the same time.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Frank Mir Was Right

Here's another reason why, when it comes to MMA, I've always been a Frank Mir fan.
"He went up against a really good submission guy.  And he got caught. So it wasn't like he got knocked out or he got dominated, you know, through the whole fight."
--Dana White, talking about a replacement fighter for his reality series, The Ultimate Fighter.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Winning is the Solution to Losing

Maybe it's a matter of semantics. I've always felt uncomfortable with the "you either win or you learn" maxim of the "jiu-jitsu for everyone" school of thinking (a school to which I am 100% devoted, by the way).

After all, you can never step into the same river twice, as my favorite philosopher put it. So assuming we're paying at least some attention, every experience is by definition a learning experience. The problem with this maxim is that it doesn't recognize how you can - or maybe even how important it is - to win "within" losing.

One of my three greatest competitive jiu-jitsu matches is a match I lost: my first match as a brown belt. I'd end up losing three out of three matches that day (think about that the next time you have a hard time on the mat), but my first match is one I'll always remember because it was, for a moment, the most winning moment I ever had in competition.

By the time I became a brown belt, I'd long prided myself on my takedowns. "Pride" is a good word for it because while I was probably better at taking the match to the mat than the average guy, that didn't necessarily apply to the average competitive guy. And that's a difference that defines.

So by the time I got to brown belt, having gone a little better than 50/50 on the 2-0 strategy of Takedown Uber Alles that had won me many of the matches I did win, I was open to alternatives.

Professor Rodrigo had been teaching something crazy all week in the evening advanced classes. Deep half guard. And not just deep half guard, but pulling deep half guard from standing. This was a few years back, before deep half had truly eclipsed the regular "Gordo" half guard that many of us had focused on,

At this point, remembering bitterly a pair of takedowns in two competitions at purple belt that I failed to earn points for , I was more than ready for a new way to get that critical 2-0 lead. And given my love for the half guard, the idea of this new kind of takedown-to-half guard, looked and felt unbeatable

I drilled that Tuesday and Thursday evening. Pull deep half and right into the sweep. Easy as a waltz - at least a hundred-odd reps later.

The morning of the Revolution (accept no substitutes), I have my game set. I don't realize that there is a chasm of darkness beyond my plan to pull deep half and get the sweep that I have carved into my consciousness. But I'm so geeked up on my move I can't see anything beyond it.

And we square off. Me and the guy who goes on to win first or second or something impressive and podium-worthy. But I'll never forget, shaking hands, getting my grips, and pulling that deep half guard and getting that first two points. I'll never forget literally (and, yes, I mean "literally" as in "a real thing that happened") hearing a gasp from someone or ones standing or sitting around watching when I pulled deep half and got that sweep because, apparently, my opponent who went on to win our match on points despite him being robbed of mount position by a bad out of bounds reset by the ref, is the kind of guy who was expected to win first or second or something impressive and podium-worthy and I, relatively speaking, am not.

And right there, for a moment ...

That's the solution to losing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tap or Nap, Said the TickTockMan!

Some niftyness from Prof Cavalcanti

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Friday, September 06, 2013

Stating My Status

I knew this week wouldn't be easy. I managed to catch a cold on Saturday that went symptomatic on Tuesday. Fortunately, Bryan was scheduled to cover my early bird class Friday morning since I'll be heading to NYC, so I'll get a few extra and badly-needed winks ahead of my cross country trip.

I'd fantasized about visiting Marcelo Garcia's academy on Saturday while I was in the city. But between my poor health and poor training in recent weeks, I'll have to wait until this time next year.

On the upside, I think I have finally figured out why an otherwise healthy jiu-jitsu dude like myself catches colds so frequently. I've been hit with significant cold symptoms three times this year (including now), which is just unacceptable - and all the more so now that I know what it's been happening. There will be a few long (as in 40-year) habits I'll have to break, but it couldn't be more for the better.

I'm a little anxious about flying five and a half hours with a stuffed up head. I remember reading how Mad Money host Jim Cramer ended up losing the hearing in one ear after taking a cross country flight with a head cold, and because I have a tendency to get cold before long trips, I've got a few nerves. Hopefully another night sucking on a zinc lozenge, another day of popping decongestants and expectorants, and the regular process of repair will have me in at least halfway decent shape by boarding time tomorrow.

Another good thing is that by the time I get back to the mat (ETA Friday, September 13th), my latest rib/intercoastal muscle strain is likely to have healed up well enough to train - at least the coursework if not the sparring. It's going to be a busy month, but that will be a piece of normalcy that I will be looking forward to very much.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

This Week in BJJ - Budo Jake Talks with Roger Machado

Another great show from Budo Jake.

This Week in BJJ Episode 41 – Roger Machado

Make sure you stick around to the end to see one of the Machado "family secrets": the armpit americana!

(Hint: it resembles the Nogumura)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Interview: John Connors on Jiu-Jitsu Over 40

I've never heard of this guy before, but he's dropping knowledge like rain. A lot of what he recommends are things I've thought about or heard in pieces here and there. Nice to hear it all in one package. "You have to have the confidence to ignore some really good jiu-jitsu."


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Interview: Oli Geddes on Living La Vida Jiu-jitsu

Some excellent practical insights on the jiu-jitsu lifestyle and competition from Roger Gracie black belt Oli Geddes.

Courtesy of OpenMatRadio

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Numba One Breakdown Brotha

A look at the technology behind the armbar that brought the UFC Lightweight title to Anthony Pettis.

Al Perdedor Perder

As much as I appreciate this kind of video, I've always felt that they've left me more than a little flat.

Don't get me wrong. If you are the kind of competitor who usually wins, and is having a hard time dealing with a surprising loss, then this is great advice. I'd also like to add, grow the F up. No one is invincible. Unless your psychology is completely upside down, infrequently losses are a budding champion's best friend.

But I always wonder what guys like this have to say to those of us who had competitive seasons like I did as a purple and brown belt. After winning most of my matches as a white belt and winning about half my matches at blue belt, every tournament above this level was a disaster. I probably competed 3-4 times as a purple belt, and almost as many times as a brown belt, and lost every match.

Every one.  All of them. Seven or eight tournaments in a row with multiple matches per tournament.

There aren't a lot of videos talking to folks in this position. The most honest comment was the one my professor gave after my last purple belt loss, when he pointed out that all my competitors were, quite literally, half my age. About half were amateur MMA fighters, as well.

True enough, but it didn't change the circumstance: if I wanted to compete locally, then I'd be competing against guys young enough to be my sons. Full stop.

In a way, earning my black belt has liberated me from this problem. There are very few local black belts who compete (maybe there'd be more if they saw my name in the brackets), especially at the lower weight classes. Even when it comes to Superfights, these sort of opportunities are few and far between - and I'm no one but a fool's notion of a Superfight participant.

There are the IBJJF events. I noticed that the Atlanta Open, for example, had a healthy number of master and seniors competitors at the faixa preta level. That's a good sign. But the idea of my nearest opportunity to compete against a peer being on the opposite end of a multi-state plane ride is a bit depressing - especially since my new job already puts me on the road 4-5 times a year (including two out-of-country trips).

That's the terrain. I have a few goals for 2014 that will require me to better navigate this terrain than I have thus far - and yesterday's minor intercostal muscle pull in some ways only accelerates my determination to make a few things happen before I turn 50.