Sunday, October 17, 2021

People Get Ready

The deeper we get into October, the more likely the next big regional competition (I'm looking at you, Revolution) will be in 2022 rather than the fall of 2021.

In a normal year, February would be the earliest for an event to take place. The latest anti-COVID mandate, as it applies to gyms, runs through late March. Best case scenario is a successful spring event that paves the way for a summer event and, ideally, getting the whole show back on track.

So, with six months to go ...

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Submission Hero of the Week: Ben Dyson

He didn't win the tournament. But with his armbar victory over a guy who repeatedly went to the "limit his ability to breathe" technique of putting his hands over his opponent's mouth from inside the closed guard, he has won my heart.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

WNO Championships Deliver

The most fascinating thing about the incredible show that was the WNO Championships this past weekend was the way that the victorious competitors were able to leverage specialization instead of being limited by it. 

On one hand, you had the predictable-but-unstoppable head and arm (okay, d'arce) chokes of the Ruotolo brothers and the wisdom and strategic intelligence of a non leg locker like Tim Spriggs to make the still-common vulnerability of most no-gi grapplers a major part of his, 3-day-a-week training in preparation for the event. 

On the other hand, we have the inability of veteran leg lockers like Tex Johnson and Elizabeth Clay to lure their opponents into their game - to say nothing of Michael Musumeci's inability to defend himself effectively once his notoriously tough-to-pass guard was, in fact, passed.

So many great performances! And many takeaways, as always. If you haven't watched the event, then browse on over to FloGrappling and treat yourself to some very entertaining jiu-jitsu.

Honorable mention to both Amanda Leve and Kendall Reusing who were also especially impressive.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Old School Jiu-Jitsu Classic Moments


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Performance Uber Alles


Sunday, May 16, 2021

Luke Thomas On the Physical Toll of Recreational Combat

I'm a huge fan of Luke Thomas' work as an analyst and commentator on mixed martial arts. I thought his reflection on whether or not he planned to return to jiu-jitsu training post-COVID was pretty heartfelt, honest, and resonant - one of the key reasons I've been a fan of his for years. Although I end up making a different decision, I think his perspective is worth considering if your time in and around the mat starts to feel less worthwhile. 

The conversation starts at 27:20 minutes and runs for about 11-12 minutes. Some valuable truth-telling.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Keenan Cornelius on Competition Preparation


This latest from KC is very good. He does a great job of breaking down his concepts and presenting them in a pretty compelling fashion. For all my gripes about his lapel game and its influence on gi jiu-jitsu, Legion Era Keenan is a real boon to BJJ.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Ryan on Rogan


A lot of good takeaways from an interview I've been looking forward to for awhile now. Not a ton of surprises for any one who's been following Ryan's career, but some interesting insights into the teaching approach of the Danaher Death Squad and, more importantly, what he thinks distinguishes the DDS approach to jiu-jitsu from everyone else's.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Rafael Lovato Jr. On the Competitive Mindset and Knowing Your "Why"


"What's your goal, your purpose, your 'why'? Of course, we all love jiu-jitsu. We love to learn. The vibe, to train, to get better. But when you sign up for a competition, that's a step beyond. That's a step beyond just being a normal practitioner. So, why are you competing? Why are you challenging yourself? You have to know that. You have to know what your inspiration is. Because when things get tough, and there's a hard battle in front of you and you want to break, if you don't know your 'why', you're going to be at a disadvantage."

Thursday, February 04, 2021

On Being Closed-Minded

If two of Gracie Barra's greatest black belt competitors (okay, okay, how about "two of Carlos Gracie Jr.'s greatest" black belt competitors?) do their best guard work from the closed guard, then why can't I?

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Rats! Rats! Rats!

 Over or under?

Inside or outside?

Through or around?

Clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Smash or float?

Parallel or crosswise?

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Attribute Oriented Jiu-Jitsu: Leveraging Length

Did a wingspan measurement this evening after doing some research on bicep/tricep hypertrophy strategies. Turns out that at 65" tall, I have a pretty outsized reach at 71". 

This has me thinking about some additional adjustments to my post-pandemic jiu-jitsu game. With regard to submissions, I'm a lot more interested in arm triangles than I used to be and am looking forward to spending a little time studying Ryan Hall's work in this regard.

There are also some interesting implications for passing. I've been inclined lately toward a tripod-float-smash hybrid / Demian Maia + Murilo Santana / wide base game. I don't see myself departing from that anytime soon. But the idea that I might have the attributes to incorporate a torreando-style passing attack a la Leandro Lo is pretty attractive. I'd been very interested in Lo back in the fall of 2019, but focused more on the ferocity of his attack than its technical merits. May be time to bring his beat back.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Gordon, Roids, and the Rest of 'Em

One of the benefits of becoming a bodybuilding fan during the pandemic has been learning a lot more about performance enhancing substances than ever. Among the curators of this exhibition has been "Derek" a guy who runs a supplement company and YouTube channel called "More Plates More Dates."

Derek provides a ton of information on steroids and other performance enhancers, and uses self-described "clickbait" videos on celebrity transformation to help bring folks into his more scientific content. I've watched his video takes on everyone from actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani to UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. And now, apparently by popular request, he's turned his sights on "The King" - Gordon Ryan.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Fly Like an Eagle: BJJ Scout on Nurmagomedov

This video has been available for a long time. But I'm only now getting around to studying it. Shame on me.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Book

I've had the idea for a book on American Jiu-Jitsu for a long time. A lot of people talk about "American Jiu-Jitsu" but I've yet to hear anyone that gets at the heart of what American Jiu-Jitsu really is, what's so ironic about it, and why the top American Jiu-Jitsu schools embody it and continue to turn out some of the country's - and the world's - greatest jiu-jitsu artists because of it.

It's also an incredible story about America, and the different types of Americans we've come to spend a lot of time talking about these days. I've always hesitated to talk about it because I've thought it was such an obviously fascinating topic that someone with more time and talent than I've got would scoop it up in a second.

Failing that, the project will probably have to wait until I retire in another 15-odd years. Nevertheless, a large part of my return to the mat in 2021 is predicated on taking advantage of what American Jiu-Jitsu - or more accurately, the American approach to Jiu-Jitsu - can do to elevate my performance on the mat.

Photo by Thought Catalog from Pexels

Monday, October 19, 2020

World’s Greatest Grappler Meets World’s Greatest Grappling Dummy?

During my white and blue belt days, I built a bunch of different “dummies” in order to practice different moves on my own. I built my first grappling dummy out of a trenchcoat, some old pillows and towels, and an old gi.

And since grappling dummies can be task-specific as well as ridiculously expensive, I built another for practicing open guard sweeps (the backside of a ladderback chair, some rope, another old gi), and another for practicing half guard/half butterfly/full butterfly transitions (padded legs of another weighted down chair with especially wide legs).

So the necessity of spending money on a grappling dummy has been well lost on me. At least until this weekend. Check out grappling HOFer Marcelo Garcia training with a Favuke.

At $130 for the synthetic leather version and another 10 months before I’m likely back on the mat, I’m thinking about putting this thing on my Xmas list.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Ryan Rolling, Guard Passing

Part of my strategy for avoiding a totally catastrophic technical performance upon my return to the mat eons from now involves not a small measure of walking in place and staring at videos like this.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Danaher on Heel Hooks in the IBJJF and the Two Jiu-Jitsus


That John Danaher would praise the IBJJF's decision to allow heel hooks in no-gi competition is no surprise. But what is especially pleasing to the heart and mind is the way he distinguishes gi or "classical" jiu-jitsu from no-gi or what I'll call "modern" jiu-jitsu not just in this context, but in the broader sense of what historically has been the fundamental structure of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

I believe the IBJJF were wise to limit the rule change to no gi competition. Heel hooks in a gi would be too easy due to the friction of pants and the power of gripping the pants to enter ashi garami holds. It would rapidly devolve into a game of whoever gets to the legs first would probably win and much of the classical upper body skill set could be lost. By splitting the game you have one part of Jiu jitsu representing the classical ideal of positional advancement to the upper body pins and submissions that is safe for all levels, weights and age categories and the other emphasizing the notion of limb isolation and control leading to submission over the whole body. 

Read the rest.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

What If Rickson is God? What If Gordon is Right?


I've enjoyed the Myth of Rickson Gracie as much as any other jiu-jitsu practitioner of my era (started training in 2005). But what has always interested me more than the Myth of Rickson Gracie - or the Reality of Rickson Gracie, for that matter - is the Theory of Rickson Gracie.

The Myth of Rickson Gracie is that he outperforms everyone he trains with. That he is "better" than everyone else. The Reality of Rickson Gracie is likely something a little different.

The Theory asks a more important question for me - and for anyone trying to become more efficient and effective with their jiu-jitsu: What would it take for the Myth to be the Reality? 

What would it require from a jiu-jitsu practitioner to be able to best all-comers, and without any particular exposure to any potential adversary's game? Even more challenging would be to isolate this jiu-jitsu practitioner, largely, from jiu-jitsu's innovations and thus render them even less familiar with the contemporary changes to the art.

I have no idea if such a person is conceivable. And that too is beside the point. The question is: what would it take to create such a person? What would that person have to be capable of? 

Listening to a recent interview with current no-gi pound-for-pound great Gordon Ryan, I was reminded of this Theory of Rickson Gracie idea that I've been noodling for more than a decade. Ryan, in addition to being an incredible grappler, is also a notorious trash-talker who insists repeatedly and without hesitation that he wins because most of his opponents "suck" at jiu-jitsu.

To be clear, Ryan is trash-talking. But I don't think he's kidding, either. And given his technical dominance and high finishing rate rarely seen even among jiu-jitsu's best, I'm inclined to wonder just a little bit: what if he's "right"? Or, more to the point, in what way could Gordon Ryan be correct in his assessment of the jiu-jitsu of at least some (okay, almost all) of his opponents?

I've long thought that I had an answer for the Theory of Rickson Gracie. And hearing today's interview with Ryan, in some ways, not only reaffirms my Theory of Rickson, but is now reinforced by a Theory of Gordon, as well.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Who's Number One - Ryan v Diniz Review: He Who Heel Hooks; Geo Martinez on Predictability

If there were any doubt that we are still in the Heel Hook Era of No Gi jiu-jitsu, then this weekend's FloGrappling Who's Number One event was a stern reminder that, as far as the obsession with this technique goes, the only way out is through.

Three of the event's feature contests: Nicky Ryan vs. Tony Ramos, Craig Jones vs Roberto Jimenez, and Gordon Ryan vs. Matheus Diniz, ended with heel hook submissions. And while only the first two submissions came quickly (within seconds in the case of Ryan "versus" Ramos), the heel hook submission in the Ryan "versus" Diniz headliner was as easy to anticipate as the seasons.

At this point, it is not even worth arguing that it would have been more interesting for both Ryan brothers to forgo heel hooks in their matches to make them more competitive. But while Diniz was a worthy, if overmatched opponent, for the older Ryan, Ramos had no reason whatsoever being on the mat with the younger Ryan. A potential rematch between Nicky and Tye Ruotolo would make for a far more compelling match up for the Danaher Death Squad's youngest superstar.

The most interesting match of the event for me was Geo Martinez taking on Paulo Miyao. I'll confess both to being especially interested in featherweights (being one) and in Geo, whose EBI final against Eddie Cummings is among my favorite contests in years. But it was very impressive to watch Geo avoid Paulo's entanglements, remain aggressive on top, and even attack for what was probably the match-winning guillotine attempt.

What caught my ear in the post-match interview was Geo's emphasis on being familiar with Paulo's game, with the "predictability" of that game, he said. That's no knock on Paulo. To have a "style" is, in a sense, to be "predictable." What was impressive was Geo's ability to not just read the predictions, but to run them down relentlessly, en route to an impressive victory against a top opponent.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

"A Leg Pummeling System to Pass the Guard"

 Holy Mother of God. I'm becoming a Gordon Ryan fan boy. #TalesfromtheLockdown

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Fighting Words: Early Bird Edition

I've just realized that the man who is doing the most to destroy gi jiu-jitsu is also an apparently passionate supporter of the current president. I've enjoyed watching him over the years - the martial artist, not the president - and have felt increasingly uneasy about his mission to make gi jiu-jitsu almost totally unwatchable. 

Like being an Eddie Bravo fan, I've had to do some deft picking and choosing from what's worthwhile for me in his game and what's better left alone - though I'll admit to having just learned - twice over - that one of my favorite moves of "his" is something BJ Penn was doing decades ago ...

So I'll further confess that seeing him go almost obsequiously MAGA over the past few months has been uncomfortable, if enlightening. I'm not going to pretend there is any correlation between being a Trump supporter and thinking that the strategic insight into the heart of jiu-jitsu lies in what we wear when we do jiu-jitsu. But, truth told, knowledge of the former makes me feel a bit freer at expressing my bewilderment at the latter.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Pick Your Poison: Endless Leglocks or Lapel Entanglement

Scylla or Charybdis? A no gi universe dominated by leg locks or a gi world defined by lapel entanglement?

Scylla vs. Charybdis - YouTube

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Get Down Get Down

Almost a year ago this time I had a real jiu-jitsu moment of transcendence reading about Renzo Gracie black belt John Danaher. I've spent some of my more constructive time during the COVID-19 pandemic watching his back control/attack series, and am just now looking into his upcoming takedown instructional.

One thing I'm very heartened by is his embrace of the ankle pick, a takedown I've long been a fan of. Same thing with the collar drag, though a fear of getting eye-poked has made me more wary of that takedown than I'd like to be. Fundamentally, it is a great opportunity to understand Danaher's thinking in terms of what works FOR JIU-JITSU, rather than as a generic takedown in a given sport. I always feel that the process that Danaher shares is more than half the value of the instruction he provides.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

How to Be a Jiu-Jitsu Phenom

I've now heard two of the most successful American-based jiu-jitsu coaches - Lloyd Irvin and John Danaher - spell it out. Here's Danaher on Joe Rogan's podcast.

... my students could put opponents who trained much much longer than they had into a niche area which my students has so much knowledge of, so much training in that isolated niche domain, that they could take someone who had trained three, four times longer than themselves and have more knowledge in that one domain than their much more experienced opponent did.