Sunday, December 13, 2009


We did a lot of drilling in the last few days. It’s been a long time since I’ve drilled technique after technique like that. Certainly not the most fun way to train, but it definitely has its place, especially in a pressure situation.

One thing I’ve noticed about drilling is the situation that you drill magically seems to appear more often in sparring.

I’ve fallen out of the habit of drilling as I’ve been much more interested in the situation by situation moment. Subconsciously I think I’ve told myself that drilling creates a false reality and I need to react to the moment as it’s happening.

But after listening to Rigan talk, I’m thinking I’ve been ignoring the fuller picture. Yes the moment by moment situation is important, but part of what creates proper reaction is having seen the moment before. There are many times I’ve been able to anticipate where a match is going to go simply because I’ve been in the situation before. Drilling allows that to happen in a controlled environment.

So this week begins drilling things over and over again. Since guard passing is on my mind, that’s what I’m going to drill first.

I’m going to structure my drilling in two parts:
1) Doing the technique on demand, i.e. when the moment is right, I’m doing it immediately.
2) Chaining techniques together.

For various reasons my passing game is still more one of force rather than flow. I want to make sure I drill the moment to do the correct technique. But I want to make sure I also drill the follow up moments of what to do when that moment is gone.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Working guard passing details

I’m continuing to work on the details of simplicity. I’ve been reanalyzing my guard passing over the last few days as I realized how lacking it was while working with JS on Monday. Where I normally feel like my hips are heavy, I felt like a kite in the wind and kept getting swept over effortlessly by him.

I keep thinking of the Roger Gracie quote, “The basics work. You just have to do them right.”

And I realized that I am doing the right moves incorrectly and sometimes at the wrong time.

First thing I’m going to work on is committing to being a tight guard passer. I’m not a jumping around, flipping over guy and I find being methodical with my whole game works best for me.

The second thing is to commit my hips more. I’m realizing in hindsight that I was light because my hips were light.

Third, using my head. Just like in takedowns, and open guard, I want my head below his. I’ve used my forehead under the chin from time to time and I need to start that up again.

Fourth is tying the passes in together. The idea is to gain slow steady control and decrease his options, just like in every other position.

Fifth and I think most important, is securing control after the pass. JS is excellent and sweeping right after I’m past his legs or getting to his knees. I think looking at keep his legs crossed, working the crossface, knee on stomach and taking the back may be a few of the options to look at.

But more importantly, I have to realize that a certain level of player is always going to accept the next position and start reacting to it. He accepts the pass so that he can set up the sweep. I have to anticipate the potential sweep I’m giving him and start reacting to that when the pass is finishing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kevin Bacon, Organic Chemistry and Jiu Jitsu

Last week in training, I caught my training partner in a toehold. It came from a failed reverse triangle underneath. Which came from a failed arm bar from up top. Which came from a failed choke from sidemount.

For some reason this sequence made me think of organic chemistry exams.

In those tests, you were given a starting compound and a final compound. It was up to you to show the path of chemical reactions that would transform your starting compound into your final one.

And for some other reason this made me think about Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. This was a game that started in the early 90’s where the object was to connect any actor to Kevin Bacon in as few steps as possible.

And this leads back to jiu jitsu where each reaction can lead to the final goal if you just know how to order the subsequent steps. The defenses are predictable and lead to predictable offensive opportunities.

Kron Gracie said his father Rickson was the master at finding the easiest route to the submission.

In college, we got a better score for getting to the final compound in the fewest steps.

And in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the fewer films you needed to connect to Kevin Bacon, the higher score you got.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Revisting the basics part 6: Keeping it simple

Lately I’ve been working on the idea of making your life simple and your opponent’s life difficult.

What I mean by this is always having two attacks working together. He has two bad choices to make and you have one easy one: whichever one is given.

It reminds me of a quote I once heard, “A man can do anything he wants but he can’t do everything.”

An aspect of keeping things simple is to always give your opponent motivation to move.

My dad told me many years ago that in judo, the way to get someone to push you was to push him first. I think about this all the time in my attacks. I always want to get the other guy to want move rather than force him. Forcing involves energy and can allow tunnel vision to take over.

For instance, if someone postures up in my closed guard, rather than pull the opponent down, I prefer to hip bump them, which forces them to push me back.

All these concepts have been floating in my head as my instructor’s been telling me lately to simplify everything. Quite frankly, it’s been a relief.

For so long I’ve had so many techniques and options floating in my head that I often would freeze up with analysis paralysis. Now by just focusing on a few basic attacks I simply need to figure out what the two threats are in a situation, then take whatever one is given to me. It’s that simple.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Revisiting the basics part 5: getting your hips underneath their hips

I started working some of the deep half guard over the last week. Yesterday with JS I was messing around with some of the entries from far away. I could definitely feel that my arms and my neck were vulnerable. It felt like trying to sprint off the trail in the woods and had to dodge branches coming from all directions.

But I did notice if I was able to get there, some sweeps were possible. Afterward we were discussing this type of half guard vs the Bear half guard which is more shifting the hips, trapping a side, then bridging. I feel that both are good sweeping systems with quite a lot in common.

In my efforts to tie things together, I started thinking that these sweeps are not just unique to half guard, as X guard, scissor sweeps, ankle sweeps and really almost all sweeps involve getting your hips underneath your opponent.

I thought about this more as I started trying to work more of an open guard against JS. I was putting up some barriers to his pass, but since he tends to keep his hips low and back, my barriers are ultimately ineffective.

The smarter gameplan would be either to disengage completely or to use a strategy that would cause him to want to move his hips forward. A good example of that might be the rolling knee bar. My instructor often mentions how he started to use the rolling knee bar when people became wary of his armlock from the guard.

One of the best defenses for the arm lock is to keep the hips back. However, when the hips are back, the legs are exposed to a degree. And when one starts to counter the legs, usually this involves moving their hips forward and inevitably up. The next move is to attack their base while still looking for submissions. And furthermore, you can get underneath their hips now, in order to do this.

While this might be a little more complicated example, a simpler version is the scissor sweep. Regardless of the variation that is taught, there is always the idea of pulling the opponent on top of you, i.e. getting his hips over yours, in order to do the sweep.

And looking back at times when a sweep works verses when it doesn’t, I’m seeing this hip principle is present much of the time. There are other factors of course, but it’s hard to get any sweep without this floating hip idea.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Revisting the basics part 4: Bumping the butt with the knee

As a tall lanky fella, there are a lot of moments where I had a lot of difficulty using the hip escape, as I could never seem to get my knee in tight enough. I saw guys with shorter legs slide right in, but for me, my knee would always bump against the top player’s knee.

I noticed this initially from mount escapes, but soon saw it from side mount escapes or even guard pass defense when the opponent would, slice his knee through and baseball slide in. I saw shorter legged guys who could get their knees in to block the hips and I’d suffer from reverse Napoleon syndrome.

Well my instructor showed me something a few years ago that I didn’t really think much about at the time. The basic principal is when you bump the back of someone’s thigh or their butt with your it brings their hips forward and makes them base out with their hands. It also makes their legs light, which means it’s easier to push them back or lift them up.

My instructor later showed this same concept from the umpa escape from the mount, where he’d first bump the butt to get the hands to base. This makes it easier to grab the arm and start the move.
I’ve noticed this in some of the competition footage I’ve seen where Jeff Glover uses this a lot to get hooks in with his deep half guard game. And I’ve noticed this helps me in situations that previously felt impossible to get out of.

It’s a movement I’ve seen a lot of people do, but outside of my instructor and the Bear half guard dvd, I’ve never really seen anyone talk about it. Once I started thinking about it and putting it back in my consciousness, I see it everywhere.

Worked on it with JS early this week and while it’s not enough to stop the crushing freight train, it is enough to get some hooks and attempt some other attacks. With lighter guys it seems even more effective.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Revisting the basics part 3: The Bigger Picture

For a long time now I’ve gotten caught up in minutia. I’ve become so obsessed with jiu jitsu that I started to forget what the point was. Last week was a frustrating one of training for the most part. I was trying to find the exact answer to the exact moment of an isolated situation. And I was annoyed when I couldn’t reproduce the situation exactly so I could keep practicing this one scenario.

I think this is where the idea of being a scientist breaks down. Jiu jitsu is too much like life. No two scenarios are ever the same. I was searching for order when there is only a controlled form of chaos. I was trying to find details when I was missing the bigger picture. The reason I’m doing all of this is to get better at jiu jitsu. Knowing all the nuances and details in a frame by frame manner is all well and good, but if I don’t make a good movie out of it, then what’s the point?

I think what all this means is more sparring, less thinking. I remember Rickson talking about the true purpose of training is to reach a point of neutrality. This is what I need to work on now. I have so many techniques and questions in my mind, but it’s time to throw that all away and just see what happens.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Revisiting the basics part 2: The X Guard

I remember getting exposed to this guard 10 plus years ago by Ethan Milius. Back then it was a follow up to a failed butterfly sweep. I wasn’t ready for that technique and even though I could drill it, I rarely ever hit it.

I pretty much ignored it for the next few years but rediscovered it when I came out to Texas. My instructor here had a different version with one foot controlling the instep of the opponent instead of the upper thigh.

I started playing around with this new version and liked some of the dexterity it brought to the picture to set up leg locks and sweeps that were more balling up oriented rather than stretching out.

I used this game a lot as a purple belt against some of the bigger guys. It was especially effective against wrestlers, as I don’t think there are too many situations in a wrestling match where competitors would find themselves in this position.

Then for some reason I stopped playing this game completely. It might have been that I wanted to develop more submissions from the bottom and ventured into other things. I don’t remember it being any conscious decision, but I look back at the last few years of training and can only think of a handful of times that I’ve used x-guard to any degree.

All of this information has been flooding in my head over the last few hours as I think about my training session with JS yesterday. His game has gotten so good that I can’t decide if starting on the bottom of half guard is a brave gesture, an exercise in stupidity or some sadistic urge I have to make myself seem chumpy.

I wanted to focus on the omoplata battle but his head was in a different position. He was moving more to a reverse kesa type pass. I kept flailing trying to force the situation that we'd been working on the previous day rather than truly accepting the reality of what was happening. With a guy like him, this becomes a punishing and humbling experience as indecision makes surviving a freight train unlikely.

I had no real strategy because I had no real idea of attack. One of the main flaws in my thinking was not coordinating my upper body and lower body.

My instructor suggested I think about x guard from this position and at first I felt even more lost. It had been so long I didn’t even see how I could get there. He showed me some sweep variations that weren’t X in the strictest sense but had the same principles.

I was annoyed with myself after training. I felt like I’d just been a flailing spazz for an hour and that belt was just staring me in the face, disappointed. But I realized the lesson had been learned. I needed to delve back into the X guard.

After looking at my book and a ton of videos, I realized that the half guard position does have an x guard set up to it. I’d just never really drilled it. In fact, x guard has always worked well for me, once I got there. But I haven’t practiced getting there enough. This is why it came and went for me as without drilling sequences, I'll never go to them when the chips are down.

I'll need to work on the timing and sensitivity down the road, but for now I don’t even have enough reps in to warrant that. For now, I need simple repetition. After working on entries over and over, I'll start to recognize them in live training. In fact, I can already think of at least four times in yesterday's session where I could have transitioned to X guard.

As long as frustration ends in a lesson, I'll always take it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A revision of the revisiting

I think about new variations and applications of techniques all the time. I’m definitely not at the point where I can be sure if these things will work. Luckily for my JS was training today and he’s my best litmus test for almost everything.

I thought the idea of planting my foot in the omoplata battle and hipping away would be good. The problem is, it’s too easy for the top player to hold you down from there and keep your hip flat.

I also experimented with straightening my leg if my shin was across his belt. This actually made his pass even easier.

It was frustrating for a good half hour and I felt myself being tense and holding onto positions, trying to change angles and getting passed repeatedly. We started isolating the positions over and over and I still was not getting any better structure or attacks.

It really helped the drill that this is one of JS’s favorite passes as I want to learn how to deal with people’s best moves.

Finally after all this searching on how to change position to get the best leverage, I realized the simple truth: I needed to reexamine the advantages of the position I was in, rather than trying to change the situation to fit a predetermined outcome and series I had in my head.

I was on my right hip, not wanting to force the omoplata when I realized, simply bracing off him so that my arms were in line with my shoulders, hipping out and getting my shin in was the least path of resistance. Obviously it’s just a moment in the dance, but it felt like a big step to a situation I’ve encountered many times and seen my training partners in as well.

As always the answers are simple and right in front of me, but it took an hour of sweat, panic and looking bad in front of everyone to figure that out.

I’ll take that price every day.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rethinking the basics part 1:the omoplata battle

I’ve often found myself in the omoplata battle and I thought about something the other day that might be an alternative to it.

Let’s say the opponent is passing to your right. His right hand is on the mat and you’re trying to set up an omoplata by getting your left foot underneath his head. A lot of guys on top will step over the right leg, almost putting themselves in a butterfly hook and drive their head into you.

The battle becomes me pushing the top players head away or trying to yank my left leg under their chin or a combination of both. The top player pushes him hard to prevent this and for a long time I’ve either yanked extra hard on my leg or tried to push even harder on his head. Sometimes I’d get my foot in position and sometimes I’d get passed.
I’ve never liked this battle for a few reasons.

First, against big strong guys, I’ve always felt like my knee was in danger of getting hurt. Even times that I got the foot in successfully, it still felt like I was playing Russion roulette with my knee. It makes me squirm watching other people do this as well as I’m always terrified to hear that “POP!”

And the other thing is it never felt like jiu jitsu to be pushing directly against someone pushing against me. It seemed like the finesse had been taking away and now it was a battle of wills and strength.

So I was watching Rener show a basic side mount escape and realized that he would end up in the same position, but with a different goal: to get back to full guard.
Once he ended up in this position, he was basing off his butterfly foot (right), scooting his hips out to the right, then getting back into full guard.

So I’m wondering if, rather than meeting the top players head with direct force, maybe the goal could be to redirect that force and concentrate on keep weight on the butterfly foot. If I push the head away enough to get him to really push in hard, then if I take away my pressure and shift my hips so I’m slightly on my left side, his passing will be somewhat nullified.

From here, I’m thinking right forearm under the chin, grabbing the right shoulder and looking at my watch to prevent a follow up pass.

It also seems to me that once I get this space, my left foot could get on his right hip and my right foot would be free. I almost think that I could attack his left arm now with an omoplata, and be able to use my feet on the hips, so I could move my body away and into position while destroying his base and structure.

In my mind this might be a better way of getting this attack and more in line with my current training philosophy. I just had never put together the idea of using the basic hip escape in that position before until now.

Monday, September 28, 2009

dealing with the 10%

Had a good training session today with TO. His defense and calmness is at such a level, that it shuts down submissions. I wrote about the 10% concept a while back and he definitely personifies that. It takes a lot of discipline to not reach out and try to grab what seems right in front of you. Many times I’ve thought I had a triangle or some other submission and burned myself out trying to finish it.

Today I found myself working on two ideas that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. The first idea is the tug of war. It’s basically where you pull the rope just enough to get the other guy to give a mighty tug then you let go just as he’s pulling his hardest and he falls on his butt.

I’ve found this idea works well with bigger and stronger guys. I am not going to be able to stop their movement, but with barriers that are solid enough, I can usually tell where they are going to go. I give enough resistance to make them really push, then suddenly no resistance. The important thing here is to have a follow up in mind that you can start working on right as they’re moving into the position they were just fighting for. The cool thing is it can make you seem much faster than you actually are because you’re timing their movement.

The second idea has a subtler element to it. Let’s say I get a triangle on someone that appears to be on pretty well. The legs are figure foured but maybe their elbow is glued to my hip and I can’t spin to a more perpendicular angle for whatever reason. The temptation has always been to power through this and just crunch down, pull the head and squeeze. Sometimes this works and other times it doesn’t. Many times I can’t really tell why it does and why it doesn’t.

What I’m realizing though is that submission attempt is leaving other submissions open. The arm with the elbow planted on the hip is strong in preventing itself from being pushed across his body. Even if you bridge up and push, a good player is expecting and waiting for this. But it you bridge and scoop under the wrist instead, he now has a new problem. That firmly planted elbow is now an anchor for me to move his wrist towards that direction and start working a kimura type lock. Now if he releases his pin on the hips I now have a much easier time pushing it across the body.

I like the idea of steadily making my opponent’s options worse and their life more complicated. Good defense can shut down one attack, but it almost invariably opens up another one. My goal is to start seeing what those other attacks are and start working them. It may leave the original attack open or it may make yet another attack option appear. This may only be something I can do against people closer to my own size but it’s like a smaller chain of subission attempts.

Setting up the foot on hip guard

We’ve been working on the foot on hip to elbow lock and omoplata combos. This is something I’ve been thinking about lately and a part of my game that needs a lot of work. I feel like I’ve set the stage a little by working on getting an angle on my side as well as constantly looking to base out on my elbow and slide back.

The biggest hurdle I’m finding right now is how to actually get the overhook. Once I get that position, my training partners are wary of the overhook. But after watching some video footage today, I think I need to tie in the butterfly guard and sword guard to lead into this position. In those two positions, I find it much easier to get the over hook so I think it makes sense to start trying to feel those transitions.

The cool thing about this sit out guard is it’s constantly messing with my opponent’s posture. And every time you’re messing with the posture, you’re also threatening submissions. And furthermore, I think every time they become wary of a submission, there is a sweep right there. For whatever reason, this guard has never been something I’ve exploited very much, but right now it seems to fit in perfectly with everything else I’m doing.

Got to work on some wrestling drills on Friday with MB. By the end, he had the timing down perfectly and I realized how limited my knowledge of wrestling really is. I’m going to keep at working on timing and set ups as I think it’s the best formula for me.

His guard pass defense has gotten really good as well. I still have the conflict within myself as far as how much do I force the pass through verses learning to flow from pass to pass. I think I need to set up the next pass better if I’m going to move from side to side. I get myself stuck in one pass that I may be able to force through but I may not and either way I really have no choice from there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some mount escape ideas and other things

Have had some good training sessions with JS, MB and TO over the last few days. Really working on my conditioning hard in the gym, then making my jiu jitsu more of a calm flow.

Have mainly been working mount and mount escapes. Trying to look at this as just another area where it is a combination of techniques and reactions to reactions. One thing that is coming to mind is the idea of taking things step by step.

One issue I’ve noticed with JS that certainly applies to me as well is that of the Mickey Mantle idea. That ball's going out of the park, or he’s striking out. At times, my mount escapes have been like this. For a long time it was only elbow escaping to my left side. At other times, I had a decent bridge, but if that didn’t work, I was right back where I started.

With my mount escapes (and side mount for that matter) I want to make sure that every move is making progress and chaining with the last one. I think this is a little different concept that trying a lot of moves.

Before I would try one move after another, but I would be coming back to a neutral point of being on my back in between efforts. What I’m attempting to do now is have each move be a natural continuation of the move before it.

So if the opponent has a tight mount with good head control, I could control the arm holding the head or just press down with my head to trap their arm and trap their foot. I’d bridge up and over at a 45 degree angle over the shoulder.

But this usually won’t be enough to get them over, but it should be enough to get to my side. I’d look to continue with the framing, maybe moving to an elbow escape, or maybe moving onto my elbow and pulling my hips back from here with my legs straight. There are a lot of options, but the main thing I’m thinking about is to not bridge, then just end up right back on my back.

I'm really liking the concept of getting up on my elbow, not only for mount escapes, but also side mount escapes and open guard. I feel like there’s suddenly another dimension of movement, which gives me better offensive angles.

I need to start working the full game again soon. I like many of the side control aspects, along with some really cool collar chokes my instructor showed me today. Again the concept of circular motion and moving out of the tidal wave’s way is something I keep considering.

Tomorrow is my rest day but I look forward to continuing these ideas and also to start working on my wrestling but with the same sense of flow and sensitivity.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No gi back control, passing and guard work

Had a great time training today.

The flow on guard passing is not there yet, but I am stopping short of forcing what is not there. There where a few chances, looking back, where I could have switched sides but the sensitivity isn’t there yet.

Did see some good possibilities on getting the back. Ended up in an interesting situation from the back where my right lower leg was on the crook of both his arms towards his hips. I found that rotating my hips to my left made it easier to get that leg straight. From there could get the left hook in as well.

Also from the back, when the opponent want to shuck you off and you have your right hook in I found that my hooking the inside of his left leg with my left hand while basing out with my right and pulling to rotate my hips clockwise, I had some pretty decent hip control.

Additionally when opponent rolls, I’m working on rolling with him while keeping my hips underneath his on the bottom. With each roll there is a moment in time that you can get the forearm under the chin.

For open guard seeing how getting up on my forearm, after getting on my side is a great offensive weapon as it inherently make it harder for him to control my hips. Really noticed it opening up a lot of possibilities.

Little details but felt like some big changes.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Getting back to it

I haven’t trained at all since the seminar, so it was almost two weeks before I finally got to take the new belt out for a spin. I was a little self-conscious for a moment but soon it was back to work as usual.

Working on guard passing. I realize how stale this part of my game has gotten. And also how much it’s become a power game. Now there are times when a good crush is probably necessary, but I think it has some downsides as well. Most notably, I tend to get tired when I’m driving my weight into someone.

So working with JS today, I wanted to have a more flowing pace. I tried to make a conscious effort to feel where I could mix up some passes and most importantly switch up from side to side.

I also am trying to work on rotating all the way around the head after passing. One key thing I was shown is when the opponent is on his side, to put your weight on his shoulder. You’re not trying to drive into him and flatten him out, you’re just inhibiting his movement.

I really want to get more precise with this aspect of control. I’m not looking to switch into a looser style of playing, I merely want my control to be on the essentials of what stops someone from moving where they want to go, rather than just crushing them completely.

Another aspect of passing that I’m going to really work on is going to my right. Sometimes I feel like the reverse of Zoolander as I can only go left. Going to my right confuses people as most don’t pass that way. And I find that doing things on the opposite side often make you aware of opportunities you just don’t see when you’re on autopilot doing things on your strong side.

Case in point today was there were some moments when I was standing and getting ready to try a slice through Judo Marc style pass. I realized I could just lift and kick my foot out instead as JS was anticipating my foot coming up since my knee would go down so he wasn’t clasping my foot tightly with his legs.

I think slowing the pass, but not going at a slow pace, but more a true flow, will help me see these opportunities. My guard passing has had a lot of tunnel vision to it over the last year or so. I need to look at it, like I try to with open guard, where different attacks appear and work well in combination. With passing a lot of times, I force the issue. I really want to work on doing what they give me rather than forcing something.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Journey to the Black Belt

My attitude and reasons for training have changed quite a bit over the years. Each belt level was a very distinct phase for me in terms of attitude and training habits.

White Belt

I was actually a white belt longer than any other belt. It was the most frustrating and depressing belt for me as well.

At first, my reasons for training were I wanted to “learn how to fight”. This wasn’t particularly motivating, as I really didn’t want to fight anyone. I just didn’t want them to want to fight me.

I’d start training then stop over and over again. I went just enough to get frustrated. I’d see maybe a little skill start to develop, but with the first mishap, injury or frustration, I’d quit for months then have to start the process over again.

My thoughts about my skill went up and down depending on my tapping verses getting tapped ratio. Since I wasn’t showing up consistently, I had to relearn things and was frustrated to watch people pass me by.

And since I got depressed about always being tapped out, once I missed class and knew coming back would be even harder, I’d show up even less.

This happened for years at two different schools.

But I started to make some good friends at my second school, which motivated me to want to show up more.

Although it’s debatable whether I was there more to hang out than to actually train, I started getting reasonably proficient at a few techniques.

I was embarrassed to be a white belt for as long as I was, mainly because telling people I was a white belt felt chumpy. Again, I was still trying to impress on people that I was well on my way to becoming a fighting machine, so “white belt” made them reply, “Oh, you’re just a beginner”.

So for me, getting the blue belt was a huge deal.

Blue Belt

I felt the most competitive with my classmates at this belt . There are white belts that have a lot of skill coming in and can quickly challenge you. At the same time you have purple belts in your sights as well.

The focus continued to be “winning and losing” rather than working towards getting better. I frankly didn’t know the difference between the two.

At this point, I liked talking about jiu jitsu much more than actually training it. I had friends that were really good, which made it tough for my ego to take. It was easier for me to just hang out with them socially than to train with them.

As a result, I really lost focus on jiu jitsu. I just trained in various garages with my friends. Without real guidance, I was just always looking for new techniques and secrets rather than being honest about the cause of why I wasn’t any good.

This lack of responsibility led to me quitting altogether for well over a year. I still had a competitive mindset but wasn’t willing to do the work necessary to progress.

Purple Belt

But in the back of my mind, jiu jitsu continued to irritate me. Part of me wanted to believe that the problem was what I’d been taught. Secretly I thought maybe my former instructors’ style of jiu jitsu just didn’t work anymore.

I found a new teacher who espoused this idea that traditional jiu jitsu was outdated . He had all these techniques that people were calling “cutting edge”. Because of this, I decided to give jiu jitsu another shot. I figured with my newfound knowledge, I’d finally be able to hang with my old friends as a jiu jitsu equal.

Of course, I was repeating another variation of the same mistake, and my old friends would crush me every time. I was trying to get better by using tricks and things they hadn’t seen rather than really dealing with problems.

Strangely enough I really couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t very good. I really blamed things like not being athletic or “natural” rather than really asking myself if I had ever really worked on jiu jitsu.

Sure I had trained with some good people and watched videos and learned the motions of some techniques. But I had never worked on patterns, thought about principals or worked on developing combinations of attacks. In short, I had never studied the game.

It was at this point that I was lucky enough to move to Austin, Texas where two important things happened in my training: I met William Vandry and I hurt my knee.

Meeting William was important as I finally had a teacher in the true sense of the word. It’s not to say I hadn’t learned a lot from other people, but William was the first person to be able to analyze my game better than anyone ever will and tell me step by step what to work on.

Hurting my knee was important as it forced me to spend three months watching every class. I quickly realized how little jiu jitsu I knew. I could roll with people and pull some moves off, but when I sat back and watched people train, I couldn’t tell what they should do half the time, or what their options were or what I would do.

So I started to mentally spar. It was almost like a video game where I would choose one person and try to figure out what they should be doing at every moment. Then I’d switch to the other person. Sometimes I’d just take what was happening as a whole and predict what I thought was going to happen. And other times, I’d mentally put myself in there and see what I’d do.

I did this day after day. I still do this now and I still don’t think I’m good at it, but it’s a little better than it was.

So the purple belt started off thinking I’d found the secrets and ended up truly admitting how little I knew but finally being okay with that.

I was also able to stop worrying about looking good. The danger of being a purple belt is worrying about people’s opinions of your skills. In my mind, if your instructor knows what you’re doing, that’s all that matters.

Brown Belt

I was really happy to get this belt. It was the first one I really felt like I had earned and more importantly, I felt like I was beginning to learn how to learn.

Two new training partners came into the fold who were and are vital to my progress. I think it’s always important to have people that serve as litmus tests. In order to develop new angles and variations of techniques, I’d first try to get them on beginning students. After meddling around with that for a while, I’d start working up the ranks. If I could start pulling the technique off consistently, I knew there was something there.

But they were never officially part of my arsenal until I could work them on the two litmus tests. They helped me really deal with problems in my game, rather than just scrambling through them. I was able to hit the rewind button over and over until I was satisfied that we’d come up with some answers.

I had taken notes sporadically through the years but starting this year (2009) I did them consistently. Doing this really helped me keep my head in the game regardless of whether I was out of town or injured. In fact, I knew as long as I stayed in decent shape and kept reviewing my notes, I could make progress even with breaks in my training.

I also started blogging, which kept me accountable to other people to continue with my thought processes. Plus when people had questions I couldn’t answer, it made me reevaluate my conclusions.

There was definitely a bullseye on my back with this belt. But this was also the first belt that I felt responsibility. I could see people listening in when I’d explain a technique to someone. And having someone really listen to your advice and then take it is a great motivation for making sure you know what you’re talking about!

Black Belt

September 5, 2009 is a day I will never forget. While I cringe at much of the time wasted, I am confident that I can teach someone to learn much faster and better than I did. And in many ways I think that is the point of life: to make your mistakes and pass on what you’ve learned to the next generation.

I’ve said before, that feeling like I understand jiu jitsu is like seeing a mirage in the desert. At some point I had to learn to enjoy the walk fully knowing that the mirage will always be in the far off distance.

I have so much more of my game to work on. There are many principals of structure and movement that I want to explore. I have toyed with the idea of one day opening up my own school but for now my energies are on making myself a better martial artist and doing everything I can to make the people around me better.

I never want to protect this belt, but I will always honor it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Some Saulo thoughts and other things...

Had an exhaustive training session with TO on Monday and needed a few days off to deal with some injuries and just general overtraining.

Still thinking about the concepts of staying off my back. I’ve been watching some Saulo footage and thinking about the concepts of his running escape. It seems like many of those moves are predicated by a bridge then whipping the far leg over in the direction you want to go. There’s a lot of power in that structure and it makes it hard to pin someone.

It’s interesting as a few months ago I was working on a lot of offense from being flat on my back. I still like those half guard sweeps and the finesse involved. But it’s still ultimately a passive game. And while it’s good to be calm when crushed and flat on your back, it’s probably a better idea to develop systems for rarely getting to that point to begin with.

I like the structured use of the shin and knee from the shin guard. From the sword guard it’s my forehead underneath the guy’s chin along with my arm pushing his collar bone. From the transition from almost getting past, it’s elbow to knee, looking at my watch and extending up. More and more I’m seeing how the far arm when the opponent is passing is the one to focus on. If I can get a shin or even a hand on that I can start to get space.

If I’m head and arm side controlled, I’m going to start exploring the running pass. I feel confident in my back control defense and think it’s a better option than being pinned.

This style is a little more tiring than some of the other methods I’ve been using but it also tires out my opponent much more. I’m using more methods to make the other person uncomfortable and motivated to move. It’s then a matter of figuring out where he will move and what I will do when he gets there. If I time this right I’ll be reacting to his reaction which should always give me the jump.

All of this advice was given to me many times by my instructor and as always it takes time to really listen.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Knee on stomach from the bottom?

Worked with TO and MB today and continued to explore this idea of structure. My real mentality right now is preventing the pass while putting up uncomfortable barriers that cause my opponent to have to adjust with a limited number of options. I’m going to start flow charting out what I think these options would be and how I could beat them to the punch on this.

Also thinking about how I can integrate the “93” guard (shin on bicep half guard) and how I could get to it from half guard. One thing I’m taking from Friday’s session with JS is not “getting passed” is not enough. Being crushed in half guard for 10 minutes at a time is not an acceptable solution. Will work on ways of getting the far half guard with knee controlling hip then transitioning to foot on hip/shin on bicep.

In a way this makes me think of the knee on stomach work I’ve been doing lately. Except now I want to have the same control, attacks and discomfort coming from the bottom rather than the top.

It seems to have the same effect as it makes my opponent move and as long as I can figure out what I’ll do when they move, it may have the same positive results.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Combining structure and attacks from the open guard

I’ve been thinking a lot about the open guard lately. My instructor has always emphasized the need for structure from the open guard. In his sword guard, his main point has always been get structure first, so your opponent can’t put his weight on you and has few options to move safetly. Once the structure is intact, then you can initiate your sweep and submission combos. If you don't have structure to slow your opponent down and limit his attacks, you have to rely on attributes.

For a long time, I’ve experimented with different types of guards, which have used speed, flexibility and strength. I never realized that I was doing that until I ran into someone who either had more of those attributes or was able to shut one of them down.

So I started to divide things up and worked on guards that had good structure. What I mean by that is I had my control of their head and arms and my knees were in positions so that I couldn’t be crushed down. Often times it would be hard for my opponent to put weight on me or to move from that position. But the problem was, there was no threat. Once they were able to move, then I was behind the game again. Usually they could pass, as I didn’t have structural answers to the next step they placed and there was no submission threat either.

I’d then go back to more of an attacking guard where I’d be working for sweeps and submissions. With this I’d either get the sweep or the submission or I’d get passed. It always felt like a tradeoff and depending on the level of my opponent, the ratios would change. If they could get passed the submissions, there was no structure to prevent them from crushing and passing or pinning and passing.

So yesterday I started experimenting with the spider guard and the shin guard. The object was to see how to set them both up at first. I was working with JS so it was going to be quick feedback if the position wasn’t working. After about 30 minutes, the structure started to seem to work. That was the first step.

The shin guard seemed more versatile to me, and I noticed that the shin across the middle line made it very difficult for him to put his weight on me.

But again, only having the structure made it simply a matter of him adjusting, moving and restarting his pass.

So the next step would be to use what the structure gives you. And that means sweeps and submissions.

The shin guard has a fairly basic sweep in the direction that you have your shin on their bicep. For some reason this was all I tried at first, before realizing I needed to try to sweep the other direction as well. Once I started combing those it opened things up. I could try rock from side to side and if that didn't work, pull into closed guard and go for a pendulum sweep from there.

The combinations seemed more effective since I felt I wasn't exhausting myself to unbalance him or initiate attacks. The structure of the guard makes him move and then it's a matter of figuring out where he'll move and reacting as he does that.

I need more practice with this as I don't have the mental Rolodex yet to know what reactions people will do so that's just a matter of mat time.

Also worked with MB and he worked on popping his hips forward and having his head straight up. It took me a while to realize that maybe holding on to a wrist or a sleeve and moving backwards would have an "ab wheel" type of effect. Still need more work on that though as I'm not happy with the options I was coming up with.

But I think this idea of structure and getting handles on the person is a good concept.

I look at it this way: proper structure protects you and slows your opponent down. If they’re slowed down, it makes it much easier to catch them with submissions and sweeps. If there’s only structure with no follow through or just submissions and sweeps being thrown at them, they just have to avoid them and they’ve passed. But if the two concepts are combined, it becomes much more difficult for the opponent to survive as they can’t start an attack and are always being attacked.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Side mount work

Worked with JS and CW today. With JS it was first side mount escapes and secondly side mount control and attack. With the escapes, I’m just reminding myself constantly of rule #1 Stay Safe. I’m trying to anticipate his attacks so I can move in that direction right when he moves. It is difficult to even try standard reversals as his hips are so low and his base so good, that it feels like it’s a waste of energy.
Felt this with CW as well. He has a more patient and methodical game, but starting with his sidemount sunk in, it felt damn near impossible to get out. Again, I stuck with rule #1 and kept trying to predict his next move.

Now part of me is not a big fan of this approach. It feels very passive and is dependent upon the other guy moving. But on the otherhand, I want to conserve energy to a degree in a position like this. I definitely felt calm, lucid and safe. But I guess I’m wondering is this enough or is this at least the step for now?
I know this wouldn’t be a good tournament mentality, but that’s not really what I’m doing this for in the first place.

I guess another mentality is that getting stuck in those positions is a worst-case scenario. But it happens and I want to keep making sure I strike a balance of safety while still making things happen or at least acknowledging the reality of the situation.

JS and I also worked on my top game side control. This is still not a strong point and he is an extremely difficult person to keep pinned down. Need to write out a flow chart or the story of side mount as I see it right now. Still finding the times to pin verses the times for attacks.
See some interesting possibilities of combing the Rigan twister with the arm in guillotine, the anaconda and the D’arce. Need to really focus on far hip control with all of these.

He was excellent at getting to his side and facing me. Felt that both reverse kesa and kazuri leave me vulnerable to getting swept. Also wondering whether the idea is to prevent someone like that from getting to their side or just attack the position they’re in.

Again it comes down to efficiency and taking the situation right where it is, rather than deciding it “needs” to be a certain way. Really like the triple attack and setting up from knee on stomach. Makes me realize I need to map out this position even more as I don’t have nearly enough chains.

I'm going to keep picking the guys who I think are best at this and work my escapes while at the same time continuing to practice my top attacks. This is still my weakest top position and it's time to change that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Training notes 8/11/09

Had some good training yesterday with TO. Felt like I was using way too much strength and that my flow was not where it should be. Probably over training a little and am probably taking today off fully. Always feel the need to push at times like this, but maybe pulling back is the smarter move.

Seeing the grapevine grip in closed guard situations. I still like the clamp when I get the hand to the mat, but thinking that if I can keep the same principals from the overhook halfguard triangle and sweep setups,

Felt like the clamp and pulling the foot over to omoplata is still a dangerous position to put my knee in. May try to work the overhook, get on my side and maybe even bait them to push my leg down to get the grip.
From half guard could put other foot on hip to work triangle. Or put hook in to work butterfly sweep.

I need to experiment with this more but again feels more and more like each position is an extension of another and they are all just transitions. I still find myself getting into trouble when I look at something as “half guard” or “full guard” etc. rather than just seeing the principals and just letting the flow take it where it should.

From top position, still working knee on stomach, elbow and wrong knee. Want to start working in some toe holds and bat chokes to help set up arm locks and triple attacks.
For open guard, trying to make sure that all my appendages are accounted for. Want everything to be a handle or controlling point. Using my head, hands, knees, elbows, shoulders, hips and feet. Notice that at times when I’m going for omoplatas, triangles etc. that one leg is simply there to go over the shoulder rather than messing with the base etc. When there is separation, I’m in trouble, especially with someone fast, strong or explosive.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Controling to motivate mistakes

Worked with the Mighty JH last night and MB this afternoon. Again doing the knee on stomach, wrong knee, elbow combo. With JH was definitely forcing the pin and see how exhausting that can be.

Felt better this afternoon with MB seeing how things can transition to the triple attack, to back control, one cheek sneak armlock, bat chokes etc. The pin is merely a motivating factor. I’m working on the balance for that.

One the bottom game, I’m mainly working on making sure everything is occupied with doing something productive. If the upper body is working a submission, the lower body is pushing out his base. If my legs are tying his legs up, I want to make sure my arms are pulling him off balance. And if my legs are working on his upper body, I want to make sure my arms are checking his base, moving my body etc.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Knee on stomach and invisible knee.

Got some good training with the ever Zen TO today. Again the concepts of needing to coordinate my upper and lower half came into play when I felt the blinders go on as I went for a guillotine from butterfly guard. I forgot about my feet for just a second and he immediately passed.

In that particular situation, I think using the guillotine to hook sweep, or maybe pushing his knees out or even just keeping my feet at his hips would be some effective options. This is going to take some time to drill into my head as I am definitely consistently making this mistake in many areas.

Worked on knee on stomach and invisible knee for a little bit as well. I still really like this technique but need to get more precise on my knee and elbow placement.

He used the defense of turning away and bringing knee to elbow. Normally I use this as a chance to take the back, but realized I could and probably should jump to the other side and do knee on stomach on that side.

Felt a little more tired than I wanted to be after the roll. Conditioning is still coming back but for some reason the knee on stomach seems to tire me out as much as my opponent and I’m not quite sure why that is.

Definitely see how that position can lead to the Rigan twister as well as people want to turn in, especially once the knee is on the ground. I’m liking this better than the D’arce right now as I feel like I have better control and a submission, while the D’arce can be hit or miss.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Half guard angles and more 10%

Been working on the next phase of half guard, which involves overhooking attacks. Worked with TG yesterday and the mighty JH today. Both presented some interesting problems and were good at nullifying my lazy, get pinned and bridge half guard. While I still think the techniques on that one are effective, they are not the first line of attack so it’s time to put them in the proper order.

I really enjoy playing the triangle/omoplata game from the half guard overhook but one thing I am not doing well is getting the proper angle. I’m getting better at getting on my side, but I’m still too close which lets the person on top posture up too easily at they have a perpendicular angle to push again.

What I need to work on is that extra hip out motion which will flatten the opponent out more. I should also get my outside hook in from here to prevent the slice through pass and to also give me the option of the hook sweep.

In a way, it’s similar to using 45-degree angles in other positions. It seems like it’s always better to have this angle because then the guy on first needs to get back to his centerline first before he can posture up.

Felt that the knee across the hip guard is a little limiting in certain positions. The Roger sweep seems to work sometimes and not at all at others. I haven’t developed the sensitivity yet to figure out when that is and when it’s not.

Also still trying to figure out when to get underneath for that type of half guard. I’m not sold on it yet as the Mighty JH was cradling me when I tried that and I had to get wrist control and pry him away. There was no moving and I’m just not sure if that’s a great guard for someone my height to be using. The jury’s still out on that one.

I also need to work on framing off the bicep or the far hip to get on my side and also to have pressure on their shoulder to keep their head down. If they start to get their arm out of the overhook I should then swim in for the underhook and get ready to clamp down and shotput sweep towards that arm.
Also had plenty of practice working on the vital 10% again. It’s still scary to get that close to the flame but I need to keep doing it. I feel very calm but not taking a moment for granted either. It’s necessary and I’m enjoying it even though it scares me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The upper/lower connection and the 10%.

Rolling with GC last night made me realize that my upper and lower body are not moving together the way they should be. My instructor had told me this last week in regards to my half guard, but I realized last night, this is an overall problem for me.

I kept looking for half guard when it wasn’t there as GC tends to pass standing and that makes it tough to get a half guard. The De La Riva was there but I’m normally not a big fan of it.

After sparring, he and I were drilling De La Riva and coming up with some interesting variations. One of which, I think I’ll call the De La Vandry as it uses Will’s X-guard technique of instep to instep control but from a de la Riva rather than x-guard. It seems to eliminate the knee bar threat but still keeps the opponent tripped up and stretched out.

But while we were drilling GC kept emphasizing for me to grab the collar or the sleeve and I realized I never do that properly. My legs are in decent position but I’m not pulling the opponent down.

And I started to think about my half guard and realized while I’m emphasizing leg and hip movement, I’m not controlling, attacking and defending properly with my upper body. I’m actually giving up those elements and relying on my legs to save me.

GC made me quickly aware of the danger of that by never letting me comfortably set up half guard in the first place. I relied on people “accepting” half guard and a skilled player won’t do that. Again it’s coordinating the upper and the lower together.

Thinking about it a little more I realize the opposite is also true. When my upper body movement is decent my lower body is off. This is especially true with arm drags where my timing is decent but my lower body control is not there. If someone has a feel for my timing, the can just go with the momentum of the drag into an easy pass.

The solution for all this is probably straight up drilling, positional drilling and more than anything being aware of this problem. I had never really thought about it before last week.

The 10%

Another thing that came up in training was the concept of 10%

One of my good training partners, MB, is really good at shutting down the last 10% of someone’s submission. Against someone who’s inexperienced or panics, 90% is usually all you need to get the tap. But when someone knows how to shut down the vital 10%, the attacker, even with 90%, will not be able to get the tap.

What’s most important about that 10% is that most attackers will think they have the tap if they only push a little more or squeeze a little harder. If you can continue to shut down the 10%, control your breathing and your mindset, you should be able to wait out the fire. Meanwhile the 90 percenter will most likely burn himself out.

I’ve been on the 90% side of things many times. I’ve felt myself squeeze the hell out of a triangle or strain for that armlock and have someone just…barely….get out. It’s extremely frustrating and tiring to be on that end of things. You just gave them your best shot and they’re still standing. Often times I couldn’t even tell what I was doing wrong.

So now I’m starting to focus on figuring out the 10%. My instinct is to scramble in these situations rather than really assess what needs to be done for the lock or choke to work. Often times it becomes a game of inches. If you can figure out tiny roadblocks to put up, most people won’t be able to feel them. If you can give someone false confidence that they’re almost there, that if they push just a little bit harder, I think that’s entering the realm of the 10%.

Now I expect this will lead to me getting tapped a lot and having to deal with a certain amount of fear. These are positions that have always made me panic. But if I learn where those roadblocks are, I force the opponent to make an adjustment. And adjustments almost always mean making space for a moment to move. And if I can furthermore start to anticipate what direction they’ll need to move and can work on the timing, I can start turning the 10% into 15% and so on.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stay safe first, get out second

My instructor has said to me for a long time that the first key to defense when you’re caught in a hold is not getting out, but rather staying safe. Just because someone has you in a hold, doesn’t mean they can finish the hold.

While many people panic when they’re caught, which usually can make it easier to get the submission, in ways the opposite is true as well. If a person gets you in a hold and can’t finish it, then you may have won the mental battle right then and there.

Rolled with T today and thought of this as I was caught in his triangle. I worked the thigh squeeze counter to which he swept me over. I hug his thigh omo plata style with my trapped arm and got back on top. I tried the thigh squeeze again, but have not practiced this enough to know the intricacies and had to tap.

I realize this is the next step in my game. I need to learn calmness in positions like this, then slowly work my way out of danger. The recent half guard work and building a game plan/ flow chart with this has made me more aware of what’s most effective for my mind to work under a pressure situation.

I can already feel a difference in certain positions of half guard, especially underneath a twister pass attempt where I am now setting up sweeps rather than power bridging and mentally accepting that I’m going to be in twister side mount in a moment. The idea of also seeing that as one half guard door closes, the other side usually opens has also been very apparent and I’ve been taking advantage of that as well

So I need to also explore this area when I get caught in things, especially triangle chokes. I’m starting to get a system for ankle and armlock defenses and feel confident in my knee bar defense as well, but getting caught in triangles makes me panic at times. I need to drill this position and learn some real calmness here. The irony is that triangles have probably always been my best attack and I know that it’s tough to deal with someone who’s not phased by my triangle.

I felt good today though. It’s time to continually challenge myself to be calm and effective. I will still get caught, but as long as I’m calm and working out deliberately, it is a step in the right direction. It seems to be working in the offense already and I’m looking forward to drilling the defense as well.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Half Guard Outline

The idea behind this is to come up with a flow chart. I know Eddie Bravo has done this already, but I wanted to do something that fits my particular style a little bit more inclusively. This is a long mess of a read at the moment, but it's a fun activity to work on in the middle of a thunderstorm ;)

Possible solutions (assuming his right leg is trapped)
We'll start with the "scissor half guard" where the guy has his head down and his weight is neutral.

1) Get his head up
a. If head is to left of my center, can bridge and salute slightly to get it into position.
b. Kung fu move to get forearm under neck or to push his chin up and back
c. Push on shoulder with other arm, hip out and get knee onto his hip.

2) If he pushes in slightly, rotate on elbow to get underhook and dive in.
a. Keep looking at watch to prevent an effective whizzer or D’arce.
b. Can v-check other bicep to prevent this also.
c. First work to take the back by ratcheting and keeping head down to prevent cross face. Taking back is the best option!!!

3) If he starts to whizzer effectively from here:
a. Clamp your elbow.
b. Roll to that side over that shoulder while grabbing the opposite side leg for a sweep.
c. If he lets go of the whizzer and bases….
d. Take his back again!

4) Now if he doesn’t lean in and stays neutral when you have your forearm under his neck…
a. Go for the ezekial or cross choke if you have a gi on.
b. He’ll need to defend with his arms and drive in
c. From here you can either… GO TO 2C or…
d. Secure an overhook and or…
e. Get wrist control

5) If you just get an overhook…
a. Try to keep knuckle side up
b. Keep on your side.
c. You can grab far lapel is there’s a gi.
d. Start checking his base to side you have overhook on.
i. If he’s leaning in slightly, a sweep to the back 45 is possible by moving whole body flat.
e. If he’s not pushing in, you should be able to get your bottom leg out or at least threaten it.
f. Most people will take the bait and try to push the leg.
g. You should be able to get wrist control from there.
h. If you get wrist control, you should be able to also get the master blaster grip.
i. If he tries to back away, the triangle should be there.
j. If he drives in, your knee should be able to block him.
k. If he hangs tight, you can hip out and get your hook in and start working for the hook sweep.
i. But if he starts to back up, try to get the hook out and have the foot on the hip.
l. If he bases up on the whizzer side arm and whips it out, you can attempt to sweep back to that hip 45
i. Also it seems like he’d be in a position where you could get the underhook and pull him down.
ii. Might also be a time to work on the far side knee bar.

6) if he slumps over into a twister type pass, you can cross your feet to prevent him from hooking instep with crook of arm.
a. Also look into bridging to teeter totter his weight. If his head’s down, his legs are light.
b. Another option is to look for the lockdown here, although it may not be there.
c. The twister position seems to lead to more leg lacing and bridging type of sweeps.
d. The Roger roll back sweep is there as well if I can change the angle to form a “T” between us.

7) But what if he goes back to head and arm and drives forward?
a. First off, this is probably the best time to do the lockdown.
i. This can create some space to work the forearm under the throat/ jaws of life.
ii. From here whip up, get on side, start to work dog fight etc.
iii. Can also lead to electric chair.
b. Can also work over hook to triangle Jeremy Williams style.
i. If this is the case, remember to hip out and create space to get hook
ii. Once you get the hook, press in or bait with knee to get wrist control then get master blaster control
c. Also seems like a simple trap, bridge and roll can be a good way of getting movement for this as well.

8) Or what if he has head and arm control with his head across my body and has good shoulder pressure making me look to my left?
a. Get the lockdown
b. Pendulum legs out to your left, in direction he’s forcing your chin anyway.
c. You should be able to transition into an electric chair type scenario from here.

9) But what if he isolates your arm like the seminar technique?
a. Seems like you’d want to switch half guards to the other side leg and try to push his elbow out.
b. Wondering if bridging into the direction he’s leaning could start the off balance chain as well.

10) Hanging back, slumping and pinning the legs.
a. Look to sit up and attack the neck
b. He needs to control my hips, so constantly shifting from one side up, to flat to the other side up is important.
c. But ultimately, what do I need to do to pass from there?
i. Keep his far hip pinned to the ground through hugging or belt control.
d. So maybe doing the Jen hip turn to shoulder push technique is a good start.
e. Not letting their head put weight on the far hip by bridging and pushing it down and to the ground.
f. Look at v-checking and kimura sweeping with the far arm.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

more half guard work

Worked with CW and MB on half guard again. CW kept working for more of a twister pass, which was interesting, as most people would try to stack and drive in while he would twist away. Feeling some interesting sweeps although I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing. A lot of it just seems to involve basic principals of trapping one side and bridging or using a leg as a pendulum.

Worked more on the triangle concept that RR and I have been studying from a Jeremy Williams video. Seems like the key it to really work on whizzer control from the bottom. Actually the more your opponent is trying to stack and pass, the better, as his posture is already broken down for a triangle.

Once the whizzer is established, then it’s a matter of hipping out onto my side and getting the hook with the foot on the whizzer side. This prevents them from being able to pass and also gives the option of butterfly sweeping or even popping out all the way onto your knees.

The next step is to get the wrist control. It seems like as long as the pass is baited, the guy will try to push down the non-hooking knee. That’s the moment to grab his wrist with your free hand and pin to his stomach. You can back up that grip with your other hand grabbing your wrist.

From here, you need to switch your hips so you’re closer to being flat on your back. The hooked leg comes out first, then the second leg comes out.

From here you can loose lock triangle or do a regular one.

I used to cringe at half guard and now I'm seeing it as the center of my universe. It's my favorite position and so easy to get. Really excited about it and it's been fun to see all the different reactions my training partners give me. Each one is unique and challenging in its own way.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Half guard work

More half guard work today with TO. Was seeing a hip bump type of sweep from far half guard that I hadn’t seen before. If I’ve got his right leg locked up with my left knee against his right hip, I need to simply switch my hip to perpendicular while getting some type of wrist/sleeve control on his right had. Can also cup the left foot as well to get some more leverage.

Played some closed guard as well. Went for an armlock on right arm with sweep as a threat.
Wanted him to get arm out so I could switch to triangle which I did, but then spent the next four minutes trying to finish from that position.

Really think that I should just hold more loosely and work on the correct angle or see about armlocks, kimuras or sweeps from there. This has happened to me a few times and I get total tunnel vision. There may have been an angle that I just couldn’t feel or see but my legs were completely toast at the end and that’s not how I want my jiu jitsu to be.

Felt a little bummed out after that, feeling like I wasn’t learning the lessons presented to me.

Wanted to get back in tonight, but can feel all the signs of overtraining right now, so I’m going to get some extra food and some rest.
But all that will pass.

The lessons on the far half guard I’m feeling so far are as follows.
1) Constantly check his base.
2) Stay on your side.
3) Create space with forearm under chin in order to get knee onto his hip.
4) If he leans in to grab your far side wrist, switch hips into a triangle.
5) If he leans back you can switch hips into the Roger sweep variation.
6) If you can get control of his crossfacing arm you can sweep that over your far shoulder to sweep him
7) If he backs off too far, your outside foot can go on his hip to control him.
8) Constantly look for collar chokes.
9) If he tries to pry his leg out, grab his ankle and bridge and roll to that side
10) The pendulum sweep can still work from half guard.
11) Foot on the hip can lead to a far leg knee bar as well.
12) Inverted Roleta type sweeps are always a possibility as they come around on the non trapped side.

What I am liking about the half guard as I’m finally bridging together sweeps and submissions and feel like it slows down my opponents.

What I’m not liking is that I’m f’ing exhausted after drilling the positions. Now granted my training partners are the best guys in the school, so it’s no surprise. But I think the newness of this attack mindset is still making me not see the path of least resistance at every moment.

Worked with my instructor as well. Similar to the lesson we worked on before, it seems like attacks from the top can be as simple as isolating an arm and waiting for the opponent to react.

Even from top of half guard I can pin the bicep with my free leg and head and arm control.
From there it’s a matter of keeping pressure on the far shoulder and keeping his chin turned. Eventually the leg pinning the bicep can go over the head as keeping him stretched out in the shoulder will prevent him from balling up.

From here, there is a loose lock reverse triangle.

Monday, May 18, 2009

5/18/09 training thoughts

Rolled with BE and C today. Didn’t like the way I felt with either one. Could feel excess muscle tension and kept giving into the temptation to force moves that weren’t there. Really didn’t feel like there was any flow.

Felt myself backtrack in terms of my open guard. Strange that all the stuff I liked last month on preventing them from basing, is now just a small asterisk. It still works to a degree, but it also means that I’m out of position and not really presenting a viable attack. I felt the need to test the system but it felt wrong. It felt as if it was a joke that I used to find funny or a girl I used to like. It simply didn’t resonate at all as it was still not at the core of the problem I had before, which is reacting rather than being proactive.

I was also making the mistake of being in mid range with essentially no handles in open guard.

Feel a little overtrained, but there’s still no reason or excuse for this. I was lucky to not have it completely blow up in my face today, but it should have.

I felt really tired afterward, which I think is a combination of conditioning weakness and this forcing mentality that I felt. I’m still looking for mental exercises to do when I feel this way as it always frustrating when that sense of flow and purpose just isn’t there.

Tomorrow may take day off due to conditioning workout scheduled but will see how I feel that night.

The Heavy Leg

I’ve been working on some standup wrestling with DS over the last few weeks. His takedown philosophy is geared around the inside single. And the timing of this takedown is based on an idea of the “heavy leg”. Basically he looks for, or really at this point just senses, when the opponent gets most of his weight on one leg. The moment that happens is the moment he’s shooting. I’m guessing he actually starts shooting before this happens and actually makes impact the moment the leg is heavy.

It reminds me of some of the concepts I was working on a month back like the ab wheel, where the opponent is stumbling to get back in position while I’m moving in that position already. This is almost the same idea but from a standing position.

One concept that DS showed me was something he said he saw John Smith do. The idea is to shoot when he saw the heavy leg, but anticipate that the opponent is going to sprawl. So the initial shot needs to be well timed, but you actually don’t want to fully commit so you’re underneath the guy when he sprawls out. What you’re waiting for is the guy to stand up and back away. So when the initial shot is made, you stay in there. The moment the guy starts to pick himself up, boom, that’s when you do your “real” shot. When most people stand up, they put all their weight on one leg.

What I really like about DS’s approach to takedowns and to how he’s teaching me, is the simplicity. There’s one takedown: the inside single and one time to do it: when the opponent’s leg is heavy.

Of course there are an infinite number of ways to get there, but having simple goals makes it much easier for me to keep my head in the moment rather than being overwhelmed by information.

Now I have no illusions about becoming a great wrestler or even a great takedown guy, but I think this training is really important for several reasons.

First off, it helps me know what a good takedown guy is looking for in his attacks. The better I can get at these attacks, the better I can get at defending them. While I may have a decent sprawl already, that is only going to help me against a very unsophisticated line of attack.

Secondly, while I may still not be able to get the opponent down even with a perfectly timed shot, getting that clinch can allow me to transition to an open guard position or a leg lock attack. I won’t be able to outwrestle a good wrestler, but by learning this timing and sensitivity I can bring my attacks to them.

It always makes me cringe seeing a jiu jitsu guy do a telegraphed shot from way outside that is stuffed, then they try to pull guard and the opponent just walks away. While the jiu jitsu guy may have initiated the action, he still gave his opponent the option of walking away. I want to eliminate that option whenever possible.

I want to know how to get the match to the ground, regardless of whether that means I’m on top or not, and to also ensure that I’m the one dictating the action.

Additionally I want to be able to coach my teammates better from the standing position. While they may still need to pull guard if they’re not practicing their standup, I can at least give them better advice on how and when to do that.

The training is very fast paced and really fun. DS is an awesome teacher and I can tell he enjoys doing this type of training as do I. In the past, the wrestling I’ve done has been very discouraging as I was taught what to do but not when.

And even if I was taught when, I was never taught how to make the “when” happen. DS is showing me this in terms of concepts so I can begin to recognize this in the heat of the moment, which is especially important in takedowns, as the pace is much faster.
As always I’m amazed at how little I know and happy that there are people willing to teach me more.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

not jiu jitsu related

but I just started another blog

The first one is about a man named T'ai Merion, who I would like the world to know, sadly, if only in hindsight.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Touch and patience

Noticing rolling with GC and DS that there are two things that are becoming increasingly important to me: touch and patience.

With GC, especially in no gi, realized that there is a world of difference being in sword guard on my side and having as many handles in place as possible, verses not. By handles, I mean grabbing, holding or even lightly touching with my feet, knees, shoulders, elbows, hands and head in as many places as possible. I’m never going to be fast enough to react to someone moving before I do and someone as fast and skilled as GC drills that into my head.

But if I can be clinched up with as many handles as possible, the sensation of touch leads to many things. I can first feel his movement. I can feel where his weight is shifting. At times, it almost seems like you can sense a man’s intentions. This is part of the solution that I’m looking for in developing a game that can overcome speed, size, strength and conditioning. I realized that to not be in some type of clinch, even a loose one, will invariably lead to me trying to use those attributes I’m trying to battle against just to catch up. And in my mind this is something that cannot be sustained and will get worse with time.

The second lesson that’s starting to come into focus is patience. I’m seeing this in some of the more customary control positions like closed guard on bottom and side mount on top, but I think it can be applied almost anywhere.

I’m realizing how impatient I’ve been in my jiu jitsu. At times it feels like I’ve been a nervous teenager who won’t stop talking because he’s afraid of silence. While forcing the action can be good in certain circumstances, it can also quickly hurt you against the wrong opponent.

DS is the perfect example of this as given his intelligence for the game along with his wrestling, size and strength forcing a game against him will simply not work. If I do try to force it, I"m not being honest with myself on the reality of that moment. It's like I'm talking rather than enjoying the silence.

So lately I’ve been trying to catch myself forcing anything, especially in closed guard. While this may be looked at as stalling, I’m beginning to realize I need to explore the concept of stalling and how that can lead to frustrating people. I’m never going to be the strongest, biggest, most athletic or youngest guy out there so I need strategy. And part of strategy is the mental battle. And part of the mental battle is learning how to frustrate the opponent.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The importance of arm control in leglocks.

One of the most important things I”ve learned with straight armlocks in the cross body position, is the importance of far shoulder control. For a long time I believed it was strictly close side leg control. And while I still think that’s useful, especially for control someone wild, I think control of the far shoulder and bicep is essential to actually breaking the grip and straightening the arm.

I’ve been focusing on my leglock attacks over the last few training sessions. I want to get better at leglocks themselves, but I also want to see how they’ll lead into other attacks. I’m beginning to already see more sweeps, armlock and triangle opportunities simply by going for the knee bar. But I’m also seeing how the knee bar and the ankle lock need the element of arm control.

One of the things my training partner MS did very well on me was controlling the same arm that he was knee barring. Not only did this make it harder to grab my own leg in defense, but also it made it easy for him to sweep me back and for me to not be able to base out and come up on top.
He and I talked about this as well as pushing the opponent’s armpit or his elbow in a kimura type position. This seems to give the right amount of distance to straighten their leg out and the arm control position makes it very difficult for them to get on top again.

I’m curious to mess around with this tomorrow and see where it leads.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Great Equalizer

A long time ago my instructor told me I should start incorporating more leglocks into my game but as always, it takes me entirely too long to listen to good advice. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve done that but for the most part I would do them in isolation then go back to my normal game. I felt like they interrupted the flow and took away from my attacks. But after Wednesday’s session, I realized that if I’m going to only attack the upper body, especially no gi, I’m going to have to either work inverted guard or rubber guard.

I like both of these guards, but my body doesn’t, especially when dealing with much bigger training partners. So in my mind to really round out the no gi game, and actually to improve my armbars and triangles, I need to attack the legs.

Today was day one of really incorporating leglocks into my whole game. Now granted I was actively looking for kneebars and ankle locks, but I was also looking to see how they could enhance, rather than distract from my whole game. One of the mistakes I’ve made in the past is to “over isolate” a particular move to the point where I ignore what going for that move gives me. It is always hard to incorporate the rest of my game from that, so now I’m always trying to have “black dot focus” rather than “white dot focus”.

I had some great training partners today who gave me a good energy and chance to work some of my new attacks. I really like what I’m seeing and feeling so far even though some of my knee bars are at a bad” boy band” level right now. One thing that I noticed, is the best way to set up kneebars from the guard is to attack the arms and neck. This leads to posture and posture leads to leaving the legs out there.

Of course the opposite quickly becomes apparent as well, when once you attack the legs, they lean in and grab. I realized this might be one of the best ways to get wrist control to work for a triangle as most people aren’t thinking triangle defense when they’re dealing with a knee bar. They’re reaching out.

The flip bar is another project that will take some work but definitely made me like being sprawl passed better. The threat is there and I always do much better when I have an attack to focus on rather than the idea of “not getting passed”.

I’m going to write about this idea more later, but for now, it seems to me that trying to make something as big and broad as a pass “not happen” is overwhelming. There are so many ways to pass that trying to stop everything feels impossible and for me personally always makes me panic a little.

But if I focus on an attack and feeling what attack is there, I don’t worry about the pass as preventing the pass, miss aligning them and off basing or submitting them is all part of the attack.

So today was very exciting to me in that regard because I am seeing leg attacks in positions where normally I get a “scramble” or even “don’t let him pass” feeling. A lot of these locks rely on them pushing the pass and even the concept of getting that clinch and the handles from open guard is inherently taken care of.

One thing I need to be careful is not to slip into inverting too much as my neck doesn’t forgive me for that position. Although thinking about it, I really should be shifting from my shoulder to my forehead to my other shoulder anyway.

The leg attacks are also leading to another type of guard that I’m experimenting with. I’m not sure what it’s really called but it really is normally just a guard recovering technique where one shin is across their belt line and the other leg is over their head. Let’s say it’s my right leg across their belt and my left leg over their head.

I’m finding that if I control their right arm with my left hand and hook their left leg with my right arm I have a decent amount of control. This position also works, maybe even better, if my right leg is in between theirs in a half guard position.

I see some knee bar attacks on their left leg if they move to their left. If they force the pass to my right there is a good reverse triangle as well. It needs more practice, of course, but I see some definite potential with that.

Also I’m realizing how much the knee bar and cross ankle lock/inside heelhook tie in. I saw that when I was working on controlling the knee bar where we’re both essentially on our backs and I have my instep in the crook of their knee. I’m thinking that grabbing their heel may be a way of preventing them from spinning , but even if they do, the inside heelhook/footlock is there. I also need to adjust my body position and have my back towards them as well.

Overall I’m really excited about this next step and look forward to seeing how these setups work in a no gi situation. Additionally I want to see how I can implement leglock entries starting from standing. I think this may be a good way to initiate an attack on good wrestlers.

4/23/09 notes

It’s been an interesting week. Felt pretty sharp on Tuesday and then in a total fog yesterday. It was like I had no clue what I should be doing at any moment. I had to start focusing on the smallest of goals as my mind kept racing to everything other than jiu jitsu in the middle of the roll.

It was no gi and any moment my training partner would come close to passing I just kept thinking I wanted to be anywhere but there. I started from closed guard over and over. My goal was to control from there and I was having a really tough time.

For quite a while I’ve felt a little limited in closed guard. At some point I realized traditional rubber guard/mission control is not for me. My knees can’t take it and one surgery is enough for me.

But I admire the control that it gives and there are moments like yesterday with a good scrambling wrestler where I miss it a little bit. Now the Shawn Williams guard is still a big part of the game and something I need to used more often. And I’m starting to come up with some decent neck attacks that lead to wrist control.

When they posture back, my hip bump/close line works well some of the time. But I knew something was missing. Yesterday was about surviving and accumulating evidence for me to study at a later time.

And now looking back, I’m realizing the closed guard hole is an extension of the open guard one: I need to attack the legs. I keep coming to this conclusion over and over again but just was not able to see the opportunity or really even think about it yesterday. I wanted to get the back, control and choke as everything else just felt impossible.

I was really annoyed with my lack of ability to adapt at the moment. I’m glad I didn’t quit and there’s something to be said for using the money moves at times, but it’s going to be a continuing problem as long as I limit my attacks. Those same attacks won’t work once those guys make a few adjustments.

So I think the only solution is to force myself to only attack the legs from the bottom for the next few weeks and see what happens.

Friday, April 17, 2009

the open guard clinch

Got a couple of fun training sessions in on Wednesday and one on Thursday. Some of the new base control tactics are working well to disrupt any type of pin and pass, but this has all been work on the first step and against good players, this is not enough. They quickly catch up and move on if that’s all that I do.

The next step if for me to take advantage of the pause it gives them. Right now arm drags, hook sweeps and guillotines have been somewhat effective but still limited. I think this has been mainly because they only have to worry about their base and their upper body.

Thus it’s time to become a leg locking fool. My instructor’s always emphasized that leg locks are the great equalizer. The thing that I’ve noticed is they are a great attack on wrestlers, not just for the leg-locking component, but also for the sweeping component.

I remember Nick Diaz fighting Sean Sherk and getting him on his butt after attempting a knee bar. It’s the only time I can remember someone sweeping Sherk and it was because Sherk was worried enough about his leg to sacrifice position.

So my next step to get there is to take advantage of the disrupt and get some type of handle that I can turn into a leglock. I realized that this is another huge hole in my game. I let there be separation in open guard situation rather than grabbing handles immediately.

Handles allow me to stick with the person, like an anchor slowly weighing down a motorboat. I’ve learned some tactics to slow down the game in closed guard and on top, but now it’s time to really slow things down from open guard. Ethan told me this a long time ago and now I"m finally beginning to see what he meant.

So while I definitely think leg locks are the next step in my open guard game, I first need to get that clinch and get those handles from open guard. Much like the early days when Royce would always talk about timing the clinch I’m going to work on ways to enter into and establish those clinches. This is the only way that I know to really control someone. Otherwise it becomes a scramble and a battle of speed which I will lose more and more as time goes on.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Axl Rose

So I finally got a chance to work on some of these new theories with DS. As it went with GC I realized that there’s more work to be done. The stationary bike techniques didn’t seem to work mainly because he pinned my feet to the ground instead of pinning my knees.

Now normally when someone pins my ankles, the reaction is to arm drag them. But as he always does DS makes me painfully aware of the holes in my theories. I’m seeing two mistakes I’m making with this.

One is that I’m attempting to arm drag first and move my ankle second. The problem with this is it may work once or twice but a good wrestler will soon figure this out and simply let the arm drag pull them around and flop right into side mount.

Thinking about it, the second problem ties into the first. The second problem is that trying to move in a linear motion doesn’t work in this angle because his pin position is like a decline bench press with his arms locked out and hands in line with his chest or slightly lower. Even if I could move my legs, it’s not going to change his ability to pin much, if at all because it doesn’t get his hands above his shoulders (in line with his head).

Now if it’s the knees that are pinned down it’s a different story as his hands are probably in line with his shoulder, so if I move back his hands are in line with his head or higher, which is the “ab wheel” concept I’ve been writing about lately. But again, DS was pinning my feet firmly into the mat, so this was not the case here.

It took a while to make progress, as DS was nice enough to let me hit the “rewind button” over and over. I tried various things but everything I worked on felt like a gimmick that might work occasionally but once he caught on, it was back to step one.

After about 10 minutes, DS figured out what I think is the best answer. It started with the idea of opening my knees, which made his pin unstable. It made his elbows flare out a little and prevented him from being able to focus his weight down. This was a good first step and I think this could be a way to work in the arm drag, but we wanted some other options as well.

Again DS had the idea that if I opened my knees, then “swam” my legs side to side this would throw the whole pin out of whack. We realized that this looked like the leg movement of a certain 80’s powerhouse lead singer and thus we will now call this “The Axl Rose”.

It took about half an hour for us to reach this conclusion and after doing some “Sweet Child O’ Mine”ing for a few more minutes, we concluded it works in that situation. I could reestablish some handles and work my open guard from there.

There’s still a lot more to figure out and I’m anxious to work on the arm drag components, keeping in mind destabilizing his base, having my head on the side that I want to drag to, timing the pull of the arms, the push of the legs and shifting my hips out and towards him. It’s a move I’ve worked on a lot and got fairly effective with to a certain point but now it’s time to take that to the next level.

DS is an amazing asset and continues to be my kryptonite in every way on the mat. But since he’s so eager to learn (and somehow fooled into thinking I know something ;)) he’s a great training partner because we can figure out why one particular step doesn’t work and isolate it out until we find an answer.

For a long time I would have just worked on a scramble or just told myself not to get there in the first place, but now I want real answers that I can duplicate and more importantly, that I can teach to people that don’t involve the answer of just “moving quickly.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New blog site soon

I'm going to keep this blog as mainly jiu jitsu stuff but I feel compelled to write more about other subjects. Being a big Bukowski fan I'm looking to do my own version of "Women" so be ready... ;)
more to come and I'll finish up on the latest stuff I'm working on in training: "The Axl Rose"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Coaching thoughts from the weekend's tournament

There was a jiu jitsu tournament here in Austin this weekend. I went with the goal of coaching as many of my teammates as I could and to lose my voice. I guess I achieved both goals.

Watching those matches reminded me of when I first moved here almost three years ago. The second day I started training with my instructor, I tore the meniscus in my left knee. I couldn’t train for three months and I ended up needing surgery on it, but I can firmly say it was the best thing to ever happen to my jiu jitsu.

The injury forced me to watch and to study the game really for the first time. I’d been in jiu jitsu for a long time already at that point. I was a purple belt and thought I knew some things. Usually when I’d gotten hurt before I just wouldn’t go until I was better.

This time was different. I went to almost every class, usually twice a day, six days a week. I was finding a home in a new city and starting to study and try to really learn something I’d been vaguely familiar with for a long time.

I started to realize how little I knew about jiu jitsu. I might be able to do a certain amount, but if I saw two people grappling, half the time I couldn’t tell you what they were going to do next, or what they were trying to do or what they should do.

So I started to try to figure this out. I started trying to predict what one guy would do next. Then I’d switch people. Other times I’d try to figure out what I would do and see if it was the same thing.

By the time I came back I felt I knew more but more importantly I realized how much there was to learn. It wasn’t going to become a matter of “getting it” one day, it was simply going to be a slow steady walk towards a mirage in the desert. And once I was okay with that, the walk became a lot more enjoyable.

So lately I’ve started to vocalize some of these observations and patterns by working on becoming an effective coach. I want to be able to say the right thing at the right time and to be as specific but simple as possible. What’s been good about this is there’s immediate feedback when my training partner tries what I say and I can see if it actually works.

I still have a lifetime to go as a practitioner and teacher but this weekend was a good test for me as I helped coach at least 25 matches. I know some of our guys’ games pretty well, but others I realized still how little I know and understand about their habits, patterns, strengths and weaknesses. I’m still a long way from being someone who really sees what everyone else just watches. There are still definitely a lot of situations that I don’t have answers for. I still have just a small fraction of understanding of this game.

I realize that I’m also going to really need to start studying wrestling and judo more as I really don’t have much advice to give standing up other than “pull guard”. I know most people I train with don’t practice their standup grappling much and I’m not sure if that’s going to change, but I feel incomplete in my own knowledge when I don’t know at least some basic grip fighting as well as wrestling tie ups and how they lead into takedowns.

I was proud of my teammates, but feel I need to study other people more carefully than I’ve been doing so far. Lately it’s been all about what I need to do to get better but I’m shortchanging everyone and probably myself by not really observing my teammates.

Overall I thought the tournament was run fairly smoothly and while there were some officiating calls I didn’t agree with, I don’t think any of them affected the outcome of the matches I saw. I'm never going to love jiu jitsu tournaments, but I learned a lot and am glad I went.