Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Know When to Hold 'Em

Danielle Martin, Gracie Barra Black Belt

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Know When to Fold 'Em

Indefinitely suspending "MMA Submission Hero of the Week" in favor of supporting this excellent effort for the foreseeable future.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Resistance 12.26.14

DB squats

DB deadlifts

DB seated overhead press

DB upright row

Calf-raises (machine)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Resistance 12.24.14

Pull-ups / Dips

Incline DB bench

DB one-arm row

Low to high cable pull

Incline Bench (machine)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Metrics: December 14 - 20

Training Days: 3
Four Week training average: 1.75

Techniques of the Week
Counter to Thai plum / Armbar from mount / Keylock from mount / Double leg to ankle pick / Spinning armbar from knee on belly / Rollout escape from armbar

Tech Lift / Push-Row circuit (Thu)

166.8 (Mon noon)
approx. 160.0 (Sat am - no gi)

Live Training
26 minutes / 3 sessions

Keep: Santana pass, UBS/LBS, tracking metrics
Start: Instep guard v. standing passes, 3x/week conditioning
Stop: Staying up past 11pm on weeknights

Sunday, December 14, 2014

MMA Submission Hero of the Week: Rousimar Palhares

Rousimar Palhares (leglock v. Jon Fitch) - World Series of Fighting 16

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Guy squares off against Rousimar Palhares. Fight goes to ground. Palhares grabs opponent's leg. Squeeze. Pain. Tap.

While scientists and fight fans have uncovered one individual able to withstand the relentless and often punishing leg lock attack of Rousimar Palhares, the rest of humanity would be well-advised to keep combat contests with the limb-snapper affectionately known as "Paul Harris" on the feet.

Jordan Breen once made a great point that for all the talk of "well-roundedness" in mixed martial arts, there is and may always be something special if not vital about successful fighters with only a sole path to victory. And while there will always be killshot artists like Chuck Liddell, you've really got to hand it to a fighter whose single path to victory is a submission.

Palhares is just that kind of guy. And even if his submission-uber-alles approach proves not be enough to make him more than the champion of a second-tier mixed martial arts organization, it's hardly a bad way to spend a career kicking ass.

Rousimar can be a hard guy to love - even for those of us in the "take few prisoners" school of jiu-jitsu in MMA. He has been criticized for holding submission holds - particularly heel hooks - "too long" and subjecting his opponents to greater than necessary injury. And as someone who has seen Rousimar grapple in training, I would love to see more of his submission arsenal (why not add a few arms to his growing collection of legs?).

One interesting MMA Submission Hero of the Week trivia note. Last week, two our of our top three submission heroes were heroines. This week, two of the top three submission heroes got it done with leglocks. In fact, compared to last week, the diversity among submissions was impressive with chokes, armbars, and leglocks each earning equally effective fight-ending applications.


Runner's Up
Ian Entwistle (leglock v. Anthony Birchak) - UFC on Fox 13
John Moraga (choke v. Willie Gates) - UFC on Fox 13

Honorable Mention
Yancy Medieros (choke v. Joe Proctor) - TUF 20 Finale
Felice Herrig (armbar v. Lisa Ellis) - TUF 20 Finale
Aisling Daly (armbar v. Alex Chambers) - TUF 20 Finale
Drew Dober (choke v. Jamie Varner) - UFC of Fox 13


What is an MMA Submission Hero?
Death to the death of jiu-jitsu in mixed martial arts! There are guys and gals getting it done with chokes, armbars, leglocks and more every weekend in the cage! 

MMA Submission Hero of the Week recognizes the men and women who finish fights "the gentle way." Each week we'll highlight MMA's best stranglers, arm collectors, and leg snappers, be they well-known jiu-jitsu superstars or a small-show strikers with a knack for pulling off the occasional submission surprise.

Check the sidecontrol blog every Sunday after a weekend of MMA action and see just who is this week's MMA Submission Hero of the Week!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Metrics: December 7 - December13

Training Days: 0
Four Week training average: 1.5

Techniques of the Week

Box Step/Upright Rows/Overhead Press circuit: Saturday
"Shoulder Shocker": Saturday

Begin: N.A.
End: N.A.

Live Training


  • Keep: Track of the metrics - woeful as they may be sometimes
  • Start: Training at least twice a week when I'm in town
  • Stop: Not training at least twice a week when I'm in town

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

As Jiu-Jitsu Evolves, When is Difference Different?

Brazilian jiu jitsu is evolving but evolving into what? Anyone who has trained in multiple jiu jitsu schools will notice the differences in philosophy and technical emphasis that exist between academies. Certainly, there is a common body of techniques and transitions that they all share; but what they emphasize is so different, so as to call into question whether the term “Brazilian jiu jitsu” will continue to be adequate in describing them all.
Either Brazilian jiu jitsu will reproduce new styles of martial art or it will continue to exist as a single combat sport, with disparate competition rule sets, the way Wrestling does. With the current state of jiu jitsu variety, simply saying one has a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu isn’t as descriptive as it was in the early 90’s.

I'll admit to being somewhere between the first and second schools, myself. I've never been especially preoccupied by having the best jiu-jitsu in a room full of guys and gals who know jiu-jitsu. For me, jiu-jitsu is a shield against the world outside the academy, a self-defense resource first and foremost, a response to the great philosophical question: "What if he tries to punch you in the face?"

Everything else, as enjoyable as it is, (and it is) is secondary.

That said, I'm especially curious about what drives people to want to learn to train jiu-jitsu now. What is motivating the folks signing up to learn jiu-jitsu today - or, even better, the ones who will sign up in 2015?  Self-defense? A dream of being an IBJJF champion or MMA star? My suspicion is that it will be the same thing that's always drawn a certain percentage of the population toward martial arts, something that's a little superhero, a little warrior, and more than a little spiritual, as well.

More on that last later. 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

MMA Submission Hero of the Week: Herica Tiburcio

Herica Tiburcio (choke v. Michelle Waterson) - Invicta FC10

There will be some who wonder how submitting one of the top lightweights in the world - which is what UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis did last night in his victory by choke over Gilbert Melendez - does not earn you the title of MMA Submission Hero of the Week.

It's a fair point. For all the talk of guys like Eddie Alvarez, Gilbert Melendez was the great white whale of the UFC's lightweight division. For years, if there was one lightweight competing outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship who could claim to be better than the dudes in his division inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship, that lightweight was Gilbert Melendez.

So for Anthony Pettis to return to the cage and make the first defense of his title a victory by submission over such an opponent, it is not hard at all to see Mr. Showtime as a Submission Hero of the Highest Order.

And he is.

But if there is one thing more dramatic than defending the belt by submission, it is taking the belt from the champ by submission (ask Benson Henderson, who lost his title to an Anthony Pettis armbar a little over a year ago). And I think we can also agree that it is even more impressive if that submission victory and belt-changing comes at the hand of a substantial underdog.

That's the spirit that has me giving the nod to Invicta's new Atomweight Champion, Herica Tiburcio. Tiburcio dominated former champ Michelle Waterson en route to a finish by choke in round three.

The fighter from Minas Gerais was a +600 underdog coming into the fight against a champion on a six fight win streak with five finishes. Tiburcio controlled much of the contest, putting Waterson on the defensive with strikes, including one that left a large, vision-impeding mouse under the champion's left eye.

The submission victory is Tiburcio's seventh out of eleven pro fights, and her third victory by guillotine.

To say that this shakes up the Atomweight division is an understatement. And while there will likely be many clamoring for a rematch between Tiburcio and the "Karate Hottie", there are other Atomweights, such as Jinh Yu Frey, who should be in the conversation, as well. Frey won her contest at Invicta FC 10, defeating winless Cassie Robb by choke.


Runner's Up
Anthony Pettis (choke v. Gilbert Melendez) - UFC 181
Racquel Pennington (choke v. Ashlee Evans-Smith) - UFC 181

Honorable Mentions
Bibiano Fernandes (choke v, Dae Hwan Kim) - One FC 23
Tony Ferguson (choke v. Abel Trujillo) - UFC 181
Borys Mankowski (choke v. David Zawada) - KSW 29
Jinh Yu Frey (choke v. Cassie Robb) - Invicta FC 10
Tonya Evinger (armbar v. Cindy Dandois) - Invicta FC 10
Urijah Faber (choke v. Francisco Rivera) - UFC 181


What is an MMA Submission Hero?
Death to the death of jiu-jitsu in mixed martial arts! There are guys and gals getting it done with chokes, armbars, leglocks and more every weekend in the cage! 

MMA Submission Hero of the Week recognizes the men and women who finish fights "the gentle way." Each week we'll highlight MMA's best stranglers, arm collectors, and leg snappers, be they well-known jiu-jitsu superstars or a small-show strikers with a knack for pulling off the occasional submission surprise.

Check the sidecontrol blog every Sunday after a weekend of MMA action and see just who is this week's MMA Submission Hero of the Week!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Metrics: November 30 - December 6

Training Days: Four
Four week training average: 2.0

Techniques of the week: Double leg takedowns and sprawls / Kimura from knee on belly / Asymmetrical choke variation from kimura from knee on belly

Cardiac Output: Monday
Tempo Method: Tuesday, Saturday

Weight (gi, post-training)
Start (Mon pm): 170
End (Sat noon): 163.4

Live Training: 16 minutes

  • Keep: Murilo Santana pass, Tozi pass, Ezekiel choke, conditioning, regular stretching, Cucumber water, 4x training/week, passion for warmups :)
  • Start: Tracking training on blog weekly, training in the evenings at least once a week
  • Stop: Pre-training distractions

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Welcome to a Working Week

Out of nowhere, a four-day training week. 

I'm trying to remember the last time I managed to get to the Academy so often (quick check of the training calendar says the last week of August: 25, 27. 29. and 30). My four-week training average had plunged below 1.0, courtesy of a pair coast-to-coast business trips that kept me off the mat for much of the second half of September and early October.

This four-day week has me back above 1.0 fortunately, though not by much. And while a few technical breakthroughs are keeping me from feeling totally inept on the mat, there is very little that is sharp about my game, right now.

One of the things I'm (re)thinking is my focus on submissions. I've been trying to focus on chokes, thinking for a variety of reasons that this would be the best way for me to pursue finishing contests. I've switched up to focusing on the Rickson Finish, giving myself a chance at moving from my position-dominant jiu-jitsu toward a pressure-submission top game. But trying to make sure I train this approach consistently is a struggle.

That said, I'm managing to keep me weight under control, finishing the week under 162 in the gi. That's mostly coffee and calorie restriction, which is fine with me. As I bring the conditioning online, I'm hoping to drop that gi number to 158, halfway between the lightweight no-gi limit and the featherweight gi limit, and then down to 154.5 (featherweight gi limit).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Back on the Mat

Double Leg takedowns / Double Leg to Back / Double Leg to Back to Straight Choke to Osoto Gari
Beach Boys Closed Guard Break to Split Pass with Backstep
3 five-minute rounds Live Training
162.4 lbs post-train

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Homework: Bottom to Top

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Monday, October 06, 2014

Top Game

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"You've Got Persuasion, I ..."

Can't Help Myself ..."



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Murilo Santana: Who is This Man

And how is he helping turn me into the most confident guard passer I've ever been?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Black Belt Adult Women's Feather Final at Dallas Open

Mackenzie Dern v. Karen Souza

Formula for Great Training

After being off the mat for over a week, it was more than fantastic to finally get back to where I once belonged.

A couple of things contributed to today's great session, all of which are worth keeping in mind:

1. Hunger
The combination of being off the mat for a week and watching Jacare win his rematch against Gegard Mousasi provided tremendous fuel for training today. It's a reminder also that Saturdays and evenings have something that lunchtime training never has, and that I need to adjust my training schedule accordingly.

It also begs the question of training frequency, something I haven't entirely figured out. Now that I'll be joining the Tuesday/Thursday morning crew at GBS, I'm optimistic that I'll be able to come up with something that works consistently without "overexposing" my body to too much abuse at this point in the timeline (time torus?).

2. Pena
One of the biggest reasons for my energy today was weight. Tipping the scales at 161.4 in the gi means that even when I'm in the gi,  I'm below the no-gi limit of 162. That has been a benchline goal for some time, and finding myself hit that mark after a week of little activity is a testament to the relatively minor diet changes I've made in the past few days.

The goal is to get down to 150 no gi, which works out to about 155 or so in the gi. So I've got some more to go. But this is a great place to be.

3. The Plan
I finally got a chance to work on the guard passing strategy I've wanted to implement for weeks if not months. Today, I got to train against easily one of the toughest training partners in the school (if not in the state, certainly when Masters are considered). And while I never actually "got" the pass, I was able to apply major pressure consistently, remain a persistent threat, avoid the submission, and always know exactly what the mission was, strategically and tactically. I cannot describe what it is like to try and pass a high-level guard with this reality on your side compared to when everything is a fog of half-measures and hope.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Ronaldo Souza: MMA Submission Hero of the Week

If you learned to love jiu-jitsu because you saw what this art could do in true physical confrontations - be they in the earliest years of the Ultimate Fighting Championship or in the "Gracie in Action" challenge matches - then there is no more vital jiu-jitsu competitor in mixed martial arts than Ronaldo Souza.

The fighter also known as Jacare was brilliant in his rematch against the talented Gegard Mousasi. Truth told, this second fight was in some essential ways like the first: Jacare was able to takedown Mousasi virtually at will and impose ground control against which Mousasi was very challenged to escape.

This reality was reflected in the wagering line, which had Jacare as a sizable favorite. To be sure, Mousasi was able to catch Jacare with an upkick in the first match, earning a knockout victory. But the "Black Swan" nature of that victory was made pretty clear tonight in the rematch, as Jacare again took Mousasi down at will and secured dominant positions consistently.

Like most, I was rooting for the kimura finish. But like any old jiu-jitsu folk, I'll take what I can get. The point of the matter about this fight for me, though, is this: Rickson Was Right.

I don't know why so many people resist this idea. Sure, mixed martial arts is biased in favor of striking (i.e., padded gloves). But Jacare's performance is a reminder that a strategy of closing the distance, insisting on the takedown, and executing sound guard passing and high probability submissions is just as valid an approach to winning a mixed martial arts contest as "Punch-Punch-Kick."

Yes, you're going to need to have some cardio to fight like this. Mixed martial arts is a professional sport for professional athletes, after all. But if you are a jiu-jitsu fighter in MMA, the only thing better than a striking-based opponent who has to grapple for five minutes is a striking-based opponent who has to grapple for ten minutes. Or fifteen.

Or twenty-five.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

BJ Penn Hilo Hip Check Pass

People who talk about BJ Penn talk about his flexibility. People who watch BJ Penn study his guard passing and top game.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Mat Metrics: Me and the New Thing

First Year of New Job

Dec (8) Jan (16) Feb (9) Mar (15) Apr (12) May (9) Jun (10) Jul (13)
= 92

Aug (12) Sep (5) Oct (6) Nov (9)
= 32

Total: 124

Second Year of New Job

Dec (6) Jan (9) Feb (6) Mar (13) Apr (10) May (9) Jun (9) Jul (10)
= 72

With four months to go, I'm  twenty training sessions behind pace.

I've thought for awhile that I've been having a hard time balancing training and my new job. The statistics suggest I'm not getting any better at it.

The good news is that in order to match the previous pace, I'll have to train 52 times over the next four months. That's a very doable (or, at least, historically doable) 13 sessions a month.

I'm going to be traveling a lot in late September through mid-October. So running up the score in August and November may have to become part of the plan.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

When The Man Comes Around

With apologies to Mr. Cash ...

To say that this is a great opportunity for grapplers here in the northwest is an understatement. That is especially so for those competitors who are looking to climb up the IBJJF ranks, particularly black belts looking for qualifying events ahead of the World Championships.

It is even a greater testament to the growth of jiu-jitsu and grappling in the area. Opportunities to compete were few and far between when I started training almost ten years ago. And if weren't for the explosive growth of jiu-jitsu and grappling, these big name tournaments like the IBJJF and Grapplers Quest wouldn't be putting Seattle in their rotation.

All that said, when it comes to grappling competition in the northwest, the Revolution is still my Alpha and Omega. The biggest, the best-run, the best competitors - including black belts - compete on the mats run by Jeff Bourgeois and the Revolution Team three times a year.  100% local and regular as rain since 2006.

So while the autumn competition schedule just got a little more crowded, remember that there's still nothing like rolling with your own.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dope Mount from Side Control

This is one of the best demonstrations of this "legendary" attack popularized by B.J. Penn that I've come across.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Professor Rodrigo Lopes in Action

It is hard to describe how inspiring it is to see my professor since 2005 back on the competitive tatame again.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Joe Rogan Interviews Rickson Gracie

Some great insights into jiu-jitsu past, present, and future from one of the art's greatest ever. Also featuring Eddie Bravo. Especially love Rickson's separating MMA from vale tudo, and his comparison of no time limit vale tudo fights and five-hour long professional tennis matches.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Omoplata from Spider Guard

Love the omoplata, but lacking a high percentage set-up? You're in luck!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Training By the Numbers

Even if I trained every day for the rest of the month, it still looks like the 2014 training year* will be my weakest since I began keeping track back in the late summer of 2008 (beginning of the 2009 training year). I could probably do the leg work all the way back to August 2005. But I think this gives me a good sample of my training since getting a few stripes on my blue belt.

2014: 98 - 108
2013: 162
2012:  161
2011: 135
2010: 162
2009: 139

Another reminder of how brutal this training year has been in terms of mat time.

That said, what I like is that even though 2014 is shaping up to be a pretty lousy year in terms of training frequency, I still managed to make my 2x/week minimum. I also have to take a step back and pat myself on the back for what is a pretty impressive history going into 2014. 

It goes without saying that I want the 2015 training year that begins in August to be one of the best years ever. My dream is to make personal records for every month of the year or, failing that, to top 196 training sessions in a year, which would represent essentially the same thing. The travel in my new job makes this kind of goal-reaching more than a challenge. But what I wouldn't give to hang a "200" on the board before I'm through ...

*Since I began training jiu-jitsu in August 2005, my training year begins in August and ends in July.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Matter over Mind

I've never been impressed by exhortations to "will." One of my favorite poems, "Ruby Bates," makes the point this way:

"The Reds are virgins. They wear business suits
And talk a shrapnel-proof logic. They will all die
Of biology ..."

It makes us feel good to tell others that "it's all in your head" or to suggest, implicitly or explicitly, that wishing can make things so. As a materialist, I can't help but feel that this is yet another way that we are dishonest with ourselves and each other, inevitably keeping us from truly becoming what we can be by focusing on that over which we have far less control of than we think.

All that said to say that I think this article sums up the point very well, and does so in a martial arts context that I think most of us can appreciate. The intro alone is worth your time.

Resolutions based on “Will Power” FAIL 80% of the time; Resolutions based on changing the Systems you work in SUCCEED 80% of the time. 
Remember, it’s well-intentioned SYSTEMS that make us fat and lazy. You never walk anywhere because it’s too easy to drive your car. Your car, and all the roads you drive on, are a system.
 STOP saying to yourself “I’m going to try harder” and instead, this weekend just spend one solid hour seeing the systems that reinforce your bad behaviors. And then change them. ”

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jiu-Jitsu for Chael

What a Q2! With any luck, things will pick up now that the summer has begun in earnest.

I'll admit that there are times when the life of a middle-aged black belt who doesn't run his own school or compete actively has its discontents. The balance of 2014 will involve me trying to figure out what exactly to do with myself when even the white belts are starting to look dangerous.

In the meantime, have some Chael Sonnen, courtesy of Gracie Barra Portland, Gracie Barra Seattle, and Metamoris 4.

"Nothing beats wrestling. Except jiu-jitsu." Mark Schultz, wrestling coach for Chael Sonnen

Friday, June 27, 2014

52 Magic Minutes

My first week of sparring-focused training got me 52 minutes worth of Live Training.

And while I'm ecstatic that I was able to get close to an hour in Week 1, I'm a little bummed that I won't be able to train on Saturday to make the official mark.

All the same, a great start to the new project, and a nice bar to set.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How Long Do You Live Train Weekly?

I've started tracking my sparring time.

My immediate goal is to make sure that I'm getting at least 30 minutes of sparring a week. After that, an hour a week is probably the next big goal, hopefully by the end of summer.

They say that one way to really understand something is to measure it, and in the same way that keeping a four-week moving average of training days has helped me understand how my training is progressing over the most relevant timeframes (from month-to-month to year-to-year comparisons), I'm thinking that keeping track of exactly how much time I spend practicing what I both learn and preach will be a similar boon for my development.

I've noticed that a lot of newer guys still shy away from Live Training. It was actually a joke among a few white belts today that Professor Carlos included a Live Training component within the Fundamentals class to "make sure" that guys got at least some Live Training in.

Hopefully my own focus on dramatically increasing the amount of time I spent doing Live Training (while simultaneously being relatively class-agnostic) will also give me an opportunity to coax some of these guys off the sidelines. Ideally, I'd love to train for about 30 minutes three times a week. Assuming I'm not training with one person for the whole half hour, some of these guys would be perfect second and/or third round training partners for me. My hope is that the combination of a flow-oriented roll and the chance to train with a black belt will be temptation enough for some of these newer folks to stick around. Live Training is such a key differentiator for jiu-jitsu that it pains me to see so many people missing out.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Half-Guard Reverse: Carreillo Sweep / London Sweep

The next time I'm in London (February 2015), I'm going to see if I can steal away and spend some time training with these guys!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bottom-to-Finish, Bottom-to-Top, Top-to-Finish Jiu-Jitsu

I'm having a great time teaching old school jiu-jitsu every other Friday morning at Gracie Barra Seattle.

If you want to learn how to control without holding, how to wear down your opponent by making him or her bear your weight, how to convince your opponent to submit rather than endure your gravity any longer, you could do much worse than to have been training at GB Seattle over the past few Fridays.

No "Twister Jiu-Jitsu". And no "Hokey-Pokey Jiu-Jitsu", either. Just that good old bottom-to-finish, bottom-to-top, top-to-finish jiu-jitsu the way the Gracies invented it.

Join me.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Jiu-Jitsu: Innovation v.s. Evolution

There's an idea in jiu-jitsu that every innovation is a good innovation. Once upon a time it was half-guard that was a betrayal of jiu-jitsu. Spider guard was an abomination to some. More recently techniques ranging from the 50/50 guard to the berimbolo back-take transition suite (and accompanying double guard play) to the so-called "Worm Guard" have become the definition of what is new and novel in jiu-jitsu.

In my jiu-jitsu lifetime, there was a brief furor over the 50/50 guard. But while the appearance of the guard still draws a few mumbles from time to time, the 50/50 proponents have essentially won. "If you don't like it," taunted no less than multi-World Champion Rafa Mendes years ago, "learn how to stop it."

Take that. Never mind that at the end of the day the inability to "stop" a technique does not in and of itself validate that technique. At this point, the 50/50 is no longer even that controversial. We stare at the slow-motion, rocking horse, leg wrestling, waiting for one or the other competitor to "come up to the top", meaning take two points that are all but 100% conceded by the opponent, and then talk about the "chess match" we've witnessed.

And people want to take this to an Olympics that threatened to throw wrestling overboard?

I remember hanging out after a seminar from a visiting black belt had concluded. (By the way, here's a tip for those of you new to training: when you see large congregations of black belts hanging out after a class or seminar, stick around. Free money is about to rain from the skies.) The visiting black belt showed an incredible choke, something no one had seen before and couldn't figure out how to stop. The set-up wasn't the easiest - in large part because it involved a grip that leveraged the grey area of IBJJF rules. But once in place, it was a choke that came on like thunder. He showed only the standing version. It was crazy.

But it involved a major exploitation of the gi (hence the rule grey area). In fact, it was impossible without the eccentricities of the gi. And I remember wondering, after a certain point, what are we doing exactly.

I say this as someone whose open guard borrows heavily from Otavio Sousa's excellent sitting guard grip work. I say this as someone whose half guard game as often as not results in a Rodolfo Viera-like lapel wrap around the trapped leg.

There is no argument: the more the gi becomes an integral part of what we are doing when we do jiu-jitsu, then the less I feel we are doing what jiu-jitsu truly wants us to do. It is an evasion, a decadence, an exploitation of some otherwise irrelevant detail into the foundation of what is ultimately an edifice only a very few will ultimately feel safe within.

I'd argue that right now, jiu-jitsu suffers from too much innovation and not enough evolution. That's somewhat nonsensical insofar as the concepts don't typically share timescales. But it does get at what is most annoying about what is "novel" in jiu-jitsu right now. To steal a line from Revolution tournament founder and jiu-jitsu black belt Jeff Bourgeois, just what is it that is truly "sharpening" the iron we think we are wielding?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Return of the Son of #EndPointJiuJitsuNow*

*at least for black belts

Eddie Bravo, a believer: (6:00 minutes in)
When it comes to entertainment value, hands down, submission only is the way to go. ... Who cares if there's a winner? Is that all you care about? The only thing people should care about is if it is entertaining ... If somebody wins a world championship by one advantage, I don't care. I'm not going to watch that again.
Again, I think points are fine for brown belts. Good for purple belts. Great for blue belts. Essential for white belts. But once you get to black belt, I think jiu-jitsu has an opportunity to set a sporting standard that few others can match. In the same way jiu-jitsu teaches us to be indomitable, why not shape our sport to match what is most essential about our art?

Ralph Gracie, arguably more king than philosopher, famously told one of his students who was defeated by points in a local tournament that as long as the student didn't get submitted, who cared how many "points" they "gave" the guy. That's another attitude from the old school that's probably worth reconsidering, if not recovering.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Near Side Underhook Pass

Courtesy of Shawn Williams. One of the best lessons I learned from Marcelo Garcia was the idea of breaking the guard pass into two parts: defeating the full guard first, then defeating the half guard. It made the campaign to pass so much easier to deal with, and gave me the kind of short-term goal (get to half -guard) that helped keep my confidence up.

So, once you get there, here's something to do.

Submission Hero of the Week: Bryan Caraway

There are a couple of reasons why I'm glad to be giving the Submission Hero of the Week award to Bryan Caraway.

Like Ronda Rousey, currently the patron saint for "jujitsu" in mixed martial arts, Caraway makes no pretense toward doing anything other than what he is best at as a submission artist. I understand why so few grappling-oriented mixed martial artists abandon a submission-first approach to greatness; the rules of the sport do not incentivize it. But I will never lack of appreciation of those who, correctly in my view, agree with Rickson Gracie that there is more than enough in jiu-jitsu to succeed in mixed martial arts contests. And Bryan Caraway's finish by choke at UFC Fight Night last week is as good an example of this attitude as we've seen in awhile.

And, yes, as someone who considers the thought experiment of being referred to as "Mr.Tate" far less humiliating than the epithet intended, I'll confess to being more than a little extra happy for the Y chromosome-packing half of MMA's best combat couple.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


One of the great joys of jiu-jitsu after almost nine years of training is rolling with white and blue belts. Many times, white belts and blue belts are the only ones I feel like training with.

There is something incredible at the nexus of knowing no jiu-jitsu (beyond a basic introduction) and knowing a little jiu-jitsu. If you teach, nothing is a better guide to future lessons than to spend as much time in this universe as possible.

I wrote awhile back that the key to being a happy black belt was keeping your "blue belt self" in mind at all times. This is a version of that.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Fear of a Bad Rep

When working with students, we often exhort them to drill or train faster. "Go, go, go!" we shout. "Faster! Faster!"

"As fast as you can!"

I fear we too commonly put more emphasis on the "fast" than the "can."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What is Innovation in Jiu-Jitsu?

I'll have much more to say about this in the days to come. And while I think this is ultimately an irrelevant issue for jiu-jitsu (which will be what it will be), I do think it is interesting to ask: (1) what drives creative variation in jiu-jitsu, (2) when do these variations become true innovations, and (3) when, if ever, do these innovations actually start to represent an evolution in the art of jiu-jitsu that must be recognized by all who practice it.

My short answers are (1) everything from boredom to physical limitation to competitive experience, (2) when the techniques prove able to deliver consistent success under testing - ideally by more than one competitor , and (3) when the techniques survive from one generation to another. But more later.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rei Roger: The King is Back

BJJ Eastern Europe has been referred to as the TMZ of Jiu-Jitsu news. That said, this is as exciting a potential development in jiu-jitsu as we've seen in awhile.

What I love the most is train and compete with the gi and I am going back to doing that. I almost entered the 2014 Worlds. I’m not done quite yet!
Read the rest of the report here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Submission Hero of the Week: Mitch Clarke

The fact that every week does not feature a submission hero of the week is the fault not of the stars, but of ourselves, who are often not paying close enough attention to the jiu-jitsu-in-mixed-martial-arts-magnificence that is all around us.

So congratulations to Mitch "Danger Zone" Clark for a great Jeff Glover-esque darce choke finish in the UFC Saturday night!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Rodrigo Lopes v. Tom Tegner at Five Grappling Tournament

My professor since 2005 back in competition!

And if that armbar looks familiar, this may be why ...

"Better Fewer, But Better"

After not posting training diaries for a little over a month, I think they are gone for good.

At the end of the day, the posts were never especially popular. And you have to write one for every training session or the point is lost. And since I'm not training with competitive intensity - see the Monkey Bar Gym folks for that - I just don't see a reason to maintain intimate logs of day-in, day-out training.

Instead, I'll post a weekly digest of what was most meaningful out of a week's training, some theme or concept that seemed to best characterize what jiu-jitsu is all about. I'll also have a post talking about whatever it is I'm teaching and why.

So fewer lists of techniques in odd shorthand. But I'll try and keep the cool pictures and drawings of ancient grappling combatants going all the same.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Vai #$@#$ Cavalo

And to Speake of the Volume of Bullshite that was Spoken Against Fabricio Werdum in the Days before his Dominating Victory over Travis Browne ... and After ...

Monday, April 14, 2014

End Point Jiu-Jitsu Now*

* at least for black belts.

If there's one thing that's become clear to me after watching an epic contest between Royler Gracie and Eddie Bravo at Metamoris 3, it is this: competitors who think their matches could in draws are more likely to fight for the finish.

There are a lot of ideas about what is wrong with sport jiu-jitsu right now. Rafael Lovato Jr. has become one of the faces of the contemporary "Save Our Jiu-Jitsu" movement, such as it is. And while I commend his focus on changing the mindset of the average jiu-jitsu artist, I think the surest way to change the way the game is played is by rearranging the incentives.

The problem with sport jiu-jitsu is not just that there is a tremendous incentive not to lose. That's pretty common in every sport. The problem with sport jiu-jitsu is that there is also a tremendous ability to avoid losing.

After all, jiu-jitsu is not a toughman contest. It's arguably the most sophisticated self-defense martial art every devised. So should it really be a surprise to see the kind of matches we too often see? Two BJJ artists attempting to simultaneously play guard until they are able to transition to taking the back, moving from the sin qua non of defensive martial arts (the guard) to what is quantitatively the most dominant position in grappling (rear mount).

Not only might this "bug" have been a feature, we probably should have seen it coming all along.

That's why you've got to change the rules, to make some of the natural tendencies of superior, self-defense oriented martial artistry more appealing from a sportive point of view. At the same time, it's not going to work exposing the "inferior" self-defense of everybody on the losing end of a BJJ contest. That's the recipe for the conservative, advantage-based, sports jiu-jitsu we have right now.

I think there's a place for this kind of jiu-jitsu: in the belt ranks from white to brown. But once we enter the black belt realm, let's start looking at competition differently. Watching Gracie v. Bravo, I ask myself, what's a sweep or two between black belts? In a world in which we are expected to regularly sacrifice Pan and World titles on the altar of collegiality, why not spare black belt competitors the ignominy of one-advantage losses and insist on a submit or draw standard?

At the end of the day, I just want to see great jiu-jitsu. And more often than not I see great jiu-jitsu when I see competitors who desire winning more than they fear losing. I see a lot of that in the lower belts. I spent a fantastic afternoon at the greatest jiu-jitsu tournament in the northwest watching mats full of kids, women, white belts, blue belts, purple belts, and brown belts going for it without a single stalling call that I remember seeing. The Revolution event is very IBJJF-oriented, with advantages and everything. But these competitors didn't need any incentive to get after it.

The same is true for the sole black belt match, my professor and a talented, local new black belt I've trained with once or twice - with whom my professor actually shared his winning technique shortly after the match. That's the kind of class we roll with here in the PNW.

But elsewhere incentives are different, where the stakes are higher and rank and reputation become a part of the mix. So why not change the nature of the game, at least at the highest level, as well?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

JT v DJ at the NY Open 2014

It's hard not to see this match through the lens of their shared tenure - one since abandoned if not renounced, one still very much alive and well - as part of Team Lloyd Irvin. However you choose to look at it, it is a quality contest between two of America's most engaged jiu-jitsu competitors.

Blagoi Ivanov: MMA Submission Hero of the Week

My appreciation of jiu-jitsu in mixed martial arts is without question. The same is true for my affection for the Russian grappling art of sambo.

So it is with double-joy that side control congratulates our latest Submission Hero of the Week: Blagoi Ivanov, who finished Lavar Johnson by keylock in the first round of Bellator's heavyweight semi-finals.

Check out this interview with the so-called "Fedor Killer" here.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Training Day: Monday

Ground: Countering choke grip from closed guard with pressure and slide pass / Pressure pass to Knee Cross or Pass to Mount after half guard pass counter

Specific Training: Closed guard with choke grip- Pass closed guard

Live Training: 8 minutes (Coach Pat); 15 minutes (Professor Rodrigo)

Scale: 169.4

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sound and Vision: Livestreaming the American Cup

Spent much of Sunday watching the 7th America's Cup sponsored by Team Claudio Franca and BJJ Tour. Held in San Jose, the event draws from all of California as well as parts of the Mountain, Desert, and Pacific North west.

I've been training long enough to remember when being able to see a jiu-jitsu tournament streamed live over the Internet happened only in the fevered dreams of the most forward-thinking grappling fans. My how times have changed for the good.

The feed courtesy of Ghosthand Productions and Livestream was great. There were some rumors of problems on Saturday, but my watching of the blue and black belts on Sunday was pretty flawless. I was treated to some excellent jiu-jitsu from guys like Nathan Mendelson and Samir Chante, as well as a couple of other very talented guys I hadn't heard of like Marcel Fortuna (Ralph Gracie) and Osvaldo Moizinho (Caio Terra), a middleweight who won his division and the open - against superheavyweight Fortuna!

For West Coast jiu-jitsu and grappling competitors, there are two dates worth keeping in mind: the All-Star Tournament in late June, and the U.S. Open in late October. Both in Santa Cruz.

If you are thinking about attending, double check their registration dates. The website currently has the same early/discount pricing deadlines (in March) for both the All-Star and the U.S. Open. My guess is that they are left over from the America's Cup this past weekend, and just haven't been updated.

Results from this weekend are here.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

GB Kirkland One Year Anniversary Party

Ain't no party like a Gracie Barra One Year Anniversary Party 'cause a Gracie Barra One Year Anniverary Party don't ... oh, you know the rest!

More photos available here. Congratulations to Professor Cindy, Coach Pat, Coach Dave, and Coach Davrick on a strong finish to their first year at the helm of Gracie Barra Kirkland.

Friday, April 04, 2014

TGIF Training: Xande Sweeps and Back Takes


Double Leg drill / Morote Seionage drill

Armbar from mount drill / Armbar from guard drill / Xande sweep / Taking the back from closed guard

Live Training:
Five minutes

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Training Day: Tuesday

Ground: Straight ankle lock to leg drag / Straight ankle lock with hook to leg drag / Straight ankle lock with hook to leg drag to berimbolo / Straight ankle lock with hook to calf kick counter to Terere pass / Berimbolo from double guard pull / Berimbolo counter to leg drag

Live Training: 8 minutes

Scale: 168.0

Monday, March 31, 2014

Training Day: Monday

Standing/Self-Defense: Pull guard from standing / Pull guard from standing - tripod sweep

Ground: Back take from closed guard with arm drag

Live Training: Study hall with Robert: Bravo half guard Old School Twist Back, Xande closed guard sweep, scissors sweep

Scale: 169.2

Friday, March 28, 2014

Training Day: Friday

Live Drilling: Guard - Pass Guard specific / Half Guard - Pass Half Guard specific / Side control specific / Mount specific / Back control Specific

Live Training: 8 minutes

Scale: 168.0

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

So Many Reasons to See ... Metamoris 3

It's going to be a great Saturday in the PNW this weekend. We've got the Revolution gi competition in the morning. Revolution no gi competition in the afternoon. And Metamoris 3 at night.

Metamoris 3 matchups:
Eddie Bravo v. Royler Gracie
Rafa Mendes v. Clark Gracie
Keenan Cornelius v. Vinny Malgalhaes
Dean Lister v. Renato "Babalu" Sobral
Gui Mendes v. Samir Chantre
Zak Maxwell v. Sean Roberts

Training Day: Wednesday

Live Training: Closed guard - pass guard specific / Half-guard reverse - pass guard specific / Situational Start Sparring: side control

Scale: 169.4

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Conditioning Day: LSD = Truth

fifty-two minutes / moderate pace / 3% grade

Monday, March 24, 2014

Training Day: Monday

Ground: Armbar counter to scarf hold / Two collars choke / Take the back from turtle

Live Training: 5 minutes

Scale: 171.2

Saturday, March 22, 2014

MMA Submission Hero of the Week: Marcin Held

With the declining rate of submissions in mixed martial arts - and in the spirit of Rafael Lovato Jr.'s Save Jiu-Jitsu campaign - I thought it might be a good idea to start giving a little extra jiu-jitsu love for those guys and gals who are getting it done "the gentle way" in the cage and ring.

The inaugural MMA Submission Hero of the Week Award goes to Marcin Held for his first-round toehold victory over Rodrgio Cavalheiro in the quarterfinals of Bellator's Lightweight tournament Friday night.

Video of the contest is here (until it's not).

A little background on Marcin:

The Prodigy of Polish BJJ and MMA - BJJ Eastern Europe

Bellator 81 Judo Chop: Marcin Held and the Lost Art of the Toe Hold - An analysis of Marcin's leglock game from Bloody Elbow

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Saving Sport Jiu-Jitsu from Itself

There's a lot to like in Rafael Lovato Jr.'s must-hear critique of contemporary jiu-jitsu. The idea that the decline of sport jiu-jitsu coincides with the move of the World championships from Brazil to the United States is just one of the more interesting and provocative points Lovato makes. It really is a manifesto worth listening to in its entirety.

If I differ with Rafael in any meaningful way it's that the changes he rightly seeks won't come about by way of a change in mindset. There are rewards for the kind of jiu-jitsu neither one of us can stand, and until those rewards and incentives are removed or mitigated, the jiu-jitsu we both loathe is likely to endure.

This is why submission only tournaments are important and should spread. This is why Kron Gracie's critique of grip fighting in jiu-jitsu is so illuminating. You want to see some exciting gi jiu-jitsu? Add submission-only rules and stalling penalties for gi grips held for longer than it takes to tie your belt.

TGIF Training: Counters to Rear Mount


Double Leg drill

Armbar from mount
Scoot Counter to Rear Mount (no grips)
Bridge Escape from Rear Mount (grips)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Training Day: Wednesday

Ground: Armbar counter vs scarf hold / Recover guard from turtle / Back control escape to closed guard

Live Drilling: Scarf hold - escape specific / Back control - escape specific

Scale: 167.8

Post-Training HICT: 25 technical lifts / 50 hipscapes