Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Private Burien Top Team

In my seven years of training jiu-jitsu, I've never taken a single private lesson.

It's not been because I had anything against private lessons, much less the incredible black belts who have been available to me since I began training.  It just always seemed like I was having a difficult enough time practicing and drilling the techniques I was learning in class anywhere from two to four times a week.  Wouldn't a private lesson fall prey to the same challenges as my main lessons, all fundamentally dependent not only on the talent of the teacher, but also very much on the determination of the student to faithfully practice what was preached?

Unsure that I would have such determination - or at least, determination above and beyond the determination of mastering my every-other-daily lessons - I always thought that I would end up wasting the money of a private session, a sum I estimated as near a whole month's worth of training.

That said, I think there is one scenario in which I might find myself stepping up to the private lesson plate and, to be frank, it came to me shortly after training with Professor Rodrigo for almost 20 minutes tonight.

If you have the opportunity to learn first hand a technique - or even better, a concept about a technique - that no one else seems to be aware of, then that's the ideal time to take a private lesson from that person.  To the extent that jiu-jitsu versus jiu-jitsu training (not necessarily the original intent of jiu-jitsu, of course) is increasingly a war of novelty versus novelty (from 50/50 guard to berimbolo sweeps to ...), learning a unique approach to a technique is invaluable.

In other words, if you have the chance to have a private in which Roger teaches you the cross choke from mount, Marcelo teaches you taking the back, and Prof. Marcio Feitosa teaches you passing the open guard, those are the privates you take.

I won't spill the beans on Professor Rodrigo's secret weapon, an attack I've seen very, very few others execute successfully.  And just because I haven't mentioned Prof Carlos and Prof Alex doesn't mean that I haven't been doing some real intelligence work there, as well.  And come 2013, I will looking to take this spycraft out of the cold.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Want to Boost Your Submission Rate? The 5 Most Important Submissions in Jiu-Jitsu

Pick one (or two) from this list.  Courtesy of Lloyd Irvin's BJJ Kumite.

The upshot?  Top submissions in the gi were armbars (8), toehold (6), triangle choke (6), bow and arrow choke (5).  Top submissions in no-gi were RNC (16) and kimura (6).

By percentage, 17% of the submissions in the gi came from armbars, 13% from toeholds or triangles.  No gi percentages were even more stark: 34% from RNC, 13% from the kimura.

The combined tally is also interesting: RNC (17), armbar (10), triangle (8), toehold and kimura (7).  You could call these the five most important submissions in jiu-jitsu/grappling.

This research, if I remember correctly, pretty much confirms the work Lloyd Irvin did years ago in analyzing submission rates in the Pan, the World Championships and (I think) the Brazilian nationals over the years.  It played a pivotal role in his decision to emphasize techniques like the triangle and the kimura, and more recently the bow and arrow choke, for his competition team.

What is interesting is that no Lloyd Irvin fighters are especially known for their armbars.  I would be curious to know if Lloyd has made a discretionary call when it comes to armbars in competition that goes against the grain of the data.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Talking Bout My Generation

Of all the promotions earned this Saturday, the two that meant the most to me were the black belts awarded by Professor Rodrigo to long-time teammates and training partners, Griff Sombke and Bryan Jorgensen.

We all began training within a few months of each other - and none of us appeared to be destined for Brazilian jiu-jitsu greatness when we started.  And Brazilian jiu-jitsu greatness may not be where we find ourselves when we finally do put the gi on the hook for the final time.

But it is a testament to will, desire, and above all an enduring love of the art that has helped all three of us get to where we are, to this faixa-preta.  And it will be an even stronger combination of those three things that enables us to reach the next stage in our jiu-jitsu lives, whatever that may be.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Top 5 American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Shamans

Top 5 American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Shamans

1. Lloyd Irvin

2. John Danaher

3. Mark Laimon

4. Eddie Bravo

5. Matt Hume

Honorable Mention: Henry Akins, Shawn Williams

American BJJ Shamanhood is earned primarily through a combination of a surplus of technical mastery, typically evidenced by teaching reputation and/or student competitive success, and a relative absence of personal competitive experience, thus adding to the mystique and controversy of the aforementioned technical mastery.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Training Toward 2013

With the first full week of new employ under my belt, I can start to sketch out my initial training schedule.  Ideally, I'd like to add one more weekday training session.  But for now, this is the plan.

Monday: 6 pm - 7 pm - Fundamentals with Professor Carlos
Tuesday: 6:30 pm -7:30 pm - Black Belt Program with Professor Rodrigo
*Wednesday: 12:45 pm - 1:15 pm - Live Training
Friday: 6: 30 am - 7: 30 am - All Levels with Professor Carlos and Professor Dave

I'll also train whatever Saturdays I can, hoping to average every other weekend over the course of the year.  The goal is to have a four-week moving average of 4.0 or better, and to maintain it like a high school kid shooting for a Harvard scholarship.  The Saturday "extra credit" should help on that score

This is the foundation going forward.  It'll take some getting used to training in the evenings.  But I think I'll be able to maximize the time by sticking around after class and making a full evening out of it rather than the "roll and run" that often ends up happening when I've trained during lunch time (this last six month stretch as an active member of Marx's reserve army of the unemployed notwithstanding).

*That said, there might be room for a nooner on Wednesday, half an hour or so, with a goal of just getting 20 minutes of training in.  That would keep me from having more than one two-day gap in training (at least half the time, I'm going to end up not training on Saturday or Sunday).  It would also make sure that I'm sparring at least three times a week since sparring on Friday morning is very time- and student-sensitive.

This one is also, speaking of sensitivities, labor-sensitive.  But if I can, on average, get a Wednesday when I don't get a Saturday, and at least half the time nab both, I'll be just fine.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"... burn and rage at close of day ..."

There's a lot of talk about "champion-ness" when it comes to jiu-jitsu.  And, for the record, God love the champion.

But for some of us, jiu-jitsu is simply the warmth of a roaring fireplace in wintertime, a healing chaos in the middle of the orderly decay.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Basic Training and Nothingness

There is nothing like training on a Saturday.

We spent the entire session working on one basic transition from pulling guard to submission.  It's hard to describe how nice it was to spend that much time on a single move.  There is so often a tension between teaching too few moves and too many in a given session.  I think that we've struck a nice balance by using transitions to allow us to work through far more moves in a given session than would otherwise be possible.

Arguably, this is the kind of thing that advanced training is made of.  But more and more I'm willing to guess that, at the end of the day, learning is learning, and the most important thing is to set out the task to be apprehended and then get out of the way and let the students work on apprehending it.  "Basic" and "advanced" may be far more relevant to the teacher than to the student who is simply waiting to be told what to do.


My training is increasingly being forged by eager young (and not so young) purple belts. And today was only further example of the same.  We have such a strong group of guys working in that "advanced-intermediate" territory, and the fact that so many of them are only a division a way means that they are a great resource for those of us on the smaller end of the scale.

While my technique is certainly being tested by these young guns, mostly what I am learning is efficiency, and keeping the game in a place where I am most comfortable.  I'll never be able to keep up the pace - or even the strength in some instances - but there's no age barrier to ever greater accuracy and precision, and nothing to be lost by taking the time to do everything right.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Training Day: Monday

Good training today, working mostly self-defense (one-two with push-kick to body clinch takedown ... headlock escape) and some specific training from side control.  Got in a little bit of rolling, continuing to work "burienbyarmbar" only with more control and precision.  I think part of what went not-exactly-right with my last armlock was that I was attacking the left arm rather than the right.  And while I am very proud of myself for recognizing the opportunity on my "weaker" side and attacking rather than demurring, I am not impressed with having a "weaker" side where this particular technique is concerned.  A part of what I think is going to make burienbyarmbar work is the ability to attack either arm with equal speed and fluidity.  So, onward for that.

Also, too ... I need to work on my Flat Pass to the right.  To the extent that I'm starting to develop some go-to guard passes, I want to make sure that my best passes are right where I want them to be when I need them.  There have been too many times when I've been stymied in the guard because my preferred pass side was blocked (by a collar-choke attack, for example).  Simply by being able to go to the other side, I'll be able to make those attacks work for me rather than against.

160.3 on the scale post-train.  Typical Monday weight.  Ideally, I'm down around 157 or so come Wednesday.

Barack Obama Hearts Gracie Barra

Friday, November 2, 2012

Season of the Armbar

The dark art of joint locks came home to roost a bit to finish the training week.  I'd promised myself that I'd develop a "go to" submission from the closed guard this year and, after a few months of work, it looks like that submission has arrived.

I'm hoping everything is OK.  And I'll admit that the latest armlock has me realizing that now's the time to ease back and start to focus on the little details that are allowing the submission to work.  I've been thinking about some sweep and take the back options, as well.  But more centrally, I need greater and greater control of the position with more and more efficiency and ease.

Wednesday noon training and twice on Friday for a short, 3x/week.  I'm not entirely sure how my schedule is going to change once I start Clark Kent-ing for Finovate later this month.  But the odds of me making it to the noon class three times a week every week are probably not great.  

As long as I'm able to get in at least one Fundamentals class and one Advanced/Black Belt class ahead of Friday's pre-dawn session, I think I'll be okay.  I'm not sure how nimble I'm going to have to be to make everything work.  But I have to admit that the past 4-5 months have been an atypically opportune time for training, and even if I have to kick back to a 3x/week schedule, it will be far from the end of the world.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

100% Marcelo

Meanwhile, on the other side of the jiu-jitsu spectrum, there's this

Marcelo's 100% Training Philosophy

The caption for this video, while worth reading, is a little misleading.  The point isn't just that Marcelo devotes 100% of his training to jiu-jitsu rather than dividing his time with specific strength and conditioning workouts.  More importantly, Marcelo is showing those who choose this path just how intensely they need to train - regardless of the skill level of their training partner - in order to make the "jiu-jitsu, si / conditioning, no" approach work in the real world.

I think this is especially relevant for those who want to be active in competition jiu-jitsu ("sport" jiu-jitsu is starting to become an epithet), but don't - or can't - devote time to separate strength and conditioning sessions.  There has to be a place for competition-style intensity if you aren't going to be doing off-mat conditioning and Marcelo's short video shows how it's done.

Jiu-Jitsu, Real-Keeping, Rener Edition

Some excellent debates on the past, present and future of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the wake of the Metamoris event.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tales from the Weak Side

Looking forward to getting back on the mat tomorrow after a couple of days off.  I've basically got two weeks before my new job starts.  And while I don't worry about the new gig taking up too much training time, there will probably be a stretch of a week or two while the old schedule and the new schedule get to know one another.

One critical thing I want to work on over the balance of the year is getting better at doing some of my signature moves on my weak side.  More to the point, I'm talking about passing guard to my opponent's left.

The Effing Pass has given me a directional option to the left.  But it is still based on a strong passing threat to the opponent's right.  I've had great success with this pass this year.  And that means that I need to intensify the technique (or at least the technique's effectiveness) by being able to attack from more than one direction.
The Flat Pass is another example of a technique that I need to be able to execute from both sides.

There's an argument, most popularly from Marcelo Garcia, that you don't need to worry about being able to do the same attack from both sides.  In other words, as long as you have an attack from the left AND an attack from the right, it isn't a big deal if they are different attacks.  This makes a lot of sense to me from a practical standpoint.

But then there's the argument from Professor Carlos, an idea he got from one of his early jiu-jitsu instructors, that there should be no "weak side."  And while that initially sounds overly optimistic, to be equally proficient with each technique whether the move is to the right or the left, it's worth remembering that effectively all we need is relative, not absolute, ambidexterity when it comes to our techniques.  We don't need to perform some imaginary "ideal" armbar from the guard whether we are attacking the right arm or left.  All that is required is that we are able to execute from either direction better than our opponent is at defending from BOTH directions.  And that distinction may make all the difference.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Also, Too

Another great performance by Team Gracie Barra Northwest.  First place Kids.  First place Adult Gi.  First place Overall.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Day at the Revolution, Part 1

A great time at The Revolution down in Bonney Lake this afternoon.

There was a moment when I noticed Jeff and Gina in a moment of pure event execution that just typified the incredible amount of work that is poured into this tournament series year in and year out.  Having been involved in more than a few events in my day - from FM radio promotions at the local bar & grill to artsy stuff like college theatre productions and the annual Tucson Poetry Festival - I am a bit of a stage manager geek and love to watch professionals at work - even when it's just the crucial minutiae that ends up making the difference between a good event and a great one.  There's always a lot of inspiration at The Revolution and it isn't only on the mat.

Had a couple of great conversations this afternoon that I'm going to work on abstracting over the course of the week.  In their different ways, they all were about goal-setting and allowing yourself to fall in love with the choices you've made.

Looking forward to getting back on the mat next week.  I'm training at a very nice pace for me, averaging 4x a week and setting new training records for a fourth month in a row (including this month).  Some of the technical goals I've set, like improving my armbar from the closed guard, have been more than met - a true testament to the value of a little extra focus and a lot of extra training.

I'm also a little freaked out that I've made it through September and October without catching a cold.  I'm supplementing regularly these days, and doing a double dose of Vitamin C about twice a week.  That, and/or dumb luck, I suppose.  But this streak of good health is also something I'm especially grateful for of late.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


"I don't always lose to Jeff Glover.  But when I do, I return the favor with an armbar."


Friday, October 5, 2012

Training Day: Friday

bourgeois (verb) boor-zhwah

1. to use the inside leg to expose a turtled opponent to an initial hook as part of a back-taking technique in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and submission grappling:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Micro. Transitional. Drilling.

Lloyd Irvin has been talking about this for sometime.  And while I had an idea of where he was coming from, it is great to hear him talk a bit more about the concept and to show it in this video.

Lloyd Irvin Explains His Micro Transitional Drilling System

It's fascinating how few people, even now, understand what LI is bringing to jiu-jitsu.  From quantifying the top performing submissions to bringing standard and widely-used professional sports training and psychological approaches to an art that is still very much in its "emergent" stage, LI is a valuable a figure in contemporary jiu-jitsu as there is.  And I'm not just saying that because my kimura/americana submission rate has skyrocketed over the past month by incorporating some of the most fundamental concepts of his kimura mouse trap system.

I've been trying to refine a couple of key areas of my game, including taking the back.  The micro transition LI shows here for dealing with an opponent turning into you was as valuable as anything I've read in any of the 10+ BJJ books on my shelf or the 20+ BJJ DVDs on the wall.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Training Days: Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri (2x)

Another good week of training in the books: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and twice on Friday.  A part of me realizes that this training pace won't last forever.  But given the circumstances, it's been a great way to spend the summer.

A lot of training in back control, which I think reflects an academy-wide effort to keep our training as modern as possible.  And right now, nothing is more important in jiu-jitsu than developing good back control.      It seems as if we've spent a month on different entries and set-ups - which is fine with me.  I'm a big fan of focus when it comes to training and spending this much time working on such a specific - and critical - area has been a godsend.  It doesn't hurt that back mount is one of the weakest parts of my game, either.

The interschool event is tomorrow.  I'm going to try and get there early and get a good spot since all of the adult matches are going to be on the main mat.  I'm not scheduled to help ref (thankfully), but if I can help out I'll do what I can to keep score or even just help them keep the brackets organized.  We'll see.

As I tweeted the other day, I've changed up a few things in my sparring that has made life a whole lot easier. I've been trying to play a Marcelo Garcia-style sitting guard for about a year and a half and I'm pretty much ready to abandon the project.  Although Marcelo and I have (relatively) similar body types, I don't think our bodies want to move in the same ways - or at least not as much as I've assumed in the past.  I've been very reluctant to add core Marcelo Garcia moves to my game - the X-guard, the armdrag - and while I still want to look for ways to incorporate these moves, I'm thinking more and more there's a reason why my body just doesn't seem interested in playing along.

The good news is that I've been refocusing my game in many ways to resemble my Professor's game.  Ironically, it was a minor injury to Professor Rodrigo that got me thinking about the way I have been going about things and what it would mean to make a major change at this point.  Making key adjustments at critical junctures in your development is what allows for that development to take place and there was an interesting moment when it hit me as to what I need to do to get more out of my training.  And what's funny is the way that "the answer" has been right in front of me all along.

It's only been a few days.  But so far, so good.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Winning and Losing and Losing and Winning

Inside BJJ
What is your personal philosophy on BJJ and life?

Lloyd Irvin
You’re either winning or losing.  And each and every day you’re either moving closer or further away from your goal.  No matter what your goals are.  For BJJ, no matter if you want to compete or not.  In life, deciding on what you would consider success and putting yourself in a position to become successful.  97% of the population is losers and only 3% of the population is winners and you have to decide what percentage group you want to be in.  Then surround yourself, or find a way, to get around the 3% group.  For example, in BJJ, if an instructor makes excuses for their students losses like, “Don’t worry about it, he was stronger than you, he outweighed you, he’s a 3 stripe purple belt and you just got your purple belt” then that instructor is in the 97% group, the 3 % group doesn’t make excuses.  I could go on and on about this but hopefully you get my point.  I believe that in everything that you do you’re either winning or losing, either doing what it takes to win or lose and you just have to be honest with yourself and decide if you want to be a winner or a loser.  If you want to get your masters degree, then winning will be actually getting your masters degree.  So. if in your quest for your degree and you skip a class, then you’re losing that day.  If you fail to complete your homework, you are a loser that day and so one.  You’re either winning or losing.  This applies to everything.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Training Daze

If I wait for the pace of training to slow down before I get back to writing regularly, then there's a good chance that I won't be posting punctually until 2020 - or later.

My four-week training average is at a very nice 4.5x.  What's even nicer is that I've been at this pace for fully seven weeks, helping me put in my best two training months ever - at least in terms of volume.

We'll see what September brings.  If I end up teaching morning classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then the moving average will be completely blown up in all likelihood.  It's been the morning classes on Fridays that have made it so much easier to get that fourth or fifth session in each week.  So I can only imagine what will happen if and when the Dawn Patrol gets rolling on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well.  Prof Rodrigo announced to the class on Saturday that the new Tuesdays and Thursdays were postponed for a week (surprise!).  And given my relationship to good news these days, I'm bracing myself for further rollback.  Now that I think of it, I'm not sure if the Wednesday sessions I was going to teach have been postponed also.

As usual, high training frequency, especially when it consists of traditional classes, means that my own personal technical development has been a little scattershot over the past several weeks.  There are some nice surprises: far more armbars than usual, for example.  But I'm only slowly coming to some of the other technical features I've been wanting to work on: more from the deep half, counters to the backstep pass vs the half guard, the barataplata guard, back control and attacks ...  Always the balance between what you've set out to accomplish and what challenges appear en route.

157.5 post-train - and very much post re-hydration.  I was down to 153.5 or so on Saturday after training Friday morning, Friday afternoon and again Saturday afternoon.  There was probably a little more caloric restriction and dehydration involved than I want to admit.  But finding myself well-within the pena category without (necessarily) trying was noteworthy, I thought.

Back at it tomorrow night for what should be a pretty intense advanced session.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Roger Gracie v. Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida

Looking forward to this in a little over a month ...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Interview with Rener Gracie

Doing a lot of writing for the Hustle and plenty of training to boot.  July was the biggest training month ever for me, hitting the mat 19 times that month.  Then, in August, I reached another record training month, getting to the Academy to do work 21 times.

I'm paying for that activity a little bit.  But looking to remain on track here in September.  The fall months are often tricky months to get your training in.  Almost always there is a cold in September or October that knocks a week (or more) off your training pace.  I don't expect this season to be any different.  But forewarned is, to some small degree at least, forearmed.

A lot to catch up on, especially my first stint as a real jiu-jitsu professor last Friday.  For now, here's an interview with Rener Gracie from the good folks over at Bloody Elbow.
In a landscape where Brazilian jiu jitsu is a key element of MMA, tons of gyms have opened up across the world. One name stands at the forefront as the most globally recognized system. Gracie. The Gracies are credited with having brought that mass recognition to the general public, and are basically what some consider to be BJJ royalty. They're like the Kennedys of combat sports. 
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"Relentless Fundamentals"

It probably goes too far to say that there is no one outside my academy whose approach to jiu-jitsu I have wanted to emulate more than that of Rickson Gracie.  But it's true.

Classic Judo Chop: Rickson Gracie's Relentless Fundamentals
While many associate high level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with complicated moves, Rickson's success came from relentless fundamental technique.
This Judo Chop will start with a macro-view of Rickson's grappling game then break it down into parts. Rickson had a wonderfully diverse grappling background, training under his father Helio Gracie and also his cousin Rolls Gracie. Rolls encouraged his students to keep an open mind when it comes to other grappling arts. As a result Rickson had experience with not just the Gracie brand of jiu jitsu, but also Judo, Sambo and wrestling.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Training Update

So much going on these days ... It's hard to keep up with things.  Suffice to say that there are some potentially super-positive developments out there that could catapult me into to a new level of engagement with the art that has become my devotion over the past seven years.  More on that over the next few days.

Tough training tonight.  In the wake of Prof Christiano's Friday cardio-infused session, both Monday's and Tuesday's class featured clearly enhanced cardio-improving techniques.  In many ways, it's been a throwback to the kind of classes Prof Rodrigo used to teach back in Tully's in the days before the GB curriculum was even a gleam in Master Carlos's eye.  It will take some getting used to, especially for those of us on the less athletic end of the spectrum.  But after a few weeks of consistent work, I suspect we'll be grateful for the additional focus on the furnace.

Made a crucial mistake during Live Training, and while I didn't pay "the ultimate price" it was a reminder of how sharp I have to be against our better teammates.  Part of this is just a matter of awareness.  But part of it is a function of tightening up my game so that, when I need to play "A" game, I am able to tap into that reality both instantly and thoroughly.

I think a part of this was influenced by some "pre-class" reading: The Path to the Black Belt, by Rodrigo Gracie and Kid Peligro, where they write in a section called "How to regular students improve?":
4. You need to repeat the moves that you learn several times.  And since there's limited training time, you should focus on the moves that you want to be good at, making them the most commonly occurring and most effective moves in your repertoire.  With repetition, your technique will greatly improve.
At this point, sharpness and consistency have to be my main goals.  While there are always a lot of techniques to learn, when it comes to my own game, I need to be even more discriminating in what I include and what I don't include.  Too often I find myself adrift at sea on the mat, not really following any particular sequence that is proven to get me where I want to be.  Too much reaction and half-measures and not enough  attack, instigation, party-startin' ...

So now's the time for less variation rather than more - at least in terms of key situations like passing and reversing.  I'm wandering too far from the beat.

Nicely light in the 157 range after Monday's session.  Similarly fit after tonight's training at 157.7.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mind-Bottling GB Regional Conference

More coherent thoughts to come over the weekend.  For now, suffice to say that was one hell of a Gracie Barra Regional Conference.  I think I was among those who "got it" years ago when it came to GB's growth strategy in general.  But after hearing some of the things that Professors Rodrigo, Marcio, Marco, and Flavio had to say tonight, I realize how little I really knew about how comprehensive the strategy is.

There's not another jiu-jitsu organization in the world that could pull off what Gracie Barra has set out to do.  When you think about the evolution from "organized like a team, fighting like a family" to "jiu-jitsu for everyone", it seems obvious that the next step (again, each step building on the other, not replacing it) is a concept of "jiu-jitsu lifestyle" that extends into a lot of interesting directions, some of which on first glance (and even second or third glance)  may not even seem to have much to do with anything a "jiu-jitsu school" would ever even think about doing.  But I'm convinced there's something to see.

Looking forward to the seminar tomorrow.  It will be a nice return to the body as far as jiu-jitsu is concerned because right now, my jiu-jitsu brain could use some rest.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Leandro Lo Sweep

I've been wanting to learn this sweep ever since I saw Leandro hit it in competition at this year's World Championships.  Trying to replicate it from memory, I was making a major mistake in terms of the second, deep leg, and how to place it.  It's great to get a look at Leandro himself explaining how it is done.

I had been inserting the second leg as if doing a single X sweep, a la Marcelo Garcia.  In actuality, you insert the leg as you would a de la Riva hook, and then the spider guard leg goes behind the knee of the opposite leg (like you would in a tripod sweep).

We Get Letters

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Training Day: Monday

Regaining posture in the guard, setting up the wedge pass and going the other way with the single scoop pass was the lesson for the first training day of the week.  Felt very vigorous for some reason - though the fact that I weighed in at 161.3 after training may have had something to do with it.  Was nice to start training with the collar drag takedown: good cardio work standing and a nice way to get ready for the ground work.

Nothing special in Live Training.  I need to make sure I get a little work on my "core competency" each time I train.  Otherwise, I end up with a month like July which was rich in volume but only a little above average in terms of developing the game that I'll need to have at the highest level.  Like Roger says, have a focus every time you train.  I have some half guard sweeps - the Shaolin back take, in particular - that I've just got to start putting into play on the mat.

Like I said, a little plump on the scale post-train.  If I can shave off a handful of pounds by Wednesday afternoon, all will be well.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Training Days: Double Time Fridays

At least through the balance of August, I'll continue to do double-duty training on Fridays.  Especially when I'm not always able to get in a session on Saturday, getting in the extra work on Friday is a pretty fair substitute.

A lot of work on basics: arm-stuff triangles from the guard, armbars from the mount - a lot of critical details on this one, by the way - collar drag ankle pick (as opposed to the Rip Cord takedown).  Heading into the next eight week stretch leading up to the Masters and Seniors World Championships, I'm looking to keep up the training pace - and set a good opening standard for the new training year - and to focus in on my core techniques a bit more.  This means more deep half guard, but it also means drilling the Shaolin sweep backtake to give my half guard game more options when playing at range.  It also means broadening my passing game a bit; Nadir was doing a great job of stymieing my Effing Pass in the early session, mostly by allowing his legs to pancake.  Unfortunately, my folding pass is very weak, and I was consistently unable to attack - a fact that only became more apparent as time went by.

One major alternative I want to train diligently is the knee cross/leg drag passing series Rafa Mendes teased in a recent promo for his new online technique/training database service.  I don't think the video is still available.  But I watched it enough times when it came out today that I think I have enough of the key ingredients down to start putting in some practice time with it.  A lot of nice details in this series, including tactics for controlling the legs, and for getting the back.

Finished up the second session with some HICT work: 5 minutes of alternating technical lifts.  I'm going to start incorporating HICT work into every session (at least the day sessions), switching off between technical lifts and hipscapes.  Nice weights at 159.2 and 158.3 respectively, just under the middle of the lightweight range.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Armbars.  Armbars.  Armbars.  One of the reasons why my armbars have tended to be a weaker part of my game is that they involve a lot more hip work, a lot more total body coordination, compared to chokes.  I've always thought that you don't have to have a great armbar AND a great triangle.  But you've got to have one or the other - and I'm not convinced that a great omoplata is an appropriate substitute.

Not for any lack of trying.  These three techniques are foundation of the kind of hip mobility that makes jiu-jitsu unique. And yet I can't help but feel as if I've never really fully embraced the challenge of making one of these techniques a potential "go to" attack, especially from the guard.

By comparison, hand fighting comes easily - too easily, however much I'm learning to incorporate it into guard-to-guard transitions.  I'm doing a better job of making my knee shield a consistent part of my half-guard.  But I'm just now getting to the point where I'm attacking with the initial push-sweep.  If I've got the Modified Shaolin sweep2back down by the end of the year, I'll consider it a "win."

Good details on the armbar du jour: the armbar from the mount.  Keeping it tight with a coiled leg set-up on top, the off-hand posted deep under the opponent's chin (no fear).  Dropping back toward the legs (switching arms) and grabbing the leg to prevent the common escapes.  A very tight armbar - and all the more so if he steps over to counter and you roll in turn ...

A nice, light 159.6 midweek weigh-in.  Guard passing up.  Escapes sliding back toward ye sloppy.  In the immortal words of the S.O.S. Band, "baby, take your tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mudbone and BJJ Math

One of Richard Pryor's classic characters, Mudbone, had a line that went something like: "Somebody ask me, well, Mudbone when's the last time you got some?  I told 'em, 'Yesterday.'  Cause that's as far back as I want to have to remember it."

I feel the same way about training jiu-jitsu.  Maybe my answer to "when's the last time you trained?" will never consistently be "yesterday."  But if there are 365 days in a year, then training at least 15 times a month, at least 180 times a year, means you're on the mat virtually every other day.  And over the course of a year, year after year, that's a pretty mean pace.

Training Year 2012: The Numbers

Here are some of the numbers for the training year just ended.

Trained a total of 161 times.  This includes classes, Live Training only, open mats, tournaments, seminars ... anytime I put on the gi, trained with more than one partner, and broke a sweat.

Had my best July in years this time around, training 19 times for the month.  The previous July high was 18 times.

At 161 sessions a year, I'm training about 13.4 times a month, and averaging about 3.35 times a week.  For Training Year 2013, I'd like to get the monthly number up to 15.

I had my best quarter of all time this training year: the February, March, April stretch when I trained 49 times for an average of 3.83 a week.

I trained 12 times or more a month nine times, and 15 times or more a month six times.  Another goal for the coming training year is to train 12 times or more a month every month, and 15 times or more a month at least nine times.

I'll spend more time on the substance behind the numbers later this week.  For now, I want to recognize the moment, for the positive, and acknowledge that uneven training (single digit training months in December and May) make these high attendance marks harder to reach.  161 falls just one short of my biggest training year ever (TY 2010).  More consistent training next year should make it that much easier to take that TY 2010 number out.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Training Day: Monday

Back on the mat to start the week.  Continued to work on the collar drag takedown, and the collar drag takedown to knee on belly.  Professor Carlos also had us drilling the armbar from the mount, focusing on a couple of key details about how to isolate the shoulder, surround the upperbody with your legs, and grab the opponent's near leg as you drop back into the armlock to prevent his escape.  Good details, and something to work on as I try to bring my armbar up to speed.

Felt a little raggedly in today's training, though it's usually worse during drills than sparring where I can control the pace a bit.  May be a little hangover from last week's 6-session pace.  We'll see this week as I ease back on the throttle a little bit, taking Saturday's training off.

159.9 on the scale post-train.  Very, very good for a Monday.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Training Days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday morning, Friday afternoon, and Saturday

Another six-day training week.  No surprise to finish up at 156 and change early Saturday afternoon.  There was a moment during the first class on Saturday when the idea of sticking around for the competition team class afterwards seemed crazy.  But stick around I did, getting in three good rounds of  work to finish off the week.

Very much a pace week.  I didn't work on any specific techniques from my own gameplan really, which isn't good given the amount of time spent on the mat.  But the high rate of activity was a nice change-up, taking advantage of the good weather and the "opportunity" of being newly self-employed for lack of a better word.     I need to make sure, as I slow the pace down a little bit this coming week, that I'm training some of the moves - especially from the guard - that I've been focusing on.  But overall it's hard to complain when you are punching the clock at this rate.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Training Day: Monday

A whole lot of the kind of training I really like: a little self-defense followed by about half an hour of nothing but scissor sweeps.

It may not be the most exciting training for some.  But as far as learning is concerned, there really isn't anything better than taking one key technique and working it over and over and over.  We aren't at the technological singularity yet, and can't quite assimilate knowledge like they do on the Nebuchadnezzar.  So the only alternative, as Daniel Coyle writes in his excellent book, The Talent Code, is the slow, often-painful process of forging muscle memory, building the neuro-circuitry that will allow you to access what Rickson Gracie famously called "the place beyond knowledge."

Some good training with new Gracie Barra Seattle purple belt Kyle, and blue belt Cordelia, a judo black belt if I overheard correctly, with very good movement on top (i.e., spinning armbar, kimura set-ups) that had me scrambling to recover guard.  And a great guard/pass guard specific training with Mark during the Open Mat (four two-minute rounds).  I might start spending every Open Mat with this kind of training.

I also got to work on some of my rear mount escape demons, specifically Saulo's detail about falling to the side rather than straight back, and trapping the fall-side leg BELOW the knee rather than above it.  Felt like a breakthrough.  We'll see what happens the next time I'm rolling with one of those casca-grossas from the last few weeks.

A very heavy 162 on the mat post-train.  At least it's Monday.  Should be a very heavy week of training as I try and set a new training year record of 163 sessions in a year (August - July).  To get there, I've got to train every day this week - twice on Friday - and then on Monday and Tuesday of next week.  It shouldn't have been this hard; a few more sessions this spring and I'd be waltzing across the finish line in front.  But, things being as they are, I'm just going to have to take the long road to the goal.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Coming to the Pyramid in Long Beach, October 7, 2012.  A little more info is available here.  Training Camp begins August 5.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The State of Small Man Jiu-Jitsu

Reality check from Dan Faggella of MicroBJJ
However, as we've seen, there's a big trend in this
direction for the small man BJJ competition game, 
and generally nobody wants top because you're 
over 4 times more likely to be swept than to pass.

(You can read that and pretend its not a big deal
if you want)
and what he calls "Dan's 'One Day This Will Be Famous' Quote":
Neither player wants to take top positions unless it
means he's going to end up on the back or in side
control, so neither player chooses to leave their hip,
and instead fight for very difficult transitions and
otherwise occupy themselves with random leg-lock
 There are a lot of ways of dealing with this if you are part of the under-160 (or, as I like to think of us, the "pound for pound" crowd).  At first I was reluctant to admit that this was the reality of small man jiu-jitsu.  As some one is under 160, but has a very big man jiu-jitsu game based on top control, mount rather than back, and a relatively static approach to transition and attack (more phalanx than Blitzkrieg), I had invested years in a style that had served me well enough.  It was heavy, and it was mine, brother.

But over the past year or so of training against bigger and better challenges, a lot of what brought me here isn't keeping me here.  And no where is this more apparent than in the guard, where length and size have made my customary options incomplete.
I'm not about to start playing the dueling squid game that has made so much under-160 jiu-jitsu almost unwatchable at the highest levels.  But I do need to adopt a more kinetic guard, if only to better deal with the challenges that are increasingly commonplace.  And the source of that kinetic energy has got to come from more dynamic leg work, the kind I'm seeing out of the de la Riva and Reverse de la Riva (both outside and inside grips) guards.  

These "half guards" which similarly focus on isolating one side of the passer are probably what I can benefit most from the contemporary small man jiu-jitsu game.   And even if the de la Riva complex is mostly used as a set-up for the berimbolo - a great transition I'm nonetheless ambivalent about learning - there are still aspects of the position that may help revitalize my work from the bottom.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Training Day: Friday

The Good:
Waking up to the sound of summer thunderstorms to make the 6:30 am Friday class.  Ending the day after training both the 6:30 am and the 11:45 am class with a gi weight of 156.5.  Learning how to finish option #2 of the Effing Pass (leg rope w/sleeve) in the noon session.

The Bad:
Ending Live Training Friday afternoon the same way I ended Live Training Wednesday afternoon.

The Ugly:
See "The Bad"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Missed a planned training session last night.  But it probably wasn't the worst idea in the world to take a day off between sessions.  Maybe last week's 6x training blitz caught up with me, but I was feeling a few aches and stiffness that I hadn't felt before.  But insofar as they were in all of the usual places, it seemed like a little time was all that was needed to get back on track.

Efficiency in the guard is about knowing what you want to do in the guard.  Nothing is more exhausting than being lost and struggling to find the right direction.  Skill, speed, and size aside, part of what is so challenging about training with Professor Carlos  in recent days has been my lack of a process, especially when it comes to playing guard against a standing passer.

My tendency has been to try and play a "leggy guard".  But there is nothing in my experience or body type that would recommend such a strategy against anyone, much less someone with the Anderson Silva/Jon Jones combination of length and agility.  Instead, as I have discovered with light featherweights I train with who have great ability (and speed rather than length), the goal has to be to (a) reduce the length advantage by concentrating my attack, and (b) reduce the agility advantage by making movement either difficult or a liability.

Easier said than done doesn't even begin to describe it.  I've started to train away from "small guy" jiu-jitsu in an effort to embrace my inner pessadissimo.  But when there is no way to escape the 10-minute moment in which you are very much the small guy, there is no alternative to adopting strategies that are specifically geared toward turning this bug into a feature.

The question, though, is this: do I take a more Marcelo Garcia approach to this dilemma (drags, X-guards and single legs), or a more Rafa Mendes approach (berimbolo, berimbolo, berimbolo)?  There is something tempting about the latter - and something worthwhile in finally learning that great berimbolo reverse.  And those who questioned Rafa as an absolute candidate have to be satisfied with his performance against Rodolfo Viera at the Abu Dhabi World Pro in 2011.

At the same time, there's no doubting what Marcelinho has been able to accomplish as an absolute competitor.  And I suspect that a significant fraction of that success is a much a matter of method as anything else.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Training Day: Monday

The fact that I've spent the past hour eyeballing Ryan Hall's Back Attacks DVD over on eBay at a nearly-too-sweet 30% discount tells you much, but not all, of my training on the first training day of the week.

To the good, Prof Carlos had us working on the standing guillotine off a double leg defense, the counter to the standing guillotine, and a variation of the running escape from side control.  The latter was especially good for me, having struggled from this position in recent days against larger and/or stronger opponents.  Ironically, I had spent Monday morning watching the volume of Saulo's classic DVD series that focuses on the crossbody position, specifically, chapter 13 which dealt with the running escape.

Live training gave me the opportunity to test out my side control escape on at least one occasion to positive effect.  But my rear mount defense has really deteriorated over the past year and repairing it has become as critical as developing a Unified Field Theory of Guard Passing was a year ago.  Hence, me, Ryan Hall, and the eyeballing over at eBay.

Some say bend at the waist to pin the leg, shuck the leg, wide step and hipscape in (Saulo).  Others insist on getting your back to the mat as the prime directive (Marcelo).  Still others advocate a theory of "relative hip height", insisting that the key is to avoid having the attacker's hips at the small of your back at all costs (Hall).

So obviously there are plenty of ways to escape the back mount.  What I need to figure out, as I did for the guard and have begun to do in earnest with the guard pass, is the way of movement to escape that best fits the way my body is most likely to move - especially under duress - and to move that way for a while until it sticks.

More rear mount escapes/counters from Robson Moura and Kurt Osiander.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Training Days: Friday and Saturday

As far as my triple-date training plan for Friday, suffice to say that two out of three ain't bad.

A late scheduled change precluded training Friday evening.  But I did make it to Coach Z's 6:30 am class and Professor Carlos's regular noon class.  Collar drags were the theme of Zee's class, a nice alternative for me insofar as I remain stubbornly against adding the armdrag to my sitting guard game.  Professor Carlos had us working knee-on-belly transitions from side control, as well as the kimura from the top position.

On Saturday I arrived a little bit before competition team training began, so I missed out on some bow and arrow choke work Prof Carlos had the class doing for the Fundamentals session.  I managed to get in two long rolls, one with John and one with Professor Carlos, for about 20 minutes of training.  Alex was back visiting from New York and we talked about doing some no gi training after class.  Unfortunately, I somehow missed my place in the queue and ending up sitting out the Open Mat.  Hopefully when he comes back through in August, we'll get a chance to train some.

What's working?  Armbars, strangely enough.  I've been working more on the closed guard.  And while that mostly means stuff like Rap Star (which is still awful) and the Barataguard, it doesn't exclude old school stuff like armbars and omoplatas.  If I'm getting armbars from the guard, then it means that I'm making some major gains in my guard game because I've never been a big "armbar from the guard" guy.  So it's been nice to train this way some.

Weight has been on point to finish the week: 158s and 157s.  This has been the first time I've trained six times in a week in a very long time, and now that crazy goal of training 21 times this month and setting a new training year record might not be as crazy as it seems.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Training Days: Tuesday and Wednesday

It was maybe a year ago back when I was competing that I first heard Prof Rodrigo's formula for pre-competition training: Train Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Rest Thursday.  Train Friday and Saturday.

I'm guessing that rest on Sunday was somewhat obvious.  As I get nearer to a point where significant off-mat conditioning seems to hurt more than help, this is the kind of schedule I'm trying to establish going into the 2012-2013 training year.  Saturday training will be on a "do when can"  basis, hopefully at least every other week on average.  And if I end up working a 9-5 something this fall, my Friday afternoon training date might get curtailed.  But for now, the six weeks between now and Labor Day Weekend, this is the plan.

Got in some good training Tuesday and Wednesday.  Tuesday evening, professor Rodrigo had us working a guard pass sequence and agility drill, moving laterally in a Feitosa-like combination of the single scoop and the stuff.  The emphasis was on the footwork, making sure that both knees are never on the ground as we switched back and forth with the three different options (scoop, backstep, re-scoop).

Wednesday afternoon was all guillotine training.  Not easy on the neck, but a must-do if you're going to have this essential submission down pat.  Prof Carlos had us drilling this as part of a counter to the double leg, with an emphasis on "rocking the baby", putting the choking elbow on the mat and lifting the off-elbow high.  We also worked a switch-like counter to the guillotine that emphasized a complete 180 degree turn to ensure freeing yourself from the choke.

Training has been good this week, training with Prof Rodrigo during Tuesday's session and Prof Carlos during Wednesday's.  In that regard, things pretty much feel as they last did - though it seems like it has been awhile since I'd trained with either.  Both continue to be different versions of overwhelming, the Time Machine and the Tornado, and while it is difficult to "learn" en media res, so to speak, there is always something "ambition-stoking" about the experience.

Nice weights after training.  158.0 on Tuesday.  157.0 on Wednesday.  I'm looking to celebrate Friday the 13th by training three times in 12 hours: Coach Zee's 6:30 am class, Professor Carlos' 11:45 am class, and Coach Garcia's 6:00 pm class.  Once in a lifetime, baby.  Water flowing underground.

The Clock

Monday, July 9, 2012

Training Day: Monday

A lot to like in today's training (not the least of which was my post-train weigh-in of 158.0, very nice for a Monday!).  We worked standup for the entire class, the third takedown of the series Prof Rodrigo highlighted a few months ago that was another version of Rip Cord, or the collar drag takedown.  Prof Carlos, teaching the class, had us move to knee on belly (a second step that actually helped you stay put during the takedown and not walk right into the guy's guard), and then to side control and mount.

Side control escape King of the Hill for the final 8 minutes or so was a nice way to finish things off.  I wasn't as sharp as I'd like to have been, especially with my footwork.  So it was good to work the position.

I got to work with Mark after Live Training (a session with Angela and a session with Mark), focusing on the new Shaolin half guard sweep series I've been writing about.  Just a few reps, but it was essential to start the process that will hopefully add a whole new dimension to my ability to attack from the half guard.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Planning for Training Year 8

With less than a month to go before Training Year 8 begins in August, I'm settling in on guard work, specifically closed guard work, as my main area of improvement.

What I want to do is focus on is attacking the arms, either through the King Crimson series (kimura, crossover sweep, omoplata, guillotine, kimura2back) when the elbow is wide, or through the Mendes Brothers series introduced here when the elbow is tight.

The Mendes Brothers attack consists largely of the triangle and the armdrag.  There may also be a wristlock in there.  What I'm looking to do is to add to these attacks the baratoplata from Professor Rafael Freitas of GB New Mexico, as shown by Profs. Rodrigo and Carlos here.

The third option in attacking the arms will be the Rap Star guard (arm wrap choke, armbar, omoplata, triangle, and sweeps).  I've typically not been taking a sharp enough angle when attacking with Rap Star, and ultimately have had difficulty controlling the arm and getting enough space to properly use my inside leg.  So I don't want to give up on Rap Star as an "arm-oriented" attack strategy from the guard.  Ideally, all three options will flow into each other and make it more risky for those who try to kill space from the top to do so.

There are some finish details about the baratoplata that I need to work out.  But I think this "barataguard" is a good project to develop my closed guard over the coming 12 month training year.

From the half guard I'll keep working on the "long range" game with the Shaolin sweeps with the take-the-back variation, as well as the Foster and Faria sweeps (more about all of this, including video, here).

From the open guard, I'll continue with the Leandro Lo sweep, plus the DLR sweep/backtake combo.  I'll have a post on my submission goals for TY 8 later this week, a (hopefully) high probability submission strategy that could also be referred to as "King Crimson".

Very much inspired by some great performances from my teammates this weekend at The Revolution.  Looking forward to getting back on the mat on Monday.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Training Day: Friday

Open mat work on the day before the Revolution tournament.  I got in some good time with one of our larger blue belts, then a round with Brian, then a final round with Angela.  I had planned to spend some time focusing on the long half guard sweeps and backtake I wrote about in the last post.  But live sparring is typically not the place to get that kind of thing done, and today's training was no different.  As usual I did work a lot of half guard.  But it was pretty much standard fare from my good side.  So there's that.

Guard passing continues to be a strong point.  I'm doing a lot of successful knee cross passing against the half guard (maybe I'm not meant to do backstep half-guard passing, after all).  In a very long Open Mat session with Chaim (arguably two, regular sessions back to back for about 20-25 minutes of straight training), I was working hard for the Effing Pass and again, while not successful in getting the pass with any consistency, I was able to stay on the offensive when on top.

As always with Chaim there is escape and survival training involved.  I'm doing a bit better in both instances, getting the initial explosion and space creation in that initial 1-2 seconds.  What I need to do is to find the third and final second that has me replacing guard, or getting back to my feet, or some other neutral position. More often than not, I think that position will be a half guard, and it makes sense to begin looking for entries to the half guard out of my basic escapes.  But here, the other big issue is will and determination to keep pushing through to the third and final second rather than giving up after the first two.

159.5 on the scale post-train.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Open Mat today with the 4th of July holiday.  I got in some good open guard drilling with Glenn (X-guard sweeps for him, Leandro Lo sweep for me), helped a new guy with armbar defense, and managed two sparring sessions, including a long roll with Jeremy, who I haven't seen much less trained with in some time.

W/re2 the Leandro Lo sweep, I think the key is in abandoning the spider control as soon as you get the leg locked up.  Otherwise, I feel as if I'm leaving myself vulnerable to a potential footlock or ankle lock.  Maybe even more importantly, I am able to get to the top after the sweep much faster if I get rid of the spider control (i.e., foot on bicep).  This is more or less what I discovered drilling the sweep with Mark awhile back.  But it was good to be reminded of the issue.

One thing that is becoming clearer about my sparring is that the guard passing work of this year is really starting to pay off.  My guard passing confidence has never been higher, which in some ways isn't saying very much because I've never felt as if guard passing was a strong part of my game, anyway.  But confidence is confidence, and I've got it.  I'm finally starting to enjoy attacking the guard.

The flip side of this is that I've been spending so much time working on my guard passing game that my guard has started to suffer.  As always "guard" for me is just shorthand for "half guard".  And while I have no intention whatsoever of giving up the half guard as my go-to guard, I also need to grow the guard out a bit if I'm going to be able to use it effectively against bigger and more talented opponents.

The issue is that I'm not controlling the space, and am spending too much time fighting from a flattened position.  There are three ways to fix this: (1) re-prioritize the frame, either at the shoulder or with the knee, (2) use the butterfly hook more aggressively to change the balance and attack with a hook sweep from sitting up, and (3) crush the space with a deep half attack.

Right now (2) is the option I need to focus on particularly.  I was able to get a reverse out of a fairly flattened situation at one point today with the Foster sweep, which was a reminder of not only the value of the butterfly hook, but also of the kimura grip.  I really don't have a sweep out of (1), though this may be a good place to start, including this variation that gets you to the back.

Last, (3), especially with the Faria sweep, is another option I need to train more.  I got a lot of insights out of the Pan and Mundial this year when it comes to understanding the Faria sweep from deep half, and I've been letting those insights ripen on the vine a little too long.

160.5 on the scale post-train.  I would have liked to knock another pound off that number for a sub-160 midweek count.  But assuming the end of week number on Friday is where is should be (i.e., 157-159), Wednesday's 160+ is no crime.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Learning to Love the Mount

Five videos to get you loving the mount as much as you love the back.

Roger Gracie.  Raphael Lovato Jr.  Rubem Patrick.  Marcos Schubert.  Professor Magoo.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Deep Thoughts on Strong Chokes

Two of the most powerful chokes in jiu-jitsu: the clock choke and the katagatame, both require you to put your forehead on the mat to finish properly.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Ouchi gari to standing closed guard pass with cross grip was today's primary lesson, though Prof Carlos broke it down into its component parts to make it easier to absorb.  The pass was the Jacare, the single underhook, with the arm cutting across the neck to get the far collar and the grip on the sleeve on the other arm very strong and pulling.

My cut still hasn't healed, though it was healed enough to get me through an initial 8-minute roll with Angus.  A good job attacking with the Gordo and Twist Back, but I need to open up to (a) attacking with the same stuff from my weak side, and/or (b) transitioning to deep half.

Strangely, I don't feel as if I have much of a middle game right now.  I've got the half guard for close range, and the cross guard (including the Leandro Lo sweep) for long range.  But there isn't really anything in my closed guard, for example, that I feel especially confident in using.  I've long felt most comfortable with the King Crimson suite (kimura, guillotine, omoplata, crossover sweep, kimura backtake).  What's been missing, though, has been a counter for those times when I can't control the elbow.  I've done a little bit with the Mendes Brothers Barataguard approach, and maybe should do more.  The armdrag has worked once or twice in the past, and that is probably the #1 move from that guard.

Rolling with Glenn for even the short amount of time that I did was a reminder to work on my deep half guard passing from the top.  There's a way to bait the move to deep half, and if you are able to move into the counter and pass, for example, stepping over the head and turning into the legs in a "watchdog" position, I think it will only open up other ways to attack the half guard in general.

Managed to drill a little bit of the Z-guard pass from Jason Scully, as well.  I was doing a push-pull on the controlled, top leg instead of turning it clockwise like a giant steering wheel.  It really makes a difference in getting that lower leg across the center line, where it is far easier to drag.

159.6 on the scale. post-train.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rolled Up Episode 24 – Guard Passing & training mindset with Marcio Feitosa

The guard pass sequence shown by Professor Marcio Feitosa is part of the series I've been referring to as the "Effing Pass."  I don't exaggerate when I say that it has changed my life on the mat.  It's been the biggest breakthrough since I started training half-guard as a blue belt.

Rolled Up Episode 24 – Guard Passing & training mindset with Marcio Feitosa

Monday, June 25, 2012

Training Days: Saturday, Monday

I'm slowly getting back my training pace.  This Saturday's session marked the first time my training pace was at 3x/week since the first week of May (my first week of unemployment, not ironically).  You'd think being out of work would only increase my training pace - and, starting this week, that will be the case.  But between a visit to La Familia back in Maryland/D.C., coming home with a head cold, trying to get my freelance hustle going and, for better or worse, spelunking for a full-time gig ("To give us an idea of your writing skills, please write a 200-word essay on the topic of your choice.  Your essay must reference peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."), I've actually found it hard to focus on jiu-jitsu.

Actually, focusing on jiu-jitsu hasn't been hard.  Getting to the academy has.  It's a weird thing to be spending so much time and energy training, and then go home and do ... well, not the job you've been doing for the past 4-5 years, but instead the "honey do" list, the Craig's List, the "what I wish I'd done with my money when I was making some" list ... It's hard to not feel a little, well, certainly not "lazy", but, I don't know, inappropriate.  As in, what the hell am I doing practicing sweeps, takedowns, and submissions when I should be looking for a job?

However persistent that argument has been, it clearly has not yet won the day.  And training sessions like I had on Saturday will continue to make it difficult for that end of the conversation.  The Effing Pass continues to be my salvation.  Again, even if I don't get the pass, I've got a gameplan, a map of the journey that I've never had before.  And what's even better is that I'm starting to actually chain my guard passing, going from the Effing Pass to a double unders then switching to the drop leg option in the double unders pass ... It's like nothing I've ever been able to do in my passing game in all the years I've been training and it is hard to exaggerate how good it feels.

And today, with that Z-guard leg drag I picked up from Jason Scully (who I've been a big fan of ever since his "silent movie" days - "Psycho!  Groupie!  Cocaine!  Crazy!") .... It's just been a great two days of work on the mat, the kind of work that reminds you why you train.

Today (Monday) we worked on opening the guard from the knees.  One of the good things about doing the Fundamentals over and over is that you really start to internalize the technique.  It's like you are running down this dim passageway - chasing or evading, depending on your personality, I suppose - and then, all of a sudden, a door appears out of nowhere.  And when you reach for it, it flies open before you grasp the knob, not just inviting you to enter, but to do so with a sense of urgency, a sense of opportunity.

There's nothing like that moment of discovery.  It's what helps keep you not just learning, but integrating, connecting.

159.1 on the scale, post-train on Saturday.  158.8 on the scale, post-train on Monday.  This is how we do.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Training Day: Monday

I don't usually train open guard.  But when I do, I train tripod sweep.

That's how I felt during today's training.  After a few sessions feeling out of my element (especially the closed guard work last week), it was nice to find myself in a pretty comfortable pedagogic space: training and drilling the open guard pull and switch to the tripod sweep.

Several months ago I developed a little coordination drill to help me move quickly from orthodox grips and feet on hips to the cross grip, ankle hook, and ankle grip of the tripod sweep.  And while I've never made the transition to the sickle sweep alternative to the tripod sweep defense with any fluidity, the drill has given me an open guard sweep that I'm pretty comfortable with - something that was not likely to emerge whole from my permanent half guard campaign.

Got a lot of opportunity to work on said open guard during an extended open guard King of the Hill.  It was also a great chance to work on passing open guards, getting rid of the hooks and securing the grips you want in order to pass.  Professor Carlos has been especially big on emphasizing open guards - sweeping and passing.  Today was a good example of getting that work in.

A little chubby 160.7 on the scale post-train.  For a Monday, and with only one sparring session in Live Training (though I did some pre-class conditioning including a matwork round, a pair of aerobic power rounds, sprints, straddles, throws, trips, and takedowns ...), I'm going to give myself a break.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Training Day: Saturday

Your final training day of the week should be a big deal and for me, this week, Saturday's session delivered on a number of accounts.

The cardio component was very good, a pair of two-minute rounds in the 360 drill against the turtle got things off to a good threshold testing start.  We worked on taking the back from turtle, the controls at the nape of the neck and the far hip, the switch and open to provide "falling space" as you take the back - as opposed to trying to "roll" the guy into your rear mount ...  Prof Carlos added a clock choke, as the guy tries to return to turtle after you've changed your grip to the collar.  It was a nice reminder of how powerful the choke can be, and why it's worth keeping part of your regular set of options.

The specific and Live Training were excellent, with a couple of tough rolls with Dave, a blue belt I see on Saturdays usually, and Prof Abel, who earned the first degree on his black belt today.  I'm working more DLR as part of the Leandro Lo sweep I've been trying out for the past week or two.  Guys are fighting to keep me from inserting the lead single X leg by pinching their knee in, which I know sets up a DLR backtake for me.

More critically, I'm patching up my half-guard defense to the backstep pass, especially when I've already got a grip on the lapel.  I'd been stymied here for the past month or so, and couldn't really get my technique clear.  Simply by switching hands on the lapel grip, I'll be able to both go belly-down and then on top while keeping the guard passer from being able to turn in (their inside leg is kept up by my new lapel grip, now on my outside hand rather than my inside hand).

Even though it's sort of a junkyard dog position, I think I want to work it a lot more just to see if I can turn it into another effective "heads I win/tails you lose" situation like my Gordo/Twist Back half guard sweep combo.  If I can pull half guard from standing with that lapel grip (as I did in my first brown belt competition against a very tough opponent), then even the worst case scenarios of the knee cross and backstep pass are a lot less to fear.

156.6 on the scale post-train.  Almost an ideal number for the end of the week.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Training Day: Friday

Trained at Zee's 6:30 am Early Bird class for Friday.  We worked on an armbar and a triangle, the armbar coming from the BJJ All Levels class that Prof Rodrigo taught on Thursday.  The armbar attack included a posture break with a same side collar grip on one side and an elbow grip on the other.  The reaction from the posture break - posturing up - gives you the opportunity to shove the elbow to the inside, switching from the same side collar grip to a cross grip on the forearm under attack.

Step on the attack side hip to lock the guard passer's shoulder, and pivot.  Use your elbow grip/free hand to lower the passer's head if necessary to help get your leg over to finish the armbar.

The triangle was a special of Coach Brock, a triangle from double wrist control.  It took a little while for me to figure this one out, the step on the hip, pancaking your legs and then using that off leg to move the guy's arm out of the way and loop the leg around.  Zee added a nice detail of switching to a two-on-one once you peel off with the second leg to maximize your ability to isolate the arm and head.

A good class and a really nice time of the day to train in a lot of ways.  I didn't train at the midday session, and a part of me wishes that I did.  Even though I was planning to train on Saturday, it felt weird not getting that midday session in.  I don't know if I'll train next Saturday or not, but I'll definitely be looking to double up next Friday.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

More work on the pendulum sweep today, which was great insofar as I can already feel my sweep getting smoother compared to my efforts on Monday. As I said to Brian during the drilling, I could train the same technique all week. With something as technical as jiu-jitsu, repetition is definitely some kind of solution to learning, if not mastery.

Today we added another armlock to the sweep, as well as a variation in case the guy steps up with one foot, but keeps it too far out of range for you to reach it. Here, you reach under your lower back - almost as if you were "handcuffing" yourself - in order to block the guard passer's near knee. If you can sweep the knee, so much the better. But likely all you'll need to do is block it in order to carry out the same pendulum sweep. The armlock for today also dealt with that same posture on top from the guard passer. Here, the key was to pull on the foot of the near leg (again, under you), in order to initially break the base. Done correctly, the guard passer almost falls into perfect position for the armlock.

Very vigorous Live Training today, with two 8-10 minutes sessions with Chaim. There may not be a more difficult guy for me to spar than Chaim in many ways, not the least of which is that we have similar styles ("three yards and a cloud of dust"). It can be a sobering experience. But I'm trying to focus on how much benefit this kind of training will be over the longer-term, as I am forced to adapt to a bigger, stronger "opponent" with the same sort of positional goals that I have.

Still no new battery for the scale, so my post-training weight is a mystery for a second session in a row. I was about 153 before class this morning, so I'm guessing that I might have even tipped below 155 (without the gi) by the time Wednesday's time on the mat was done. It's a tricky balance. But if I can stay around these lbs, and gradually bring my consumption back up, that would be ideal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

IBJJF 2012 World Championships Round-by-Round Results

A great collection of data on who won and how on the road to the gold at the Mundial a few weeks ago from the good folks at BJJ Heroes.

Jiu Jitsu World Championships Results 2012

Cardio Day: Tuesday

I'm scheduling in some cardio work (cardiac output) three times a week over the next month or so to see if I can extend the amount of training I can do in a given session.  Today was the first day on the treadmill for cardiac output work in a long while, so I took it relatively easy with a three-mile trek at modest mph's.

The goal is to keep myself in an aerobic state for a full 50-55 minutes.  Tuesday's session went well on that score.  But "first days" can be deceiving.  The real trick will be to see how I'm faring come Sunday.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Training Day: Monday

A lot of work on the pendulum sweep in today's class. Professor Carlos showed us two versions, as well as a version that sets up an armlock.

Critical in the details were a few things: breaking posture and waiting for the guard passer to move before using your legs to off-balance him forward. Also key were some of the different ways to control the inside arm or hand (or elbow) to keep the guy from posting as he pitches forward and begins to turn. I have a habit of doing the sweep without opening my guard, using my legs to squeeze and then sort of throw the guy over by extending my legs. Not ideal form, and not the way to go if you want the armbar option. So I'll try to keep working on this one a little bit.

Some good work in Live Training. I still haven't really done any deep half work in the past several weeks. But I have been able to spend a LOT of time working on the Effing Pass, which is just great. This pass didn't even exist for me until this year and it's already giving me a lot of confidence when it come to dealing with really tricky guards. Some of the reactions to this passing attack - silent or almost silent reactions - are suggesting that folks haven't figured out what to do against the Effing Pass, which gives me an edge in terms of starting to build on the pass. I'm also liking my Double Unders pass or, more accurately, the counter to the defense of the Double Unders pass. It really exploits the physics involved: just as the guy is working to fight off the squeeze of the Double Under, you switch your grip with a simple wrist rotation to palm the thigh (instead of hooking it), force the leg to the mat, and then bring your shin over on top quickly to pin the leg in place. From there, any number of passing options are available.

No post-train weight since the scale is low on batteries. Hopefully that will be taken care of by Wednesday.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Training Day: Saturday

157.4 on the scale post train.

A great day on the mat on Saturday.  I got to work with John, who I haven't trained with since he got his brown belt the day I got my black belt.  We reviewed the techniques of the week, taking the back after sprawling against the double leg, and adding both a bow and arrow choke and a knee-in choke for the finish.  Professor Carlos added that nice detail of hipscaping back and allowing the guy to fall into your lap, rather than trying to roll the guy over and into you.  It's another great example of the physics of jiu-jitsu at work.

A lot of training today.  Guard specific, shark tank training (six minutes each in the middle), then a couple of sparring sessions with blue belts David and Ron.  I was able to attack much, much more with the Effing Pass and, quite frankly, am getting close to the point where I need to start thinking about working both sides a little.  I'm still reverting to the Flat Pass against tight closed guards (twice today), adding in the handcuff behind the back if I can get it.  It's a little bread and butter.  But if nothing else is working, then I go to it.

I still haven't done much so far with the deep half.  I don't want to play deep half against guys that are smaller than me.  But I've got to remember to switch to the deep half anytime I've got a "body" to climb around.    I'm liking my Faria move from deep half - the one I drilled with Mark a little bit on Friday - and am anxious to see it at work in real-time.

Had a very nice conversation with Zee after training.  He's been running a new 6:30 am class on Friday, and invited me to stop by.  I'm going to take him up on it next week.  The class has been growing and there is talk about expanding it to other mornings.  This might be the best news I've gotten in a month.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Training Day: Friday

To finish off the workweek ("workweek!" chortled the gods), Prof Carlos had us sparring in rotating five minute sessions for the whole of the main class, then a little Live Training afterwards.  I got in four rounds for a good twenty minutes of almost continuous sparring, and was feeling pretty good - though faded - near the end.

A few things are working well.  The Effing Pass is the biggest technique godsend since I started playing half guard as a blue belt.  I've got to remember to Punch rather than Control the pinned leg.  But most of the other mechanics really seem to be falling into place nicely.  Even when I don't get the pass, it is putting me and keeping me in a good attacking position where I rarely feel in danger of being submitted or swept.

I'm starting to feel a little flow.  It's crazy to look at my training calendar and realize that my 4-week training average has dropped down to once a week as of a week ago.  Getting in to train tomorrow will give me three sessions for this week, which will help bend the curve in the right direction.  But between illness, relapse, and the whole Doomsday experience, it's been hard sometimes to find the way to the Academy.

But it's paid off every time I've made it.  Today I very spontaneously hit a nifty "take the mount" move from side control that was improvised off that Bibiano turning-back, back take against the turtle.  And on Wednesday there was that Rodolfo Viera attack against the knee shield half guard that I read in GracieMag a few hours before training and was able to apply that day.  Again, some very good flow even though my training frequency has been so low.

A lot of nice drilling after training, also.  Worked with Mark on the Leandro Lo sweep and the Machado sweep for me, giving me something else to do against standing opponents.  Mark wanted to work some deep half, so we drilled a little Homer Simpson sweep a la Jeff Glover and the Faria sweep.  If I could do that after every class ...

158.4 on the scale post-train.  A good number near the end of the week.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Training Day: Wednesday

Very nice to get back on the mats after relapsing into my summer cold over the weekend (and missing training on Monday).  We worked guard replacements from the turtle (sprawl defense and side attacks against the turtle), which provided a good opportunity to work on mechanics, as well as a good workout.

Live Training was also good.  I have to say, the past several sessions training with Coach Angela have been especially productive, giving me a chance to focus almost exclusively on open guard passing, movement, and technique.  I'm getting a chance to work on not only the Effing Pass, but also some toreano passing, which is another major priority for my guard passing game.  I'm also able to train the double under/double drop pass that Brian and I worked on a week or two ago.

The focus for me today was not letting anyone put their weight on me, going chest to chest, in half guard.  It's one of my worst habits, making my work a hell of a lot harder.  So with arm frame and knee shield, I did a much better job of controlling range and setting up my entries to sweeps.  Also on this score, from a half guard passing game, I had some great early success with one of the passes that Rodolfo Viera shows in the latest edition of GracieMag, especially helpful against the knee shield half guard, where you overhook the top leg, fight for the cross face, and then squeeze your arms together while kicking your trapped leg free.

158.8 on the scale, post-train.  Anything under 160 is gold.