Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Carlos Gracie Jr. and Marcio Feitosa

Training Day: Friday

Guard passing heaven at Gracie Barra Seattle.

Today's installment with Prof. Carlos continued on the theme of open guard passes, starting with standing inside control and using the "guard split" (one leg up, one leg on the mat) to set up passing opportunities. There were variations for with and without double sleeve control.

For shorthand - and to remember them better - they were The Fold, The Hug, The Sitout and The Backflip. The one pass that seemed the most complicated and hard to do, The Sitout, is actually turning into one of my favorites of the group - especially on my good side.

I especially like one thing both Profs Rodrigo and Carlos are doing with very specific sparring. Forcing us to work specifically on the guard passes that we have just learned really helps in grain them more - and keep specific training from devolving into just another opportunity to train what you already know. I know I've had that tendency far too oftem and this added bit of structure is a lot of help.

162.4 on the scale post-train. I didn't get a chance to spar, which probably would have knocked off another pound to keep me under weight. With any luck, I'll more than make up for it tomorrow.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Guard Passing Drills

There have always been days when I've felt like the orixas of jiu jitsu were looking out for me. Catching this video this evening - and being reminded of these great drills I can add to my skills conditioning - is just another example of that as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Training Day: Wednesday

Another great session this week. It's still all about the guard passes, which is great as far as I'm concerned, tonight working against the spider guard (another version of Rodrigo's folding pass v.s. the DLR and a pass I call the Jack Pass) as well as a refresher on the Fowler pass from Monday.

As I've said, I love the fact that I'm getting to spend so much focused time on guard passing. So much of jiu jitsu is about developing sensibilities, and there's no better way to develop sensibilities than do repetitions, drill, over and over again. There are a lot of other considerations, I suppose. You don't want "bore" anyone. But the fact of the matter is that there's really only one way to get better, and training lately has been especially geared toward that very purpose.

The armbars from mount/armbar escape to side control was a nice late drill, and then to finish up with something fast paced like the arm drag drill - just a perfect class.

Live training was about 30+ minutes with Danny, Lance (2x) and a purple belt from Bellevue, Darrin. Great challenges all - and different looks. My game wasn't flowing as automatically as I'd like, even from half guard. But there were some good moments, including my first ever Glover #2 deep half pass to the back (I didn't get the back-take, but it was the first time I'd ever really gone after that move in live training), that are worth carrying forward.

One thing I've noticed rolling with black belts over the past week (Profs. Rodrigo and Carlos, Casey and Lance) is that I end up pulling out of my gi all sorts of techniques that I never use otherwise, but have been desperate to integrate into my game. That deep half move is one example. The single X is another. And even though I'm rarely successful, the fact that these moves come rocketing out of my subconscious when I'm under the stress of a black belt trying to pass my guard.

Most of the time I just get passed. But every now and then, something I'm not expecting happens and it's the second or the third attempt at the pass that works instead of the first. And sometimes defending until the second or third pass is accomplishment enough.

161.2 on the scale, post-train. Steady as we go. Off the mat tomorrow. Back on Friday and Saturday if I'm lucky.

Rafa Mendes = Kobe Bryant?

Posted a link to this on my Facebook page (what?!), but I wanted to make sure anyone who is visiting the blog gets a chance to check it out.

Rafael Mendes: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Those of you who do a bare minimum of online research on Rafael Mendes will discover that at the age of 19, he became a World Pro champion and won perhaps the most prestigious title in submission grappling, the ADCC. Those of you who do some more digging, watch videos and talk to Brazilian jiu-jitsu aficionados near you will discover that a surprising number of people dislike him. They really dislike him. Talk of "ruining jiu-jitsu" and the name "Cobrinha" will probably feature heavily in their commentary. That dislike should no longer matter and here's why.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Get In Your Game

"Instead of creating new moves to deal with exotic situations, use your already known familiar techniques that are part of your game."

--Marcelo Garcia

Monday, April 25, 2011

Training Day: Monday

A nice session all around. Even though it was a combined "Fundamentals/Advanced" class in the first hour due to some illnesses among the other instructors, I have to admit that there was something in the mix that was almost perfect.

A little self-defense, then a pair of guard passes (double unders and a pass I've called the Fowler), then a little time to train them semi-live. Given my focus right now, this was a great way to start the week.

There were a lot of things that I wanted to do that I did tonight. The best in a long time in that regard. I got to work the backstep pass against the half guard, the Marcelo pass series from standing (#1 and #2, but no #3), even a little bit of the Fowler in one instance. For some reason, I go totally dyslexic when it comes to the basic grab the sleeve 'n' stand guard open and pass, and never get the foot forward and grip side coordinated right. But tonight was a very good, "first night" kind of training session. The trick will be following up over the balance of the week (and weeks, and months).

To that end, I am overjoyed that GB Seattle is having a special training this Saturday with folks from Lake Stevens and a local MMA school bringing guys over. The interschool is a chance for those who want to get in some tournament-type atmospheres ahead of the May Revolution. But it looks like the real opportunity for some top quality training is going to be on South Hanford this Saturday morning and early afternoon and I couldn't be looking forward to it more.

Training with Prof. Rodrigo and Casey, the goal is movement. Nothing is more important. I agree with Pete Roberts in that fun post from BJJ Weekly that "movement" is the real final frontier as far as jiu jitsu is concerned. At the advanced level, maybe at the "black belt" level, that's the key to everything else that follows.

I remember Lance telling me about something that Prof. Christiano told him, the idea of not stopping until you are in an advantageous position. It sounds simple, even obvious. But the practical implications in everything from attitudes toward conditioning to tactics and strategy are immense. And when you combine that with something very insightful Ryan Hall said about Marcelo Garcia, you have a jiu jitsu that becomes increasingly coherent, or at least potentially so.

Great encouragement during the advanced session late in Live Training. I think I was in the 160 bpm range by the time I was done (I know for sure I was clocking between 148 and 152 after my first round). But it was really nice to get to train with two exceptional black belts. And if I can keep at it, I'm more and more convinced that I'll be glad that I did.

162.1 on the scale, post-train. Not bad at all one month out, especially for a Monday.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

4 Weeks Out

With a month to go before the May Revolution, now's the time to hammer into place what's going to be my gameplan, and to hammer out of place any weaknesses that I can forsee that might get in my way.

Interestingly, all three of my training sessions the last time I was on the mat (Wednesday, ugh!) played a role in defining each of the three critical areas I need to address.

Sauleh: Here there were two things that stood out. First, and practically speaking, I'm still without a coherent approach to attacking the full guard, and am too hesitant when it comes to attacking the half guard with the passes I know well.

There's a lot embedded in the first point. But the bottom line is that I need to embrace toreano passing 100% as the foundation of my dealing with the full/open guard. Toreano passing is tournament tested at the highest levels and will help me deal with the most problematic part of guard passing for me: the legs.

The hesitancy issue is the hesitancy issue. That's just a matter of smashing through ego and inhibition and just getting to it. That and a little focus to train specifically what I need to train when the opportunity comes up.

The second thing training with Sauleh was just a matter of intensity. It is easy to get into a lazy rhythm of training - even when the technical edge is not large. But this is the road to a slow and lazy jiu jitsu and sooner or later, someone will come along and expose it. Better now then four weeks down the line.

Glenn: I've long known that I have a great half guard on one side, and a virtually non-existent half guard on the other. I've also not done anything to fix that problem. And when someone has done a good job of putting or keeping me on my worse side, then they've pretty much got the drop on me.

I don't need to be as good in southpaw half as I am in orthodox half. But I need a nice trio of interrelated moves that work for me when I do wind up in southpaw half guard - whether they are the same as on the orthodox side or not.

Prof. Carlos: The big lesson here was having an objective with the guard. Prof. Carlos has the fastest attack of anyone I train with, in large part because he is one of the few higher belts who will challenge your guard from standing.

It was an education to see elements of real jiu jitsu emerge from time to time, moves like the single X that I've never really trained, in the midst of my scrambling to try and avoid the inevitable pass. And it served as a reminder that there is more jiu jitsu locked up in my superego than there is being demonstrated on the mat at any given time.

That said, as the saying goes, "have a point." I've been migrating from the half guard over the past few weeks, feeling a little limited in its ability to attack relative to a more open sitting guard a la Marcelo Garcia. There will always be a little half in my world. But I think a key to getting where I want to be in terms of having a truly effective jiu jitsu from bottom to top lies somewhere other than the half guard that's gotten me from blue belt to where I'm at these days.

Interschool Tournament This Saturday

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Yu Shu Lien v. Jen Yu

"The Secret in Jiu Jitsu is Movement"

"That's one of the last secrets in jiu jitsu is movement. There's a lot of stuff out there, but I feel like personally it's still kind of a secret."
--Pete Roberts, BJJ Weekly, Ethos BJJ.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More from Michael Langhi

I don’t hide, and I compete everywhere I can. I’d rather lose than not fight. The sting of defeat is something I can live with, but the shame of not fighting and being afraid. . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Langhi on Losing

GracieMag talks with Michael Langhi after the World Pro, where he suffered his first loss in almost three years.

How did it feel to lose?

I was of course saddened by it. I hadn’t lost in practically three years and was pretty bummed. But it comes with the sport, it’s something everyone is subject to. Two go in, and one leaves the loser. Unfortunately, I was the loser this time.
Read the rest here.

Training Day: Wednesday

Decided to give the early session a shot again after spending most of my time over the past few weeks on the late shift. And as luck would have it, Sauleh was there training - taking advantage of the fact that he's taking some time off to finish his MSU dissertation to get in a little extra training time.

I got to do both the last bit of the lesson with Sauleh before we rolled. It was the first time I ever got to train with him - something that's been a little odd insofar as we've been moving through the ranks of GB Seattle at the same time, competing at the same tournaments, yet never once (before today) actually trained together. As I admitted to someone a few years ago, I've competed against Sauleh more times in intramural tournaments than we have trained together.

Our training roll went about as expected, with Sauleh's spider game from the bottom and very Rodrigo-like top game pretty much equally unstoppable. Sauleh is probably the one person whose top game is most similar to Prof. Rodrigo's and, by comparison to that agility, I pretty much feel like Big Mac after a long lunch at the churrascaria (no disrepect to Mr. Theodoro, intended).

Following up that ample appetizer with an entre of Prof Carlos made Wednesday's trading quite a meal (and no, I haven't eaten anything all day but a handful of grapes, hence the relentless food metaphors, I suppose). My initial reaction was to plan a return to the mat tonight. But the reality of the matter is that I've still got too much going on at the Asteroid to get away with skipping out again tonight.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to get on the mat tomorrow morning. I felt very much out of sorts training today - typically when training with folks that are significantly better than you - and feel a little desperate in terms of patching and repairing what's not working. So it goes on the long road toward getting better.

161.3 on the scale-post train. Holding serve.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ask Burien Top Team: Instructors Who Have Never Competed

Q. What do you think of instructors who have not competed in BJJ? Is it even possible to prepare a student for competition if you have never experienced competition yourself?

A. If you were ever looking for a world-record in mentions of John Danaher in a Jiu Jitsu/Grappling message board thread not titled "John Danaher", then I've got the URL for you.

My two cents is Shawn Williams' two-cents. Like Danaher, Williams is a renowned Renzo Gracie Black Belt, as well. And one of the most interesting things I heard during the Pan 2011 BJJ tournament was during Williams' live color commentary of the event with The FightWorks Podcast's Caleb when asked by the Fightworks host if he had any regrets over his long time in jiu-jitsu.

"I regret stopping competing when I did."

I find it fascinating to some degree that many of the same people who freak out about the 50/50 guard or fret over the relevance of the gi, are the same people who seem a little too eager to minimize the role that competition - at some level - plays in development of a person's skill at jiu jitsu.

Helio competed. Rickson competed. Saulo competed. Kyra competed. Kron competed. Everyone I've ever trained under - including Prof. Rodrigo and Carlos - has spent at least some time putting his or her skills to the test.

Reading through the thread that got this "Ask Burien Top Team" going, I found something almost a little disingenuous about the way some seemed to minimize competition when it comes to jiu jitsu training. That's not to say that competition is or should be mandatory. Of course not. But I can't help but find it fascinating that so much of the conversation on this topic takes place without acknowledgement that one of the main things that differentiates jiu jitsu from many other martial arts is that you are constantly engaging against a resisting opponent in order to perfect technique.

Even though I'm not wholly convinced that boxing and wrestling are martial arts, their effectiveness and virtue as combat sports is due to the fact that, at the end of the day, the effectiveness of the techniques learned in boxing and wrestling is tested against a force that is actively resistant to those techniques.

So it is with jiu jitsu - whether your focus is "sport" or "self-defense".

And like it or not, there is nothing like the force of a skilled competitor to put those skills to the test.

As someone who has lost far more competitive matches than he's won over the past two years, the truth of the matter is that the experience has been and continues to be exceptionally valuable. And my guess is that this is true whether you are competing in a local, in-school "friendly" or making a return trip to the Pan. You learn things about your jiu jitsu when you compete in a way that is far more immediate - and often enduring - than what happens over the same amount of time back at the academy.

This is a martial art, after all. It was developed to be tested. And in a world in which, thankfully, most of us don't need martial arts to defend ourselves on a regular basis, there is something that competition offers the person training in jiu itsu that may be more important than in any other martial art. It is true that competition isn't everything. But I wouldn't want a life in jiu jitsu without having stepped on the competition mat at least once.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Training Day: Monday

So I'm on the secondary mat, about 20 minutes early for the evening class, getting ready to warm-up a little bit and I'm walking across the mat and suddenly am hyper-aware of being in the gi, preparing to train, and feeling a strange instant connectedness with all those guys I've been watching so intensely over the weekend: Rodolfo Viera, Rafa Mendes, Claudio Calasans, Langhi, Pereira, Tanquinho ...

A very egoless moment, the stuff of Buddhist meditation and entheogenic "capacitation", the kind of oneness that reminds you that are you where you supposed to be because you are truly where you want to be.

A smallish class tonight - I suspect the warming weather has something to do with it, though we're still in the low 50s midway through April. Prof Rodrigo kept us all together, the white belts all the way up, which was a nice change of pace.

We worked on two guard passes and again I thank whatever inspiration it is that is keeping it simple these days. What was especially nice was that Rodrigo had us to a light specific training after we drilled each pass - a great way to burn the techniques into muscle memory.

The first pass was the double underhook pass. The biggest key here was in getting the initial destabilizing pull of the guy hips onto your lap. Too often you end up fighting to get to this position AFTER the guy on the bottom knows what you are trying to do. So getting that initial pull is a big advantage.

From here, keep the elbows wide as you open up the collar on the left side and get the deep grip with the right. Sprawl out to keep the pressure on (his knee to his nose) and tiptoe around to the side. Shuck the near leg with a look back and slide the north arm over across the neck and control the shoulder in a watchdog like side control.

The second pass was a real gem and seemed to be at least partially inspired by Rodolfo Viera's pass of Cobrinha. Here, a simple pistol grip on the left knee, with forearm and elbow parallel to lower leg in a motorcycle grip like way, and stuff grip on the ankle with the right grip (the stuff grip is sort of an arm bent down, scarecrow like position, with the shoulder just over and inside the knee.

This pass works by stuffing the leg and turning that shoulder down into the guy's torso as you come around on that side. It's a nice combination of smash and toreano, with a lot of control early, then a switch to a dominant toreano control of the legs.

This one I'd really like to work on. I'm still a bit adrift when it comes to a Unified Field Theory of Guard Passing, and this one - in addition to being competition tested at the highest levels - makes a lot of sense for me.

161.3 on the scale post-train, everything but the coat. Not bad for a Monday.

Henry Akins: Kimura from Cross Body

Here's another one from Rickson Gracie black belt, Henry Akins, courtesy of's Technique of the Week

Rumble Readiness

Everything you need to know about the Revolution