Monday, October 31, 2011

Training Day: Monday

Live Training only today, some good work with Angus and William. But the real treat of the day was getting to run a few quick drills with Will.

I've been wanting to do more of this for some time. Teammates like Griff and Rene have been exhorting me to do it, and today things finally fell into place a little bit. I got to go over all of my newest techniques with Will: spin move, Marcelo's reverse butterfly sweep (a staple of the 2-on-1 guard), the counter to the backstep pass versus half guard ... It was incredible.

And clearly something I need to do a lot more of. It is as if a month's worth of training happened in about 15-20 minutes. Couldn't have happened at a better time.

160.4 on the scale post-train. I little chubby. But still well under the mark.

Best Quarter in a Year

One of my big goals for training year 7 (Aug 2011-July 2012) was to train more regularly and frequently. So far, with the first quarter of TY7 in the books, so good.

I've managed to train 42 times over the past three months, averaging 3.50 times a week. The last time I was training at this clip was in the final quarter of my fifth training year (May, June and July of 2010) when I made it to the academy 49 times in three months for a 4.08x per week training average. That, by the way, is my highwater mark in terms of training frequency. And it's hard not to think that burst of activity over a three-month period helped me earn my brown belt the following August.

This also marks my best October training month - though the average October is really dragged down by a 5x month back in 2008 (!).

My best November is a 15. So I'll need to train at a 4x clip in order to top that. But it's nice to see that I'm back in a good training groove. I'll need the training momentum as the weather starts to get back and some historically weak training months (I'm talking about you, December) start to really put my discipline to set a new training year personal record to the test.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

= Truth

A lot of times you deal with someone who is really flexible, they invert well, and when they have their hips and both their legs, it can be really tricky to find a way to make progress into their guard. So instead we can try to pass, basically, half at a time. And reduce their mobility.
--Paul Schreiner

Friday, October 28, 2011

Training Day: Friday

Some very hard training today. On weeks when I don't train on Saturday, Friday has to bear the load and between Prof Carlos and teammate Jei, a middleweight-ish blue belt, that's pretty much what I did.

Live Training only on Friday, but it was nice to get things started with Steve, another blue belt who I get to train with from time to time. And it was good preparation for the two tough rolls that followed.

Although there is always an intimidation factor, there is always something that especially rewarding about training with folks that are two or three divisions above where you are in size. Not exclusively, of course. But my conception of jiu-jitsu is very Master Helio-esque, in some ways, very survivalist, no-time-limit. And when I'm able to embrace that, the outcomes are often excellent. Increasingly, I find that's the case with some of the larger, lower belts I roll with, guys with enough technique and athleticism to put me on the defensive early. The trick is to do a better job of taking the initiative, setting the agenda and controlling the pace.

156.2 on the scale post-train. Not a bad way to end the week.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Training Day: Thursday

Drill baby drill was the theme of Thursday night's training. Working in trios, Professor Carlos had us working double leg takedowns and sprawl defense (with a pair of pushups in between) for three minute rounds. Later we worked, guard passes (the Slap Pass) to knee on belly to mount to armbar and Slap Pass to knee on belly to side control to watchdog and a very nifty collar choke set-up as you transition from watchdog to mount and collar choke.

Good stuff. And good working with Angela and a white belt I didn't recognize. Our pace and teamwork was excellent throughout - the kind of "cadre spirit" that I think I've been longing as we work through the end of competition season for 2011.

Live training was mostly about detail and flow, trying to be extremely aware of where the balance was. It's not the kind of training you get to do every day, so it's good to really take advantage of it when the opportunity comes. I do like how focusing on taking the back has started to shape the way I look at certain positions. But there's plenty more to do on this score.

157.4 on the scale, post-train.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Training Day: Tuesday

More of the same from Monday night training - and grateful for it. Bridging escape from rear mount. Two collars choke and choke with hand behind the neck.

I'm beginning to think that the most advanced fundamental movement in jiu-jitsu is the one that helps you escape rear mount. Bridge, hipscape, flatscape. Some of the elementary moves, all from the back, and all critical to getting from defending to attacking. It's hard to do flatscapes on my home mat; I'll have to start doing a few sets of them at the Academy. Flatscapes are as important to having really clean jiu-jitsu as hipscapes or technical lifts. I remember doing round after round of these as a white belt back in the day. I'm thinking that putting them back into the mix (as Dana White might say), would help solve a whole host of problems.

I could do the same lesson every day for a week or two. I get why this would be impractical. But from the point of view of really improving, of burning not just techniques but movements into your body, call it muscle memory or circuit building and deep practice or whatever. But that's what really turns the ordinary into the extraordinary, and it's been nice to get a tiny taste of that praxis having trained the same lesson twice in the first two days of the week.

156.1 on the scale post-train. Nothing extraordinary in Live Training. Spin move from side control continues to be the ever-improving flavor of the month. Guard passing continues to be pretty dreadful. Too much defending and flailing around. I also need to leave the Flat Pass alone for the most part. If I end up pulling that out in November, I'm willing to bet that I've trained to attack with it far more than anyone there will have trained to defend against it. With two and a half weeks to go, I want to see if there is something else on the A-list that is only 4-5 sessions away from being worth taking in to battle.

Not Swimming

Not too long ago, I spent nearly the final five minutes of a very long roll with easily one of the most talented people at the academy with my eyes closed. I was off-balance, stuffed, stranded, redirected for more than ten minutes and it was as if a flip switched. I just reached a point of pure futility and, without a second thought, decided to embrace it. "Who you gonna believe," asked Futility, "me or your lyin' eyes?" And I said, "You sir and/or madam. Every single time."

Fortunately, it wasn't the first time I'd trained that way. It was the first time I'd ever done so spontaneously and the fact that it came on like an automatic "hail Mary" response would have been a little scary if it weren't for the fact that, all things considered, a "hail Mary" seemed as good an option as any.

It's hard to describe how grotesque my jiu-jitsu feels sometimes. "Nasty, brutish and short" to steal a phrase. And too often I'm seeing that vulgarity exposed and exploited as I end up "surviving" in triangles or back mounted for minutes on end fending off chokes.

My training frequency is back up where it needs to be (4-week moving average of 3.5), and there have been a few moments to be sure (the spin move and the Toquinho). But those moments are purely in their earliest stages of effectiveness and have yet to be tested on peers. That's as it should be, but my jiu-jitsu feels old and overdue for changes and additions. And there's never time enough for repair. I feel like I need to be shipped away to a jiu-jitsu camp for a month, three times a week training, five days a week, maybe once Saturday morning to keep from getting stale over the weekend ...

Until then, I need to focus on November 12. Nothing really matters over the next month but my performance on that day. Thinking of how wretched my last several efforts at Bonney Lake have been should be motivation enough to do anything.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Don't Be Like the One That Made Me So Old"

Training Day: Monday

These are days when I realize that while the point of training martial arts when one is under 20 is to build self-esteem, the point of training martial arts when one is over 40 apparently is the opposite.

157.1 on the scale post-train.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

War Chant 1

hands hands

Training Day: Friday

Arrived in time to catch the last half of the regular class and all of the specific and Live Training. The focus was on setting up the cross choke - Roger Gracie-style - from mount. Prof Carlos emphasized a couple of things in particular: dropping the forearm against the chest to prevent the swim-under defense, putting your forehead on the mat fully to the opposite side to put all of your weight on the guy's upper body ... It was a good refresher and reminded me very much of Sauleh's choke attack from mount last weekend.

King of the Hill mount specific had a twist: you had to recover full guard from the bottom. No stopping at half guard and no reversing. You had to recover to a stable full guard: closed, open, spider, butterfly, inverted, whatever.

It's the kind of thing that training is all about, forcing yourself into peculiar situation that require an adaptive response. More than once I was able to get to the sweep, only to have to start all over again and try and get to a stable guard position, specifically. No doubt this kind of thing expands your fundamental jiu-jitsu awareness - as well as your guard recovery.

Given the days off, I was very happy with that session. I had more than a few sizable training partners during the specific drill and it was great to really feel myself being tested to stay patient, stay technical and not waste energy against significantly stronger aspirants to "the Hill."

A lot of conditioning. I still owe Prof 40 pushups from the final round of the intervals when I had to go iso. But I'm feeling pretty good about the specific muscle endurance, courtesy of the HICT/box step workout. I've started adding some cardiac power workouts and will be doing more of that over the next couple of weeks. But what is most important is (1) overall aerobic base and (2) specific muscle endurance. And the HICT/box steps have been working well on both scores.

Good training with Hakim afterwards. I don't think I've trained with him in more than a year. Very good half guard, very smooth game overall. And given some good anticipations on his part, it also turned out to be a good opportunity to work my triangle defense. More survival than escape - or, even better, the Gordo - but it was nice to see that the basic approach of feeding the shoulder and working for the exact opposite angle that the person doing the triangle wants is at least keeping hope alive.

156.6 post train. Heading into three weeks out, everything is on target on that score.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Side 2 Back: Jeff Glover Edition

Between this and my Ryan Hall "spin move", I may actually start making it to the back on a consistent basis someday ...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Training Day: Monday

What can you say? Tani Otoshi and Jiu-Jitsu Rugby. Not a bad way to start the training week.

160.4 on the scale post train. Did a 4 1-min rep cardiac power workout pre train (half pivots L/R, spin move 2x).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Training Day: Saturday

Some good training today, getting to work with a couple of up 'n' coming guys as well as putting myself to the test with an 8-minute roll with Sauleh. As far as the latter is concerned, it's all about making incremental progress, fewer mistakes, more efficiency, etc. And on that score, it was very successful, very rewarding training and I'm looking forward to next Saturday when Sauleh is slated to be back.

To the former, it is always good jiu-jitsu karma to be on the lookout for ways to help guys improve their game without taking too much away from the fun and spontaneity of Saturday training. Hopefully, I got a good mix of that. In the same way that the best performers are not always the best teachers or coaches (i.e., Michael Jordan and Larry Bird), I feel I do a better job of conveying information that I often do in putting that information into praxis, as the kids say. At the same time, I don't want to be so pedagogical that people feel that they can't just relax and roll. After all, as Mrs. Burien Top Team always says before sending me out the Academy, "Make sure you have FUN."

156.6 on the scale post-train, everything but the coat. Doing pretty well on the maxi/mini meal plan (one small meal during the day/one large meal after training), feeling as if I've got plenty of energy while keeping my weight in a very nice range.

Six Questions for Rickson Gracie You have taken part in many legendary events. Do you still have the desire to compete again?

Gracie: There’s always that longing to fight, but I’m motivated by everything I’ve done so far. Nowadays, I have responsibilities that motivate me more than trying to live something I’ve already lived. Today, my focus is on remembering the people of jiu-jitsu and the philosophy that comes with the practice. It’s not directed at competition but at self-defense, self-confidence, discipline and emotional control. The values you learn are priceless.

Six Questions for Rickson Gracie

Friday, October 14, 2011

Training Day: Friday

Brock and Professor Shawn were leading the class, with Prof Carlos at the U.S. Open for the weekend. I'm doing the Live Training session on Fridays now that I've started training Thursday nights.

I still made it to class in time to see them working on a nice choke/armlock combination from the mount. The idea is to set up the move from the cross choke attack and then drag the arm across when the guy tries to defend.

From here you have two options. You can either curl around the top for the armbar, or reach over with the other hand and secure an arm-in choke from the top. Here I appreciated the detail with the far side leg, the idea of curling it under the shoulder (your foot under the shoulder) in an S in order to keep everything tight up top. On the choke, the detail was to keep the one foot further back as you apply the pressure, rather than coming all the way up high as you do with the armlock.

Got in some good training, but what was really helpful was working on that one Ryan Hall take-the-back move from top half with Brian. I don't do that nearly enough and it was a great opportunity to really focus on one move and try and burn it into muscle memory.

157.4 on the scale post-train.

Great Transition from Back to Armbar from Toquinho

Not a fan of his leglock game, so much. But all the love in the universe for this transition.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Training Day: Thursday

Managed to get to class very much on the early side and took advantage of the extra time to work on some conditioning. I managed to get in a three round matwork (TM), as well as some more specific drilling based on takedowns, taking the inside step first to escape side control, and a couple of other things.

It's a nice model of how I'd like to train going forward. Rather than being too tired when the class actually started, I found that I was a little tired, but mostly feeling fully warmed up and loose. I also found that it was much easier to dial in and focus technically.

Drilling, drilling, drilling was the name of the game tonight. Prof Carlos had us working double and single legs, both set-ups and full takedowns. Spider guard triangles and the triangle conversion to armbar. Alternating armbars from the mount. Ezekiels from the mount. Cross chokes (double palms up) from the mount. Steparound toreano guard pass (the Slap Pass). The Scoop Pass. Push/Pull to Mount Pass. It was old school style, competition prep training, that I love doing because it really forces you past the point of thinking and cognating and into the world of pure motion. Very fun way to train late in the week.

157.0 on the scale post-train. Looking forward to getting in at least a little mat time on Friday, and then turning it up on the weekend.

More Great Stuff from the Gracie Breakdown

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesdays are for Takedowns

Actually the best takedown training right now is on Monday and Thursday nights at GB Seattle. But here's my current takedown drill/skills-conditioning program for the next few weeks.

Seoi nage (reverse pivots) L/R
Ouchi gari (drag two-step) L/R
Ankle pick (level change 1) L/R
Shoot w/ Faber triad (level change 2) L/R
Foot sweep L/R

3 sets of 1 minute each is 15 minutes of work (1 minute rest between sets). Rest five minutes and repeat.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Training Day: Monday

A very good day for details. Sensei Kyle had us working more on the ouchi gari, both in terms of drilling entries to get the technique down correctly as well as providing a follow-up attack by way of the ankle pick. Making sure to do the hop step to get the correct deep penetration on the ouchi gari and making sure to bring the leg up on the outside as you come up with the ankle pick were some of the key details from the judo section of the class.

For the BJJ section, Prof Carlos had us working on recovering full guard from the turtle position, and a move inspired by Eduardo Telles (famously of the Turtle Guard and the most epic tattoo in all of jiu-jitsu) that allows you to get a sweep to side control from the same turtle type of position.

Good stuff. And good working with Chris, who I haven't gotten the chance to work with in awhile.

Live training with Profs. Abel and Lindsey, then finished up with Ben. I'm doing a better job of defending with my Marcelo guard (yes, the same one I swore I'd never use just a few days ago ...), though I keep forgetting to really take control of the arm in the 2 on 1. That mistake alone is leading to my inability to effectively counter the running around passes that have been the most effective against the guard.

That said, I am moving my legs better, putting a foot on the hip, shoulder or bicep to slow things down and get a hook in. So we'll see.

160.4 on the scale post-train. A perfectly fine Monday night weight.

Before leaving I managed to get a few nice details on guard passes from Prof Carlos: looking at how Rafa Mendes likes to pass guard from his "squat" position, the guard pass Prof showed us last week that I'm calling "the Sievert", and a good tip about how not to go too wide when doing the kneetap toreano (stepping around the legs to go to knee on belly) and that you essentially just want to push the knees out of the way and put your foot right at the hip without wasting time by making a big circle out of the whole thing.

A good night of training. A few Rorschach moments toward the end, but only a test.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Training Day: Friday

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to training and competing is making sure that you are working on those positions and out of those situations that most resemble what you are likely to encounter in competition.

In some respects, this is a no-brainer. Asked why he was so calm before fights, MMA heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko replied, "because everything I do in the ring is the same thing I have done in the gym a thousand times."

From a certain perspective, if that doesn't describe your preparation for competition, then your likelihood of success in competition is reduced. Competition is not the time to be "spontaneous". It is the time to execute your best moves, drilled and honed to perfection after weeks and weeks of hard but focused work at the academy.

It isn't at all difficult to work hard. Bringing the necessary focus, on the other hand can be a problem.

Sometimes the issue is too large, the basic structure of every day jiu-jitsu training. I used to wonder why all the guys who seemed really good when I was a blue belt - guys like Steve and Casey and Lance - almost never attended a full class as brown belts. Having seen each of them in competition - some more than others - I feel as if I know the answer to that question. They trained plenty. But the structure of their training had changed from a focus on adopting new techniques to honing and refining favorite techniques. And the basic class format, obviously, does a poor job of that.

But sometimes the issue is small. I hate starting sparring on the knees because it too often ends up resembling some B-grade Japanese monster movie with King Kong clinched up with Mothra. So I've started trying to begin with a much more open, active, Marcelo Garcia-style sitting guard. Anything to get things started.

The problem is that I never have and never will use this kind of guard in competition. Not for a second. If we're close, then I'll go to half guard. If we're not close, then I'll just stand up. It's a no brainer.

Unfortunately, though, that's not how I'm training when Live Training rolls around. I'm wasting time in a guard that I will not use, failing at it, and then spending the balance of the session making up for the original mistake.

From a "learning perspective" I should just keep at it. But from a "preparing for battle" perspective, I need to cut this out immediately.

At any rate, with five weeks to go, it's time to tighten things up considerably. I'll miss competition training this Saturday, but the next month of Saturday's leading up to the November Revolution will have to be Academy Saturdays if I'm going to get accomplished what I need to get accomplished.

156.3 on the scale post-train. Looking forward to Edgar v. Maynard, Aldo v. Florian and Maia v. Santiago tomorrow night.

Best. Call Out. Ever.

Interviewer: If you could have a superfight with anyone - from any time period, even - who would it be?

Glover: How about that guy who beat Helio Gracie back in the day? That big giant guy, they had that three hour match and, like, overpowered Helio. I'd like to break him off, man. Show him what's up.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Training Day: Thursday

My second Thursday in a row and it's going to be hard not to make Thursday's a regular part of my training schedule, especially in the run-up to a tournament. For the past two weeks, we've gotten to work on Live takedowns and while I'm far rustier than I'd like to be, getting the feel of the standup before having to do it for real at a tournament (or even an in-house) is critical.

That said, I'm still far too tentative on the feet. My defense is good, most of the takedowns I'm getting right now are really just counters to my opponent's offense. But I've got to do a better job of getting into more advantageous positions, dealing with the distance to the hips for example. And at the end of the day, the only way to do it is to do it live.

Monday night are helping, especially in providing technique. It's just a matter of putting it together and putting it to work. Right now, that's what Thursday's are for.

157.4 on the scale post train. Steady as we go.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ryan Hall Post-ADCC 2011 Interview

Every time I hear Ryan Hall talk about training, competition, and jiu-jitsu, I feel like I hear something that I've never really heard from anyone else. Maybe it's just the way he puts things. But he is truly one of my favorite guys to watch and listen to.

Jeff Glover Post-ADCC 2011 Interview

Who doesn't love Jeff Glover? Jeff won a bronze at the ADCC 2011 in September, avenging a loss to jiu-jitsu legend Robson Moura.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Zen Master Mario Sperry On His ADCC Superfight Victory

If you are a jiu-jitsu guy/gal over 40, then this one is especially for you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Training Day: Monday

Back to ATM Evening Edition ... Sensei Kyle had us working on the ouchi gari. We were talking before class about different competition challenges in jiu-jitsu and what judo throws and takedown would help best. I suggested that for many of us, failing to commit fully to the takedown was one main obstacle, in part because we spend relatively little time in live takedown sparring to get used to it and in part because of the ever-present guard pulling threat (or at minimum, the standard low defensive clinch posture many jiu-jitsu matches start out with).

Here's how Gene Lebell describes the ouchi gari in his book Gene Lebell's Handbook of Judo:

"The ideal time to execute this throw is when your opponent's legs are spread wide apart in a pulling, defensive posture."

And that's as good a description of the defensive jiu-jitsu clinch posture as I could imagine.

The key detail for me was the pulling the guy toward you, initiating a step on his part and opening up of his stance, by moving diagonally backward and dragging the guy to you with your collar/sleeve grip. It was surprising how destabilizing that initial diagonal drag step was - and, as Kyle pointed out before class, could also be a good setup to the ankle pick variation takedown that I like to use.

A few other points: make sure to pull down on the collar and to focus getting your attacking leg deep through the center. That alone may be enough to off-balance and get the takedown even without the in-to-out leg wrap as you drop to the knee of the attacking leg.


The BJJ part of the class had us working on taking the back from turtle using a technique similar to one I remember seeing Giva Santana show us in a seminar over at Foster BJJ a year or two ago. Either way, it was good to see the technique.

The memorables: scruff of the neck collar grip and low lapel grip around the waist . Tight elbows for maximum control. Drop near knee right on side, near ribcage and squeeze with grips (sort of like I do too frequently when in knee on belly), and use that leveraged to step in on the same side with your far foot, putting the initial hook in place.

To take the back, drop diagonally north, pulling on the neck and low lapel grip to drag the guy into your lap. Remember to stay on your side and not roll all the way on to your back where escape is easier. Go quickly for the two collar choke.


Live training was a nice combination of different types of training partner. This meant I got to focus on a very technical, chess-like game in my first roll, a flow-oriented second roll and a third and final roll that forced me to focus on spacetime and guard replacement. It's not every day when you get this kind of diversity of training experience, and it will definitely be something to keep in mind the next time Live training rolls around.

155.8 on the scale, post-train, everything but the coat. On a Monday no less!