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."