Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ryan Hall Interview with GrappleArts' Stephan Kesting

Here's an extended interview with American BJJ superstar, Ryan Hall. At the risk of sounding like an ass, the more I read interviews with Ryan Hall, the more interested I am in interviewing him myself. But it's always nice to hear from Ryan, who is truly one of the good guys in a great martial art. And the discussions on developing your guard as a game of range, as well as the sports psychology stuff (excerpted below) are certainly among the conversation's keepers.

Ryan Hall on BJJ, Submission Grappling and MMA

Stephan: Now, I guess this awareness really only comes with experience. Maybe first you go in at too high a state of arousal, burn yourself out, and not be able to think. And then you might go in at too low a state of arousal and not being able to capitalize or use the 'agro' energy when it might have helped you in this situation... So you'll be trying to dial it up and down as your experience level grows, which is exactly what you were doing, it sounds like...

Ryan: I’ve been on the wrong end of both of those, actually, and I still am every now and then. There have been certain tournaments where win or lose, I still don’t really feel like I performed well. I'm not like “oh man, the other guy was really tough but I somehow just expected to walk through him.” Instead it was more like, “man, I just didn’t really feel sharp,” or felt like I was too amped up, or just felt not into it. And that can be for a variety of reasons, but even now, I find myself on both ends of that.

And then, when everything comes together and you have a great performance, it’s usually when you find that optimal level of arousal, not only for the sport but for the moment and for that day. Everything seems to be clicking. And when I’ve been able to find and maintain that state of mind once then I’m able to find it again. And that’s one of the big things that I think that constant competition gives us.

For instance, if I compete only once every 6 months, I kind of lose touch with the proper frame of mind. It’s easy to have all these other things going on, these little voices in your head telling you what you need to be doing. But if you’re competing all the time, not only will you be getting experience, but you’ll be getting experience psychologically preparing yourself to perform at your best, and I think that’s absolutely critical.

Training Day: Wednesday

A great day of training today - something very different that I've been wanting to try for a long time.

While the Fundamentals class was going on (I got to the Academy about 45 minutes after class had started), I did some cardio power drills. Three one-minute rounds each of alternating tripod hook sweeps against the wall, the side control escape series (hipscape2belly, roll out, hard bump) and the half guard drill. I added a lap at the end of each drill (actually, two laps around the smaller mat) and, aside from taking heart rates (30/36/40 BTW), I did the whole circuit with no rest.

By the time I was done, the class was finishing up with some calisthenics of their own, which seemed like a good time to join in the push-ups, sprawls, squats, hipscape2belly and more to finish things off.

From there, we went into Live Training. I got to roll with Mark and Prof Carlos for about 8-10 minutes each. Excellent movement, which was my main priority, even as much of it was spent in escape with the Prof.

A very nice session today. Before the Live Training, I drilled the basic switch reversal out of half guard with Mark, a critical reverse to have if you spent a lot of time in half guard. This is especially good when the guy is trying to wedge your half guard open with the instep of his free leg. And after training, talking with Brian, Chaim and Prof Carlos, we spent a lot of time talking about movement, and Carlos' "blind" training with Brian, which was something I think he said he picked up from Rickson Gracie ("If you use strength, I stop. If you grip my gi, I stop. If you open your eyes, I stop. Do you want to roll?").

Excellent conversation. It was also a good opportunity to pick up a tip on getting control of the leg when looking to attack with the stack pass, for example in the #1 Feitosa pass (leg high). I'm definitely looking forward to trying that out the next time I get the chance.

160.1 on the scale post-train. A little porky but a tame Thursday should have me at a reasonable gravity by week's end. Today's training also marked my 15th of the month. One down. Eleven to go.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Steve Maxwell: BJJ Interview

Thinking about training and roaming the Interwebs, I stumbled over this interview with legendary American BJJ black belt Steve Maxwell.

As you have gotten older, have you altered your training at all to stay healthy?

The main thing with age is you can stay proficient for a long time. I don’t think you will get much better but you can retain your skills for awhile. The recovery is the main concern. It takes much longer to recover and you have to be very, very careful about overtraining. Grapplers are a notoriously overtrained group. Most grapplers are chronically fatigued and injured. A lot of people fail to realize that grappling is a form of resistance training. You are facing a live, resisting opponent and you are expending a great deal of energy. And then when you add in supplementary training on top of your jiu-jitsu training, you can become quite overtrained very quickly. So, in order to avoid overtraining, I am very careful about how I train. I don’t train hard every day like I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I do train hard but I space those sessions out. On sessions where I am not training hard, I like to work my technique on the beginners and girls. I think it’s a great way to get your movements and practice your skills but you’re not turning it into an all-out sparring session. So, you can still get a nice sweat and a nice roll in; but it won’t be as hard on your body.

Read the rest here.

Nog Wants Mir Next

Nogueira Says Knockout Over Schaub was "Surprising", Wants Mir Next

Before the fight, you had a #FinalizaMinotauro (Submit Minotauro) campaign in Twitter, but you won while standing up. Was your game plan to take him down or did you use it to mix him up and trade punches with him?

I was ready to fight anywhere, I was ready for everything. I was huge in the ground, feeling fine. I guess it was my best camp of all, with names like De La Riva coming up to help me. He spent the whole time with me. I also had the support of Ramon Lemos, who’s a coach at Atos, and he came down to help me on the last days of training. I trained with five black belts and they all tapped out twice, man. I was really huge on the ground game.

I called Josh Janousek in for Wrestling... I really spent a lot of money on this camp, bringing down here a good American wrestler so that I could be good with my Wrestling, besides the work I did with (Luis Carlos) Dorea and Erivan Conceicao, who’s a Boxing coach. I’ve worked the encounter Boxing.

Before going to the fight, Junior (dos Santos) kept telling me to ‘use this one, this one’. It’s like a punch, a jab and a powerful left hand. I got Schaub with his back at Dorea, Rogerio and Junior. And the guys kept yelling ‘do it now, now, now’... When they yelled ‘go’, I moved my head and punched him (laughs). It was automatic, it was the right timing. I guess he thought I would grab his legs and I fit an upper punch. He didn’t know I’d strike as much, It really was a surprising knockout.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Directing Sign

When I was in elementary school, we played a sort of "mass soccer" at recess. "Mass soccer" consisted of what seemed at the time to be hundreds of screaming children chasing around a soccer ball in a totally "Lord of the Flies" like bastardization of the Great Game. No passing. No goaltenders. No strategy. And this mad drama played itself out week-daily at noon on a soccer field that, in my child's perception, seemed as big as the state of Vermont.

That's a lot like what my jiu jitsu is too often like these days. A flailing around of half-moves and hesitations that manages to tax my cardio more effectively than my sparring partner's defenses. I'm wasting too much energy with too much movement that isn't specifically geared toward getting me where I want to be.

This has been a chronic issue I've noticed over the past several weeks as I've gotten my training pace back on track. It's what's spurred me on toward making sure that the off-mat conditioning was in place. But more and more I realize that the issue isn't cardio, per se, but of the negative feedback loop of not fully executing any given plan (typically with either an attack that is too tentative (i.e., armdrags) or, on the other hand, not finishing a given move with the same zap that I started the move with (i.e., finishing from dominant positions like mount and the back).

I wrote about some of this in one of the Lessons from Live Training bits. There are trigger points, hubs from which I can follow a fairly familiar route toward my destination - be it escape, sweep, pass or submission. What I need to do a better job of is in getting to those hubs: the starting point for the Feitosa guard pass series, for instance, or my half guard replacement series, or my Roger Gracie mount choke finish - and not going any further until I have first reached that hub.

I remember Mamazinho years ago saying something about passing the guard, the idea that you can "always go back and start over." I've had a tendency to get deep in the woods and stay deep in the woods - relying on wits, reflexes (and cardio) instead of working my way back to a familiar post and then resuming the trail from there. More than anything else, I think this is what is killing me in training, and something to work on and correct as my training pace starts to pick up heading into the fall.

Now is the time to slow the game down.

Training Day: Monday

Sprained my toe again over the weekend and that - combined with the after-effects of Hurricane Irene on my counterparts in NYC - gave me the idea to try the earlier class instead of the later class to start off the week.

A mixed move. My toe is still aching, even with the absence of judo. I missed the first 45 minutes or so of class tying up loose ends chez moi and by the time I got to training, it was specific time. We did a King of the Hill drill, with the biggest students playing spider guard to start. I got four rounds in: three passes and one defense.

Live training with Bruce and Mark was a good way to wrap things up. Trying harder to work with knee on belly (per this weekend's study) and controlling without holding. Also tried to put a little emphasis on taking the back, which had limited effect.

Another day, no armdrags. I'm going to have to start penalizing myself for this ...

161.0 on the scale, post-train. Blame it on (UFC) Rio.

Mendes on Monday: Guilherme's Brabo Choke

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Robson Moura on the Step Over Choke

Some details on the finish that I hadn't heard of before.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Training Day: Friday

Out of nowhere, Jesse, one of the guys I trained with back in the GB Seattle 1.0 days, is back. He'd been off living the rest of life, i.e., having kids and raising a family. But things have stabilized enough it seems that he's back on the mat and training again for the first time in years.

It's nice to see. Sometimes you get so focused on the training partners that you lose over the years, that you don't appreciate enough the ones you have - to say nothing of the ones like Jason Garcia and Jessee who manage to make it back to the mat after taking care of business in the rest of the world.

Good training on Friday. Prof Carlos led the class and we worked on a duck-under takedown from standing, as well as a double grip break and takedown from standing. On the ground, some of the details that Prof Carlos provided w/re2 the Royler pass: push/pull on collar and sleeve, sitting on the hip, stepping forward with the free leg and kicking your trapped leg free were all things that will help me improve on a pass that is pretty 101 when it comes down to it.

Lessons from Live Training: work more Marcelo/Rodrigo deep half ... of the Glovers, #3 ... keep working for the back out of all positions ... nice kimura back attack to armbar, for example ... less regular half (gordo/plan b) unless training weak side and more sitting guard (armdrags, hooksweeps, omoplatas ...) ...

Frustrations with my deep half game have me migrating toward the X-guard, oddly enough. I'm not as comfortable as I'd like to be with the Glover deep half and want to try some of the versions that Marcelo and Prof Rodrigo have been showing us this year and see if they get me closer to where I want to be.

158.2 on the scale post-train - my lightest Friday of the month.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ultimate Absolute in NYC

Lance referred me to this Wednesday night after training. Some very nice videos from an event I'm hoping we see a lot more of.

Message from Master Carlinhos

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Training Day: Wednesday

Tonight was all about guard passing and working the open guard from the bottom. Prof Rodrigo had us do two passes: the basic toreano knee drop, and a pass I'm calling the pop 'n' drag that combines Prof Carlos's slap pass with a leg rope/leg lace and knee drop. I call it "drag" because even though you don't drag the leg across (you leg rope/leg lace instead), you end up in pinning the guy's legs to one side in that classic way that the leg drag pass does.

A really nice pass, and because it involves some handwork, there's a pretty good chance that I'll be inclined to keep trying it.

Again, it was great to essentially get to focus on just two related moves for tonight's session. Prof Rodrigo also spent more time than usual putting the passes into the context of overall movement and probing for opportunities and reactions. This was a flash of the sort of thing I was talking about that one time when Rodrigo was training with Abel: a sort of Unified Field Theory of passing the guard. Getting to hear that again - and see it again and try it during the focus training - couldn't be more welcome right now.

157.7 on the scale post-train. A very good midweek number (down two pounds from Monday). If I can take another pair off by the end of training on Friday, then I'll really consider it a winning week.

Lessons from Live Training ... A lot to like actually: +1 for the guard staging off the two-on-one ... good kimura attack from the back transition to armbar ... need to work on "Bullet Time" half guard pass defense, but some strong resilience from a bad spot all the same ... hooks hooks hooks!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Training Day: Monday

Someone, maybe it was Saulo, made a point of saying how Rickson Gracie likes to run "diagnostic" seminars. Rather than present new moves, Rickson prefers to take a basic concept - maybe not even a "position" or a "move" - and talk about typical problems within that concept, and possible solutions to those problems.

Just one example of this might be the revolution in armbars from the guard, as jiu jitsu artists figure out every more inventive ways to avoid detection when attacking the arm. The Rodrigo choke/armlock series from S-mount is one example recently of "hiding" the attack on the arm. Tonight's armlock from the guard drill with Prof Carlos was another example, using a same side collar grip and a sleeve grip, launching the collar side leg straight up and turning the hips in as the sleeve side leg comes over and down.

We also worked a crawling armlock, a 1-on-1 cross grip at the elbow, step on the hip, drag the head ... I almost never to armlocks from the guard. Now is probably as good a time as any to start.

Judo first had us working on more foot sweeps, this time moving forward instead of the retreat. Getting to work on this a little bit before training with Sensei Kyle was a big help, there is some counter-intuitive movement in a sense that merited extra focus. I'll have to run through the footwork some before bed to make sure I've more or less got it.

Lessons from Live Training: Make sure you hide elbow, not just your hand, when attacking with the deep half. It's access to the elbow that creates the vulnerability to the kimura ... Work on details for Rickson Beatdown and freeing trapped leg when attacking with bow and arrow choke ... Need to finish #1 of the Marcelo pass series as assertively as I start it and remember to establish #1 of the Feitosa pass series before moving on to stage #2.

159.6 on the scale post-train. That's actually the second highest Monday night weigh-in this month. I did the fourth set of the tempo training workout for today on the lat pulldown machine, and tried those Mendes heavybag armbars, but I think the black heavy bag is a little too big. I'll have to try the red one on Wednesday (I think it's a little smaller).

I was pretty fatigued at the end of the evening. But the fact that I was able to get in that fourth set of tempo method lat pulldowns and some work on the heavy bag with the armbars tells me that there was still something in the tank. If this is a baseline to work from, then everything should be just fine come November.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Revolution, The Barrazao and the Barralinhos

Next to a big seminar filled with old school and new school black belts (such as the upcoming seminar on September 10th), there's nothing like tournament day to, as teammate Jamie put it, combine competition and comraderie. Present as a spectactor rather than a participant (I'm retired, don't ya know?), it was still a lot of fun to watch, coach and cheer on my teammates (and a few strangers, probably) as they put it all on the line in Bonney Lake today.

As it turned out, there were no black belt matches. And among the brown belts, it was an "all-Oregon" crew of middleweight to battle out the four-fighter bracket. This made me feel a lot better about being about an hour late, getting there just in time to see some of our purple belts go at it. A lot of great matches, but it was especially nice to see Pete get a sweep to the top using one of the sweeps that I've seen him drill endlessly after training. I don't care how Pete feels about it. But he's my role model now.

Great to catch up with some folks like Griff, who I haven't talked to in awhile. His folks at Edmunds BJJ are coming along at a nice clip, with many stand-out performances on Saturday, which was good to hear. Speaking of BJJ up north, it was also nice to see Prof Andrew, who I pretty much only see at tournaments and seminars now that he's got his own school up and running in Everett.

Very inspiring day. Tournaments can have that effect of really galvanizing your spirit and making you feel that you are capable of things that you might have doubted in yourself even days previously. You see great effort, heart-breaking mistakes, and precise, practiced technique on display just about everywhere you look. And if that doesn't make you want to get your gi on, then I don't know what does.

A special shout out to my colleague from The Daily Planet, Cesar Alvarez, a geniune genius who had his first competition ever today. This kind of thing just warms the heart. It really does.

Working on a few more disclosure for the New (Training) Year resolution, in part based on what I saw and didn't see at the Revolution today. I'm also taking up Rene's suggestion that I get a few proteges to work with. Actually, it was Griff's suggestion many moons ago as well.

In any event, recruitment shall begin post-haste. We've already got our Gracie Barra Big Boys Crew kicking ass and taking names ("O Gracie Barrazao" - you know who you are). Maybe it's time for the rise of the "Gracie Barralinhos".

Marcelo: Toujours L'Audace

"That's the idea I want you guys to have ... you've just got to know what to do next and next and next and never stop. You know what I mean? Most of the people they just don't have a response for everything. And that's already one way to beat them, you know? You always do one move after the other always one move after the other. And a lot of people, even if they have a response for everything, but sometimes they don't have the right response."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Back to the Lake - Singing Not Dancing

Training Day: Friday

By the time I got to the academy, Prof Carlos had us working on pulling guard into the tripod sweep, using the collar rather than the sleeve as the upper body grip. From here, he added an armlock of the arm that is on the same side as the collar pull. You swing that far side leg out wide, pendulum style, to get the space to roll into the armbar, and only grip the arm at the very end.

In the second half of training, we worked on some specific training, starting with half guard king of the hill, then spider guard king of the hill, then closed guard king of the hill (I was half guard king). It's a weird combination of familiarity and rust that seems to be my half guard game right now - which is probably a signal to change things up (especially now as I slide out of competiton prep mode).

Training wasn't especially heavy, with the Revolution tomorrow. The specific was very nice - I especially liked the opportunity to work against the leg drag during the spider/open guard segment of the specific. Again, I've really liked the kind of training we've been doing over the past month.

Live training found me largely in a defensive mode due to the situation. This will be one of the challenges (not sure I want to elevate it to resolution status) over the next year, trying to maximize what I do best against superior technique and superior strength. The transition training will help here, as will the flow training, as I hone my game down to fewer, but faster, decisions and actions.

I remember watching Marcelo in the 2009 Mundial. I felt like I knew his game well enough that I could anticipate how he would likely react to different situation in his matches against top guys like Thiago Alves and Lucus Leite. The trick is to develop those transitions, those chains of technique, for my own game and not sitting around on some plane of indecision.

That's another thing. I'm spending too much time hunkered down in guard positions - especially the half guard. The one thing I like about the sitting guard is that it gives you the opportunity to be really aggressive in the guard, at least with sweeps and reverses. Developing that attacking attitude from all my guard position (but especially my Cadillac half guard) is something that should probably be #2 on my resolutions list.

158.8 on the scale post-train. Par. Looking forward to the Revolution tomorrow. It will feel a little weird showing up just to watch. But one way or another, it may not be a weirdness that I'll need to get used to.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New (Training) Year Resolutions

Here's a table that represents my training frequency over the past three years (roughly from two-stripe blue belt to the present).
The most obvious thing that stands out to me is the lack of consistency. There are months when my training is 17 or higher. And then there are months in the single digits (each training year had at least two single-digit training months.

In my best training year (Aug 2009 - July 2010), I trained 162 times, averaging more than 3 times a week and 13.5 times a month.

It's funny to think of that as my best year when I break it down like that. I'd like to believe that training 15 times a month (essentially "every other day") isn't an especially heavy training schedule - roughly a 3/4/4/4 four-week cycle. But it's interesting to see that even a basic schedule like that would easily top my best training year ever (15x/month = 180x/year).

So, setting out on my seventh year in jiu jitsu, training year 2012, consistency is going to be my number one goal. The track record of having at least two single-digit months suggests that I'm going to have to build that into the model. But if I can keep those to the high, single-digits - assuming they happen at all - then the possibility of topping my 2010 training year numbers remains strong.

There are a few other new jiu jitsu training year resolutions I'm making this week. But this one is at the top of the list.

Candy and Iron

Today marks my sixth anniversary in jiu jitsu, training at Gracie Barra Seattle under Prof Rodrigo Lopes.

There are a few people I would put before jiu jitsu: my wife, for example, who was 100% supportive of my decision to begin training jiu jitsu six years ago today and who remains my biggest fan.

But there may be no "things" that I value as much as the time I spend on the mats learning this incredible martial art. I wouldn't trade my professors, my teammates and training partners, or my team for any other.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Training Day: Wednesday

Good training tonight, focusing on more transition work as we have over the past several weeks. In contrast to the "flow training" the idea of transition work is to move through a fairly specific set of moves with greater and greater accuracy and speed. Tonight, for example, we did sweep to mount, transition to S-mount, then the Rodrigo series (armbars, chokes) from there with the trapped arm. We also did a new version, where you pass the guard, move to side control, take the mount (with an optional stop at knee on belly), then the transition to S-mount and so on.

As I've said before, working the same moves, the same basic situations over and over has really been tremendous - at least for me. It's all about getting that muscle memory, the "circuitry" as the guy who wrote The Talent Code called it, to be as fluid, as agile, as automatic as possible. And the only way to get there and stay there is by repetition and extreme familiarity (which comes only through repetition).

So with the flow training on the one end, and the transition training on the other, this has been some of the best, most rewarding training in awhile.

I'm slowly feeling closer to what I feel like I should have felt like this spring, when everything seemed like it was going to hell most swiftly. There was a lot of physical rust that accumulated through those weeks when I'd only train once or twice, and I ended up falling short of my Training Year goal.

In fact, the fourth quarter of 2011 (May, June, July since my training year runs from Aug through July) was my worst training quarter in three years. The last time my training volume by quarter was this low was in the first quarter (Aug, Sept, Oct) of 2009. This quarter also included my worst month in three years (May, only trained four times).

This explains a lot - and it one of the reasons I started trying to quantify at least some of the basic mechanics of good training. If I've felt disjointed and out of sorts about my jiu jitsu over the past few months (the lowest back-to-back quarters were Q3 and Q4 of this year), then a lack of consistent training frequency is among the suspects.

Thinking about Saturday. There are temptations in every direction and it is difficult to figure out exactly what I want amidst all of the whirling dervishes of thought and emotion. In many ways I'm as prepared or moreso than I've ever been (although I could always use better conditioning). But between a general lack of fire and a fairly persistent sense of futility, it remains more likely than not that I'll be sending Leap LLC my five bucks as a spectator as opposed to my $55 as a competitor.

156.5 on the scale post-train. One meal a day for the second day in a row.

Marcelo on the 2011 Mundial

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Natural Returns

Just thinkin' ... Just sayin'

Monday, August 15, 2011

Training Day: Monday

ATM ("Always Train Mondays") in effect for what is now the sixth Monday in a row.

Sensei Kyle led the judo portion of the class, continuing our work on foot sweeps, specifically the ko uchi gari. It was our second week in a row working on the same throw and even though I feel as if I'm starting to get the hang of it, the fact that we only do judo once a week means that I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue working on the same move a bit more before moving on.

After class, Kyle pointed out some good combinations with the ko uchi gari, particularly attacking the other foot with an ashi barai type of sweep. Definitely something to work with, and I think I've found a way to integrate these throws into the Rip Cord set that is my basic approach to the top.

Some focused flow training tonight with Prof Carlos, who was in for Prof Rodrigo tonight. A lot of work from the closed guard, working on chokes from the guard and a flow series of choke/scissor sweep/mount/choke. After that, more pure flow training - guard passes and submissions from the guard before Live Training.

Three sessions for me in Live Training: Chris, the blue belt I've been training with a little more lately; a new guy, a white belt with a couple of stripes on his belt; and a roll with Prof Carlos that was as action-packed as ever. With Prof Carlos, I mostly try and gauge my reactions, my ability to keep moving and not settle into a position that is too disadvantageous. Tonight's training was very much an exercise in this effort.

Some good conversation with teammates about competing, executing and "thinking" that resonated. Always nice to know you're not the only one wrestling with certain situations or notions.

158.8 on the scale, post-train. Very nice for a Monday.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Training Day: Saturday

The last weekend of tournament prep at GB Seattle. Honestly, there were fewer folks training than I expected - there are Saturdays when the entire academy is packed with people ready to train all day long. I wonder if it's the season, with many folks headed back to school (including some of my favorite training partners in 2011) or on vacation (I feel like I haven't seen guys like Glenn in years).

That said, it was great training, working with a new blue belt during the drills (Prof Rodrigo's Punch Pass to side control to mount to the tripartite choke, armbar, choke combination finish). Again, anything that gets us moving, gets us thinking about transitions and finishes is a good thing and it was very good to get more of this work under my belt.

We also did some 5 minute Shark tank training - ground and standup. It was great getting to train some standup and I wasn't quite as rusty as I thought I'd be (I do need to remember my grip breaks). I felt a little winded late in the standup, but I think a lot of that had to do with getting used to fighting from standing and not being as automatic with my decision-making.

158.0 on the scale post-train. There was some nice post-class conversation going on with both Prof Rodrigo and Prof Carlos. I couldn't hear what Prof Rodrigo was talking about. But Prof Carlos was giving us a nice tip on how to deal with the standard defense to the armbar from the mount by pulling on the guy's far elbow (or far sleeve if he's hiding the elbow). It's classic jiu jitsu. By pulling the far elbow toward you, it totally kills the ability of the far arm to pull on the attacked arm.

Looking forward to next week's training. The deadline for registering for the Revolution is Wednesday one minute before midnight. My attitude at this point is that I'm a trainer, not a fighter (more on my Teddy Atlas reincarnation in a later post). But I won't pretend that there isn't a temptation, with my sixth anniversary in the gi coming up on Thursday.

One thing I have definitely decided is that I'm going to be more active in the smaller, tournaments, like the in-houses we run every now and then. Years ago, when I first started training I thought might be cool to become good enough to be one of the top training partners for someone else who was really trying to make a move in the sport. It wasn't my primary reason for training jiu jitsu, of course. That was all UFC 1-3 and Royce Gracie. But after training for a little while, I figured that if I wasn't going to be the next Pan Am champ, maybe I could play a role in helping train the next one.

That's why one of the greatest moments in my nearly six years of jiu jitsu was the time when Cindy asked me to be one of her training partners when she was preparing for her ADCC run back in 2007. I don't know how much help I could have been, a blue belt with about two years of BJJ under my belt. But there have been few times when I've felt more "integrated" into the jiu jitsu world that I love so much.

So there's always that kind of thing. And over time, that kind of thing will necessarily be my kind of thing. But between now and then, there will probably be a few more opportunities to go for the hardware. And some of those opportunities may prove difficult to recognize until they are all but here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Feitosa, Almeida, Joca: Coming to GB Seattle in September

Training Day: Friday

I'd been thinking about local muscle endurance, why I have a hard time playing a very active open guard or attacking with armbars or triangles from the guard. Today's training led by Prof Carlos was a reminder of just what muscles are involved and hinted at what I need to do to improve my agility in this area.

We did mostly drilling, which is always nice, more of a focused drilling where we pretty much remained in one technical area (i.e., triangles and armbars from the guard). It's a nice compliment to the flow training we're doing on Monday and Wednesday evenings.

We started with step-by-step armbars, then double wrist control stuff triangles, then triangles with a transition to the armbar. I got to work with Prof Abel today and it was very hard work on the core (abs and hips) with all of this guard work. I did find my triangles working especially fluidly (surprisingly fluidy) - which I credit to the triangle drills that are a part of my matwork(TM) conditioning routine.

Live training with Abel and Chaim. Definitely a good workout, as always - though I didn't really get to work on anything special. Maybe during tomorrow's training, which should be intense as the final Saturday training before the Revolution.

160.2 on the scale. One more roll and I probably would have been in the 158s. That's what I'm hoping for after tomorrow's session.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Training Day: Wednesday

More good training tonight at GB Seattle - and it was very nice to see Professor Carlos, who I thought I might not see very much now that my training schedule has changed. Having him walking around as we were training as well as Prof Rodrigo was a big plus for a pretty diverse class of white belts to brown.

More flow training - about which I cannot say enough good things. For me, personally, it is allowing me to open up and "move" in ways that I frankly never do when learning purely new techniques or in sparring. Part of that is my problem, especially when it comes to sparring and being generally risk averse. But part of it is in the nature of learning and sparring. That's just how it is. It is impossible to do a completely new move with any fluidity or agility and sparring is too conflictual for a certain type a otherwise critical skill development.

It is as if the standard "class"/seminar exists on one end of a spectrum, and sparring and Live Training are at the end of the other. What the flow training does is allow us to participate in the middle, making the familiar more familiar, but at the same time demanding more fluidity, more agility, more speed in the transitions of what we know (or think we know, in the case of my weak side tripod sweep).

If it isn't completely obvious, I really enjoy this kind of training. One thing that was especially nice about tonight, training with Angela for the first time in awhile, was that we called out the specific guards, for example, we wanted to deal with or situations the guard passer should set up. This was exactly what I was thinking about a few days ago in terms of what would make this flow training even better and it was very, very nice to add this element in so that you were able to turn the drill into a sort of custom-made, self-directed, flow-specific from move to move.

Add in the conditioning element with a good hard pace (including the mental conditioning of thinking of new situations per above) ...

A very good way to spend a Wednesday. And it's a reminder of why I've said that I want to train for the competition cycles and help train those who are competing regardless of whether I am competing at any given upcoming event or not. On that score, special thanks to Prof Carlos for calling me out to that third round of Live Training and to Chris for a great, tough roll to end the training.

157.6 on the scale post-train, which I did not expect but more than gladly accept.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thinking about Training: Frequency versus Duration

I posted something a little while ago that preached the effectiveness of frequency when it comes to training. The idea was that training six days a week for 30 minutes was better than training four times a week for 45 minutes or three times a week for an hour.

The guy making this point was Christian Thibaudeau, a performance-oriented bodybuilder. And while I'm inclined to agree with his prescription, the reality of the matter for me is that every time I've tried to chase frequency, I've been disappointed.

So right now, the idea is just to make more out of the times that I do train. This is part of why I've switched to mostly evening training. But the goal now is to really enlarge that to the point that on Mondays and Wednesdays I'm spending 3-4 hours at the academy in a stretch.

What's all this extra time for? I've been doing a pre-warmup warmup in the evenings that's allowed me to break a sweat before we even begin, and I like what that has done for my training so far. Now, I'll extend that a little bit (maybe even doing my matwork rounds) into more of a real conditioning opportunity.

Also, and most importantly, I'm going to be trolling for drilling partners like never before. I've got a mental list of less than 10 critical areas that I need to fix before I even think about competing again, and there's no better way to work on them than in drilling sessions before and after training.

Tomorrow will be a good opportunity to get this whole project up and running. I've gone after it in fits and starts before, but the key I think is to just spend a lot of time at the Academy. And if I can't do it by the day, I can at least do it by the hour.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Training Day: Monday

Plenty to like about tonight's training. Prof Kyle, who runs the judo class at the beginning of training on Monday nights, complimented me on my ko uchi gari, encouraging me to work on it more (and to check out a guy named Keiji Suzuki, who is a two-time Olympic medalist in judo and master of the footsweeps).

I've always thought that you needed long legs to effectively footsweep. The truth of the matter is, like everything else in the judo/jiu jitsu complex, that movement and angles are the real one-two that makes all the footsweeps (and all the throws for that matter) possible.

That, and more "flow" training were the highlights of the class tonight. Prof Rodrigo had us focusing on two sets of transitions. The first was a guard pass from standing with double inside control at the knee. The details were the initial grips and controls, and then using the elbow to help open up and lift the leg as you come around to the side. Keep tight, dropping your pass side knee against your opponent's back - especially as he tries to roll away into a turtle (i.e., running escape).

The second transition set was armbar from the guard, transitioning into an omoplata as he defends and then transitioning into a triangle as he postures up to avoid the omoplata shoulder pressure.

Good stuff, and it was good to work with Zee, who I don't think I've got to drill with before. I especially appreciated the guard pass work, the emphasis on securing the right grips, keeping the elbows tight and maintaining the control all the way through.

So that's The Good. The Bad and the Ugly were to be found, unsurprisingly, in the Live Training session.

I'm starting to make an unfortunate habit of being caught in bad situations, very bad situations that, without getting into specifics, I don't feel I should be getting caught in. So far, none of these crack-ups has resulted in a tap out, and there is a part of me that suspect that Friday's reverse triangle and tonights Barataplata (1) would have gotten the tap a year ago. So perhaps I should be happy for that. But the fact of the matter is that I can't keep finding myself in situations like this and feel as if I am accomplishing what I want to accomplish at a decent rate.

I know that there is nothing linear about progress - especially in jiu jitsu. But I'm starting to feel as if having finally got things back on track after a pretty scattered spring, I'm still making up for half a year of lost time.

In and of itself, that's no big deal. There is no destination toward which I am hurrying. But to train and feel as if my guard game, for example, has the same holes in it that it has had for months if not years, to still feel incapable of pulling off submissions consistently after all this time ...

I'll confess that there have been a few instances over the past week or two when I've entertained the idea of "coming out of retirement" and competing at the Revolution in a couple of weeks. Then you have a few training sessions that, to be blunt, remind you that you were likely correct in your initial assessment, that you have no business whatsoever on a competition mat against anyone, let alone the sort of competitors you have encountered and lost to at this level in Revolution's past.

Got in some conditioning work this morning. 10 count threshhold training. 5 sets with long 5 minute breaks, which is a good routine to do every other day or so leading up to a tournament. I think I was overtraining a little a few weeks ago and that last week's decision to largely skip conditioning work and focus on training was probably a good idea. It's still a matter of tuning and fine-tuning, figuring out what works.

160.5 on the scale, post-train. Not a bad Monday number all things considered (i.e., the SeaFair dinner party on Saturday).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lagarto and Guard Passing Pressure

I posted this over at the Gracie Barra Seattle Facebook Page earlier. The story of Lagarto is an incredible story of challenge and perseverance - you can read about it in the August issue of GracieMag. What is so impressive here is his guard passing pressure against one of the top jiu jitsu guys in the "tour" - Rafael Lovato Jr.
This is what I think about when I think about Prof Rodrigo's point about watching competition footage. Not so much the move-for-move, but the overall feeling of the attack, the variety of direction.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Training Day: Friday

Prof Carlos led Friday's class. He had us working an omoplata and back take off of the "arm DLR guard". The big key in this move, one I might actually end up making a part of my guard game, is opening up on the free side so as to provide room for the turn of the omoplata on the ADLR. Prof Carlos kept double sleeve control, and pulled the outside grip in to the middle as he planted the free foot on the mat and began to open up into the omoplata. Another key detail was making sure to have your ADRL deeply hooked so that you get a good control on the shoulder lock.

Prof Carlos argued against triangling the legs as you finish the omoplata, saying that you've got more strength if your legs remain straight first, before tucking them away (hip split style). What was more key for me was the idea of scooting away from the guy and pulling him by the hip toward you. In this way, he almost omoplata's himself.

The detail on the back take was to make sure that you push down on the trapped elbow as you make the move over the top (Bibiano-style).

Some good training in the Live Training session. I got to work the Feitosa and got caught in a very tight reverse triangle when I was working the middle pass and didn't fully secure the position as I moved to the side. I knew this was a danger in the pass, so it was good to see what happens when I'm not careful. More than a little patience got me out of the bad spot. But, again, the issue was an error in the pass (specifically not making the elbow/knee connection to trap and pin the hips).

158.7 on the scale post-train.

Friday Night Fights: Shaolin v. Terere

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Training Day: Wednesday

157.0 on the scale, post-train. The calories are light these days, if not always clean.

Good training tonight, focusing mostly on what I called "flow" training elsewhere. Prof Rodrigo has us work guard passes, guard submissions, mount submissions, etc. against a partner who is really doing less than 25%, just giving enough movement for the other person to be able to effectively spot a particular opportunity and attack.

Rodrigo talked about doing more of this kind of training, and I couldn't be more happy to hear it. And not just as tournament prep, but as a regular component of the curriculum at GB Seattle.

One of the concerns I had was that the adoption of the official GB Seattle curriculum would stifle the ability of our professors to really share the wealth of what they knew (and maybe more importantly, what they were themselves learning and working on).

In many ways, this has turned out to not be the case. Whether it's the informal public/privates that sometimes happen an hour after the training is done or adjustments like the new Thursday classes for all levels, there's a nice balance between deliberate learning and focusing on individual techniques (much like the example of the violin players in the book, The Talent Code) and more wide-ranging, creativity/spontaneity/speed oriented training such as tonight (the example of the soccer players in The Talent Code.)

What was especially nice was getting to work on the Feitosa (formerly the unwieldly-named "Rodolfigo"). Mostly the middle and low passes, but I can't tell you how nice it was to pass the guard - even in a flow drill - and feel more solid, more leveraged, more in control than I've felt in years.

I'm not kidding. My jiu jitsu soul is so desperate for a coherent guard passing game that tonight's success at working on the Feitosa in drilling is probably going to help keep me up watching the rest of the DVR'd Sounders FC San Francisco match.

There were some red flags. My submission game from on top has stalled and started to succumb to entropy. But what's worse is that the holes in my rear mount escape are really starting to become an issue. Obviously the focus should be on not giving up my back in the first place. But to the extent that I've made the mistake, I need to do a better job of fixing the problem.

But again, the flow training was just great. I got to drill my weak side Flat Pass a little bit. Drilled the hell out of the Feitosa (the low and middle mostly). My sweeping was a little sloppier than it should have been. Some good flow work on my weak side (the old one-two), but my deep half could have been much smoother.

Tempted to roll out to the first "new" Thursday session tomorrow night. But it may not be until Friday when I'm back on the mat.

Jacare in Tatame magazine

Jacare Ready for Strikeforce, ADCC battles in September
While on a challenges marathon, Jacare spoke with TATAME and, among many other subjects, talked about his return to Strikeforce.

“I’m looking forwards to return, it’s been a while since I last fought, so I’m glad. I’m training hard, I’m in a good shape, I’m just waiting for the time to come and I step on that cage and do my job”, said Jacare, ready for anything. “He has a strong punch, he has many KOs on the first round, but my trainings are focused in everything”.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Robson Moura!

Z was talking Monday night about his admiration for Robson Moura. I've heard and seen some of Robson in action. But never really stopped to pay a lot of attention to his game (so much jiu jitsu, so little time ...). Here's a little of what I found looking around the Tubes.

Filmwork for Jiu Jitsu

Again I am reminded of why it pays to train on days and at times when I've got plenty of time to spare.

Almost an hour after class, Prof Rodrigo is talking with a couple of folks about some of the techniques he and others are working on. He makes the point that I've heard him and other black belts make before: you can learn more about what is really working and what guys are really counting on by watching tournaments more than instructional videos.

This time, though, Rodrigo goes beyond that to talk about how he watches tournament footage.

The idea was to watch the whole tournament through. Beginning to end. See the whole thing first before you decide what to pay attention to.

Then go back and start focusing on the sweep or the pass or submission or takedown that really caught your eye, that made sense to you and looked like something you'd be able to add to your game.

Sometimes others will catch on. Rodrigo talked about seeing one move show up a few months later in Graciemag - a move that had been a big deal in a tournament earlier in the season. That's where you start experimenting with the move, really taking it apart and getting to know it from the ground up.

The main point is that out of an entire tournament, you may only find two moves that you are (a) really interested in, (b) can truly fit into your game after practicing and drilling.

But those two moves are likely to be pretty potent moves. As Prof Rodrigo said, "Now I use it on everybody."

People Get Ready: Kid Peligro Previews the ADCC on Fightworks

Kid Peligro on The Fightworks Podcast
To help set the stage, we sat down with Royler Gracie black belt Kid Peligro. Kid’s got a long list of accomplishments in contributing to great jiu-jitsu content for enthusiasts like you and me. However he has been associated with the ADCC event in one form or another since its inception in 1999 and has been a consistent contributor to ADCC news portal for years. We will review how ADCC started and Kid shares some of his most vivid memories of ADCC clashes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Training Day: Monday

A focus session for the evening class, working on sweeps from the de la Riva position. The sweep is one of Prof Rodrigo's favorites and, at least in two of its variations, doesn't require much in the way of agility.

Essentially, you are treating the DLR hook as you would a sitting guard position, getting control of the far sleeve and pushing against the far leg at the knee with your free/far leg. Lift the hook, pull the sleeve and roll, after basing on your elbow, toward the sleeve-side, looking away as if you were doing an alt upa.

The other variations were based on the guy's reaction to the #1. If he sits back, you spin under and use your hook leg to kick him over as you roll over your shoulder. I've never had a good time with this move, from the sitting guard either, and tonight was no exception. It's similar to the Shaolin sweep from half guard, which I'm able to do a little better. But I really couldn't nail this one down.

The #3 had you scissor your legs if you couldn't get to the top, and turn back into the guy instead, keeping your grips all the while. In the end, you are in a sort of "Rodolfigo" pass position, with control on the collar and control the the pants low.

Live training was good hard work with Casey and Alex, who I think I trained with for the first time. Trying to focus on guard passing, I'm moving better into the right positions, though there are some gaps I really need to fill (like the Flat Pass to my weak side). Got caught, for example, in a slingshot sweep because I didn't properly secure the leg in the low version of the Rodolfigo (tighter, elbow in). That's fixable.

157.3 on the scale post train. Down, down we go.