Saturday, March 28, 2009

Opening up a new can of worms

It was a mixed bag today as I feel I made some good progress this week but realized I’ve only begun to reexamine everything that needs reexamining and frankly have only examined things from the bottom in general lately.

It was one of those days that I felt like I shouldn’t train and ended up doing it anyway. Went against E and KT both of whom are super tough and very difficult to control in any position. This was a good test for some of the new theories I’m working on.

My conclusion so far is the new stuff works but reveals how much I need to analyze the rest of my game. My side control, especially from no gi is rudimentary at best. There are no real attacks and I’m always looking to mount or bait them onto their knees. With both of those guys and many others, this is definitely not a smart and energy conserving style on my part.

I was very tired after the training and really feel it was only the new open guard stuff I’ve been working on that allowed me to survive at all. Part of this may be my need to try to pass guard quickly. Sometimes I’m most likely rushing and they’re waiting until right when I pass then boom! they scramble. I may need to hang out in half guard a little bit more and cook them.

The other thing I’m thinking is to continue to apply the concept of making them constantly react and be catching up. I probably need to add more knee on stomach then switching to wrong knee to exhaust them a little.

The next idea is to keep them twisted in side control. I wasn’t using enough shoulder pressure on the chin to really prevent them from turning in. I think if I continue to focus on head/chin control and hip control I can become more effective in these positions. I’m just realizing how much of my game is predicated on them coming to their side, be it to D’Arce them or spin to their back.

Another idea is the triple attack or Hughes/Newton position. This is a great attack that I’ve all but ignored.

With all of this I want to start getting the feeling from side mount that I do when I have them in certain sitting guard positions where they have few options to move to and none of them are good. Right now I’m simply not doing that and it’s leaving me exhausted to get to the back or the mount where I do have that control.

I need to put together some drills and sequences to address this weakness. Thinking about it, I’m actually much better with the gi in this position, whereas almost everywhere else I still think I’m better no gi. I normally don't buy into the argument that the no gi game is faster etc. but it felt that way today and not in a good way to me.

I also think things like the Rigan twister and anything going around north/south would be good option to deal with the bucking bull syndrome.

Definitely an eye opening experience today as there’s a lot of work to be done.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Taking years to learn the obvious ;)

This week has really solidified a lot of principals that have been floating around in my head for a long time. Some injuries have kept me from rolling that much, but I’ve been doing some drills and light training and just really feel like I see a more complete picture on a lot of things I have always struggled with.

I trained with my instructor last night and today and was literally doing almost everything wrong. Now it might not be wrong in the sense that they were the wrong attacks or the wrong ideas, but they weren’t being executed well enough to work on a high level opponent. He was nice enough to hit the rewind button and fix the little details.

Looking back I realize some of these flaws have been with me for as long as I’ve been training and I never realized it. I saw the symptoms, which were me losing position or having to scramble, but never saw the real root of the problem. At this point most of my energies are devoted to dealing with real problem roots rather than the endless variations of the symptoms that they present.

Let’s take dealing with the x-pass from the bottom as an example:

I’d never really analyzed the root problem, which is me not controlling them in the first place. I’d tried speed and timing with things like arm drags which work sometimes until people got wise to them. This was completely reliant on the surprise factor and I had no structure backing up if the arm drag didn’t work or if I dragged them but they flopped over. It was all or nothing.
I also started working some d’Arce chokes from the bottom, which again were effective at times but also failed half the time. Sometimes there was a sweep from that position as well, but once again it was a sniper shot and I only had one bullet.

So for a long time the pin and pass has been the bane of my existence. While my long legs really help with certain attacks, many times once someone pinned them down I was essentially done for.

Once they got past my arm drag and D’Arce gimmicks, I’d simply have to scramble and not let them set in the pin. With guys bigger and stronger, this was always a painful process as the inevitable tree falling on my head was never pleasant and the more tired I was, the more this would just make me want to quit.

These past few weeks, common sense finally reared its head and I started thinking about how the x-pass is described: pin and pass. And I had the profound revelation of maybe if:

A) I prevent or disrupt their pin


B) I prevent or stop the actual motion of the pass

They won’t be able to pin and pass.

So for the pin part, I’m working on them having nothing stable to base on. It’s hard to do pushups on a stability ball. If they push on two bent knees what would happen if I straightened one leg? Or if I changed the angle of my knees so they go from their wrists lined up with their shoulder to wrists over their shoulder? (I’m calling this the ab wheel concept)

Even if they do get the pin they still need to pass. With their hands pinning my knees their head is within reach. If my head starts driving into their chin, their motivation to keep moving in that direction decreases. If at the same time I’m pulling their far elbow out they’ve lost their structure. I can also use this to help pivot myself around so now they’re dragging me as the attempt to pass.

From here, they will most likely switch directions, and that’s the time for the arm drag as now the timing is correct and I have the structure to back it up as well. They are closer and my head is on the same side of the arm I’m dragging which gives me much more control of their body as they’re not going to collapse far away and I’m halfway to their back or a takedown. This is what I mean by structure: my body’s in the right place to take advantage of them being off balance so I’m advancing while they’re adjusting.

Before I had timing and sensitivity but no structure. It took just a moment of my opponent breaking one of them and I’d have to use speed or flexibility, neither of which I have enough to compensate against someone big enough and strong enough.

Now this system is using structure to limit and inhibit their motion. This allows the timing and sensitivity to really be utilized because I have control over them as well.
I’m not sure if this makes sense to anyone at this point. I’m still experimenting and keeping this in the lab for now, but I see the light on this one.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

BJJ 3/24/09

Rolled with a new student and my instructor today. With the new student wanted to work some different controls. One was from the closed guard keeping his right arm across his body and blocking it with my hip. I wanted to feel exactly where my hip needs to be in order to control the position. It felt like as long as my left foot was pushing against his right hip and my right hip blocked his elbow, it would be difficult for him to get his arm out.

The next position I wanted to work on was cross body armlock control. Years ago I believed that grabbing the guys leg was the key to controlling him. So if I’m armlocking his right arm, I’d want to grab his right leg with my right arm. While this does make it hard for him to sit up or bridge over his shoulder and roll out, it’s also pretty tough to break the grip. The bicep crush has always been tough with my long legs and unless I can get a foot on his bicep, I used to spend a lot of energy trying to break the grip.

These days I’m much more about pulling his arm aboive his head and twisting it as basically it’s my whole body against his internal rotator cuff. But the dilemma is how to control the guy. More and more I’m thinking it’s his far arm and shoulder that’s the key. So today I was alternately cupping and pressing his left elbow. This really seems to limit his mobility and weaken his grip at the same time. I’ll need to play around more with that.

Working with my instructor is always very helpful and humbling. I’m still really enjoying the sitting guard with proper head placement. Got an underhook with my left arm and he immediately started to armpit Americana it. Foolishly I persisted with the sweep anyway. Really in that case I should acknowledge and defend the attack first, which in this case would be headlocking his wrist. That leads to a sweep in the other direction.

I also had a hint that the pin escapes I learned could really work as I did see some space when I rolled my hips away and punched, but I didn’t base properly with my far arm and even if I did, I won’t be able to pull off that move on him. I do really need to drill those more or put myself in that situation with someone a little smaller to start getting the proper feel and timing.
I still have little ideas on how to maintain standing posture without risking my arms. Once he gets a grip I’m done for. It makes me see that I need to start doing that attack myself in open guard but maybe I should try to slide my knee through to half guard.

Also realized the importance of rolling to my stomach on straight ankle locks and also trying to control the same side arm that you’re ankle locking. This makes it much easier to get them over as now they have nothing to base on.

Things done well

1) Closed guard control
a. I felt like the arm across the stomach, taking their back option is really something that could work for me. I think the set up is coming along pretty well and today was about the mid point control. The next step is to work on shift around the corner.
b. Did bait him into stepping over my leg which made getting the back even easier. Learned that by watching Renner teach it.

2) Ab wheel
a. The drilling on this is paying off as I’m scooting out and changing my hip angle as soon as they grab my knees.

3) Changing hip angle from sitting.
a. If they start trying to go around my hook side I can switch hip angles and work and armdrag. It’s much more controlled than they type I was doing before and my leg can go to the inside or it can transfer to x guard pretty easily.

Things to work on
1) Pin escape drills
a. I see the light but I need to practice more.

2) Straight ankle locks
a. I want to develop the same sense of control that I have with the cross body arm lock. Have some decent set ups but the finish, especially rotating to my stomach, needs work

3) Taking the blinders off
a. Still catching myself going for the attack I intended rather than acknowledging what’s there.

Monday, March 23, 2009

3/23/09 bjj training notes

Had a good session with T and M today. Both are super tough and present some very interesting challenges. With T it’s constantly looking out for his knee bars from the bottom of half guard as well as his reverse triangle. M just has such an innovative game and any moment I feel aggressive it ends up with me flailing around, burning energy and getting nowhere.

Really finding a home with the sword guard with my head next to theirs. It really limits their passing options and gives me many opportunities to sweep and arm drag.

Having some troubles finishing triangles as they are almost falling on their back and using that to create some space and escape. I may need to get back to basics with grabbing my own shin and having my other foot on their hip.

Also still getting stacked in triangles and that would be a solution as well to keep that control and spare my neck.

Only went inverted once on what ended up being a transitional move. I think that’s okay as it’s when I sit there that I get stacked or dragged and that is just no longer worth it.

Things done well
1) Sitting guard. Head position and keeping in ball make hook sweeps, x guard and arm drags very accessible. The head position also makes any sort of pin and pass very difficult as my head’s in the way and it makes them want to back up.

2) Triangle set ups. Got some wrist control from closed guard as well as a simple popping the hips up from open. Was not able to finish which needs to be broken down and analyzed.

3) Ezekiel choke. This is turning into a good distraction from bottom and finish/ armbar setup from the top. Also good in closed guard when they have a hand on the mat.

4) Feet on hips. Not as much today but this control, awareness and mobility is allowing me to get omoplatas without pulling on my foot at all which is a big plus

Things to work on

1) Getting an angle on mount attacks.
a. I’m too straight on when going for collar chokes, armlocks etc. and this is allowing them better defense. Really need to remember the fundamental of sliding into “S mount” with knee by head on opposite side of where I’m initially grabbing the collar. Much harder to get rolled that way and it also misaligns their body and allows me to work chokes sliding into armlocks.

2) Getting the over under too quickly in back attacks.
a. I didn’t break down T’s hips at a 45 degree angle and instead held the over/under with no hip control. It limited my control and allowed him to roll underneath. Wrestlers would most likely use it to throw me over their shoulders as well. Either way there’s no control. Hip controls first, then torso, especially if they’re bigger.

3) Triangle finishes
a. It feels like all the principles I’ve been thinking about in open guard suddenly go out the window with the triangle. As a result they’re throwing their legs over, falling over and stacking me while I just desperately hold onto the figure four for dear life. I need to continue the mindset of off balancing and attacking. The arm that’s outside can be elbow locked, kimura’d or Segaled. I can hook the leg and work the sweep. Or shoulder shimmy back causing them to ab wheel.

4) Armlock from triangle
a. First off I need to remember that I can use this finish as many of the times when the triangle isn’t there, this is.
b. Second when it ends up being a cross body armlock position, I need to secure the arm and grab my collar, but I also need to either push away their far leg or hook the near leg and grab the far foot. M was able to throw his leg over my head and counter my triangle with one of his own. My own arm that was trapping his felt like it was going to break if I moved the wrong way, which made me panic. This leads to…

5) Composure.
a. This always comes and goes but while today was decent, there was still moments of panic. I actually feel that this more structure oriented game I’m working on helps as it’s more efficient and doesn’t rely on me moving faster than the opponent. If I can move faster than a bigger opponent in the past I would be discouraged.
b. I still felt, even when mounted on T that I was rushing my attacks. The pace was fast but not as precise as it needed to be. Working on angling off might be a good step to keep my head clear.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

training to be sensitive


I’ve been reading about Rickson’s seminars that he’s been giving where he shows concepts and details from every position that help make every move as efficient as possible. I am always looking to do that in all of my jiu jitsu and by extension, all of my life.

As I get older, this idea that I am taking the straightest smartest path becomes more and more important. So with that said, how do I go about doing that?

One thing that feels increasingly important is drilling. Now when I say drilling I mean it in several ways.

First off, I’m seeing that just doing straight reps on a technique is important. As boring and annoying as it can be, things like doing perfect armlocks, wrist control from triangles are important as the more I drill them, the more I see the opportunity when rolling live.

The other type I really think is effective is positional training. Often times this is done by starting from a position like the guard and working through attacks or various things. Now sometimes this works well to just start from a position and basically just go wherever the match takes you. I think this can be good as it keeps the sense of realism.

What I mean by this is it’s important to keep the flow of the game as a whole in mind. If I only drill side mount escapes and don’t realize that my escapes lead to giving up my back, or to a submission then I haven’t looked at the bigger picture.

But on the other hand, if the whole picture is only looked at then the finer details are missing also. So sometimes it’s good to just work on a sidemount escape and once you escape, go back to that position and work out of there again.

But lately I’m working on fine-tuning that as well. It’s almost as if I’m working on the idea of having a remote control. I want to put things on “pause” or even “rewind” when certain things happen. I want to slow things down and see what my best option is at each moment.

I’ve been able to feel things like this for the first time with certain training partners that I’ve never noticed before. Many times I would cover moving in the wrong way with scrambling, strength, flexibility or simply lose the advantage. It’s a painstaking approach but I remember long ago when I used to play music if I got to a difficult spot, I’d slow it down over and over until I got it. For me getting it really involves feeling it.

Sometimes it will take an entire training session to just get the right sensitivity for a move. But I’ve found it’s well worth it as even if I haven’t trained for a while I find the sensitivity remains there.

For me not training for a while really shows me how good my technique is. If I find myself scrambling and out of breathe, it often means that the gaps in my techniques are being covered up by my scrambling or other attributes. I can also tell when I feel myself tensing up too hard and/or holding my breathe.

While I still think sparring is the best litmus test to tell about progress, a lot of this training, especially the remote control sensitivity type is the best way to make that progress. The sparring is a way to check on it and figure out what else needs to be worked on.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

techniques between techniques

Rolled with DS in the afternoon session. We went slow and he was being nice;) We mainly drilled open guard work where I was working on the “ab wheel” concept of never giving him a steady platform to pin and pass with. My legs getting pinned and passed is definitely the weakest part of my game and this was the beginning of some answers.

Today (3/17) went over some of the ideas from yesterday with my instructor. He showed me some similar ideas that were more based on the idea that they can’t pin down both legs at once and pass so you can always bend one or circle it around and realign your hips with theirs.

In addition to this he showed me that it’s important to find the 90 degree angle with my close arm on his shoulder or whatever is there. The back arm should be working on breaking his grip or pulling his elbow out.

The techniques I’d been working on I think still have some effectiveness but he pointed out that they also involve being quicker than the other guy rather than beating him by structure and alignment.

Seeing that little things like Americanas from the bottom are a great distraction and possibly even a sweep. It seems like the key is to just know when to hold em and when to fold em on that as if you hold too long, he can counter with a better submission, but the initial submission attempt from the bottom of side mount etc. does get them to react.

My instructor also showed me how positioning my head next to theirs on the side that they want to go prevents them from being able to complete the pass and gives me a chance to attack.

I feel like these little details are going to help me stay ahead of the game and give me the confidence to constantly dictate the pace and attack.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Coffee- Part One

Like all good drug stories this one begins with a girl. She was tall, blond and beautiful but bridged the gap between prom queen and indie rock goddess. The place was Delaware and the year was 1992.

I was 17 and despite a pretty shaky start in high school in terms of height, coolness and fashion sense I had somehow pulled it together well enough to get this girl, at least for a little while.
Graduation was looming in the near horizon and I had already determined I was going to go as far away from Delaware as possible to the biggest city I could find. But there was still one thing Delaware would introduce me to before we parted ways: coffee.

Now I grew up in a coffee-drinking household. My Mom still faithfully has two cups a day and I remember trying it when I was a kid. It was beyond my comprehension how anyone could drink this fowl, dark bitter madness. But a pretty girl can make a young man reconsider a lot of things
So on one cool spring morning the girl and I ditched school and found ourselves in one of the only options to get a quick hit of coffee at the time: 7/11.

While I was first resistant, she assured me that with enough creamers and sugar it tasted great. I think I must have put in 5 or 6 creamers and just as many sugars until the whole substance was a light beige color. I brought it towards my lips and hoped it was at least palatable enough for me to pretend to enjoy it. I didn’t want to disappoint this girl.
I took a sip.

From that Styrofoam cup I first tasted the silky smooth and sweet flavor mixed in with a strong full burst of hot liquid that I would come to know so well. I drank it up eagerly, savoring the taste and breathing in the smell. I couldn’t believe this was the same glorious liquid that I had rejected so many years. My Mom had an insight that I was only beginning to discover.
But it wasn’t just the taste of the coffee that intrigued me. Soon I noticed another effect. There was suddenly a wave of flushed energy in my face as I felt the source of coffee’s power fully kick in.

This was my first experience with caffeine. I remember having this nervous, excited and hopeful feeling, but didn’t think much of it at the time, figuring the girl, ditching school and heading to Los Angeles would make any young man feel this way.
It was only when all those things changed that I realized it was the coffee, not where I was that mattered.

Part two:
Coffee and the lonely college years

Garage training days – rerevisited

Trained in a garage today for the first time since the days with Sean and Judo Marc years ago. Had a few things I wanted to work on, most of which came together eventually but I struggled with at first.

Was happy that even though, in my mind, I only wanted to work on mainly arm bar from the closed guard and combining that with getting the arm and taking the back along with sweeps that appear when the resist.

At first really have having problems getting the proper control in closed guard. While some of that is indeed related to keeping their head down, but if I grab the wrist and elbow, pop my hips up and shift the arm over my center line then I’m off to the right start. What I kept missing was getting that same side foot on the hip. My leg was tight and it might have even appeared that it was touching the hip but I was actually a little too close. Towards the end of the training I would actually push with my hand for a moment just to move back a tiny bit. It felt pretty tight once I could get that far in the game.

Feet on the hips is great control and I need to continue to incorporate but I’m glad that I could actually identify a problem and make an adjustment from there. Would like to start taking the back more from the basic armlock position but seems like they usually lean in which makes the sweep to the side they’re pushing in the best option.

Don’t feel I did well in terms of working distractions and position advantage. Not seeing what the distractions are in certain moments, but at the same time that just may mean the technique is already there for me to just take. It needs work though but I definitely think I’m still on the right track with that.

R also came by and showed some really interesting control positions within the guard and explained the concept of controlling the hips from inside the guard. It was very subtle and interesting what he was doing to really pin the hips down to prevent triangles and other things from happening even though it looked like he’d be vulnerable to that.

I’m looking to add more details to my game like that as it really enhances overall calmness to have those specific details to shoot for rather be in a spot between positions where the only mindset is scrambling.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

3/14/09 - the lightbulb just went "bing"

Rolled with M today the whole time. On the drive over I was dreading the training. My mindset was simply whoever grabbed a hold of me would only have a countdown until they crushed me. I kept trying to think of anything I could do and nothing was coming to mind. All I could think of was defense I knew wouldn’t work. It was as if everything I knew had disappeared from my mind. I knew my new strategy had to be centered around attacking but what that meant had stopped making sense to me after I’d overanalyzed it to death.

But then I started thinking about my sessions with M and how whenever I tried to just plow through his defenses I felt a combination of annoyed, tired and frustrated. I started realizing I need to make other people, especially the more athletic, faster, bigger younger ones, feel that way as well. And thinking about that further the frustration came from his unique defenses, often involving shielding his arms from kimuras and Americanas by grabbing his own thigh. This often throws off the attackers angle enough for it to be ineffective but not so much that most people realize it. They think that if they just put a little extra squeeze on it, then they’ll get it.

The other element was unique attacks from positions where you’re not technically supposed to attack. I’m talking about ezekial chokes from the bottom of sidemount or kimura variations when you have his back. They can annoy the attacker because they shouldn’t work but if you sit there, they will. So now rather than attacking in a dominant position you’re defending and even more importantly: you have to move.

Despite these strong pluses for incorporating these things into my game I’ve been hesitant. I started working things like this maybe 8 months ago and while it was very effective, I got so carried away in always looking for submissions, that I would let my self get swept or passed and never really advanced position.

But today after our session I realized that there is definitely a way to combine the two mentalities because when the training partner is annoyed and having to move either another submission becomes available or you can advance position. Once I started seeing this, the light really went off in my head.

It’s very similar to what Robert Drysdale explained in his no gi series about how once he started going for a submission the position became there. I think this can work for gi and no gi.

The most important thing for me in this is how it changes my mentality. Rather than worrying about someone passing, I’m now working on attacks and putting my body in the position to make that happen. Them not being able to pass is a nice side effect rather than the goal in my head. I find that having a goal to do rather than something to avoid. Negativity is not specific. Attacks are specific even more so than a position at times. Not sure if this makes sense to anyone but it’s making sense to me at the moment.

Hopefully the story will be the same tomorrow ;)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

3/10/09 - class thoughts

Taught class and did some ideas and brainstorming on dealing with the x-pass. J, one of the really good blue belts I know had a great tactic he showed me where he lifts his butt up to get hip mobility even if they’re pinning the legs. This worked really well to change my hip angle or just to push myself back. M also had some really cool distractions and innovations that turned my mind back into the mode of reacting first and attacking first.

In addition, I’m working on the time of moving my legs away from them right when they’re putting they’re full weight to pin the legs. It’s a very similar feel and timing to a regular arm drag and make the guy on top feel like he’s getting to the hard part of an “ab wheel” exercise.

I’m going to need to work on this over and over but I think just getting that initial jump on the other guy can lead to arm dragging them, popping out into a front head lock or going to inverted guard.

Speaking of which, I’m beginning to think inverted guard is doing me more harm than good. No matter how much posture work I’m doing my neck constantly feels jacked and my mid back is so tight my chiropractor can’t even adjust it now. Thinking down the road it may be time to let this go the way of rubber guard and other things that my body just isn’t compatible with.

I think the more I drill sensitivity things like the x pass disruption and the more I focus on aligning my body by using the timing that sensitivity will develop, the better. I was never very fast or very strong and the flexibility I have is starting to hurt me.

I think another piece of the puzzle is it’s time to bear down and gain some weight. I’m pretty much outweighed by 80% of my training partners and the wear and tear is starting to get to me. I’ve hired the secret weapon at our school to change that though ;)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

video analysis

these are for the following two videos

After watching two videos of my instructor and me rolling, I’m going to put down my thoughts as my memory fairly blurred about what happened. At first the video made me cringe as I think I look super goofy and really sloppy but I’ll try to move past that and at least figure out what I was attempting to do and should have done. I’ll also try to figure out what he was doing and why.

I have to preface this with the fact that even when I’m doing something “right” it is only because he’s letting me. There is no illusion in my head that he could not finish me at any moment. The difference in technical skill and his insight into my thought process alone is enough for him to win every time.

We start off in butterfly guard. William has right collar control with his right hand and right sleeve control with his left hand. He’s on his left side with a right hook in. I’m trying to keep his hook down with my left hand and whip my left leg out and over to pass.

I raise up to get better balance which is probably a mistake. Will starts pulling my collar more and checking my base. I probably should have sunk my hips down here as I’ve already tipped my hand and by trying to go for the pass when my left leg is light will most likely just get me swept….

Which is what happens next but Will decdides to pivort his body and immediately attack the legs or so I think but really it looks like he just makes me want to think that so I immediately start to worry about the leg lock which means I’m now on my butt.

He puts his right knee up in combat base. I get right collar control with my right hand and right heel control with my left. My left leg is weaving into De La Riva position. My right foot at first is in a butterfly position which I probably doesn’t make any sense but he was controlling it pretty well. I transition to pushing his right shoulder back as a sloppy sweep which he decides to let me have so he can immediately start a leg attack when I’m coming up.

My right leg is too high and I’m not controlling his hips as I come up. Also he already has his right hook in. Since my weight is on my left leg he can easily hook my right and set me up for an x-guard sweep or Zapruder leg lock.

He gets the Zapruder position and partly gets the sweep as well but we’re at a weird angle and my right hip is on the ground. My defense here is to push his knees together which he lets me do as I could have and should have been tapped here.

As I push the knees together my right leg slides out and somehow ends up under his arm. Again, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that he did this intentionally knowing that the triangle is probably my best move but still has flaws in my finishes.

I try to secure the triangle and keep shin control to keep his head down. He shrugs his shoulder, which makes it very difficult to lock the triangle in. I could have straightened my left and gripped my right foot to get it more into place but knew I wasn’t going to get the triangle even if I did that.

Now technically when he started passing I could stiff arm his left shoulder with my right hand. Or try to push his left elbow out and “Steven Seagal” him over. But after really looking at the tape, he gets his left arm straight pretty quickly. Still I should have at least tried that and not sure why I didn’t. The other option would be to give up on the triangle a little sooner, push away with my legs the roll over my shoulder.

Once he passes I want to prevent him from controlling my head. I keep holding his other arm hoping I can either spring back to a triangle or get a shin or foot on bicep and either go to inverted guard or create space and go back to regular guard. I guess there’s also the option of turning away from him and trying the Saulo “running escape” but I feel like he’d easily get my back from there.

His hips are over mine so I’m essentially just flailing like a fish and wasting energy there. He switches to modified scarf hold here.

I try to create some space and point his head away by grabbing his right collar and pushing it under his neck to misalign his posture. But my left arm doesn’t get straight so I have little power from here. Really I should push his chin up and back but I doubt that would have worked and that’s somewhat bad grappling etiquette and in my mind when someone’s kicking your ass, you should be nice to them, because it could always be worse.

Will ends up switching to regular side mount and again I’m focused on not letting my head be controlled. I’m trying to bridge all the way onto my knees controlling his left sleeve with my left hand then quickly reverse if he pushes in.

I’m doing several things wrong. My left foot is not aligned with my knee or hip so I’m losing power in my bridge. My right foot is in the air, which also robs me of power. Also this move is probably done better by switching my hips first rather than trying to bridge first. But he was nice and left his right leg out for me to get in half guard.

Will’s basing on both hand and his head so his hips are in the air. I decide to invert underneath in that space. I probably could have tried to pull in for a single or do an electric chair sweep but the invert is what seemed to feel right. Problem is I’m not sure even looking at it what I’d be inverting too. I might be able to spin around his leg into a cross ankle lock/inside heel hook position. I must have realized I had nothing halfway through and started to just try to work a regular inverted guard.

Will was too far back for it to be effective so I went back to sitting guard. I make the mistake of having no real attack here. I’m not controlling his head or trying to push his shoulder back or anything. I’m somewhat thinking armdrag but knowing that he knows that and will blow through my guard if I do that so I’m hesitating. Well what did Patrick Swayze say about hesitation? He blows right by my guard.

I accept this and let him put his weight on me which is a big mistake but it still would have happened whether I accepted it or not ;) Again I’m trying to prevent head control and walking back so his weight is over my hips rather than my chest. My hips and legs are not doing enough here. I wonder if I need to walk in or walk away at times to change that angle. Bridging and shrimping don’t feel like they’d work.

Again I make the same mistake of not getting an angle to straighten out my left arm in modified scarfhold. I should be walking my legs out here as well. Back in side mount again I’m trying to get him on my hips. His left hand is underneath my collar so it’s almost impossible to face him. Not sure what I should do to make him want to let go of that either.

I try some witty comic relief but it does not work.

He goes to knee on stomach and I’m trying to push his right foot out so I can over hook it with my left foot. I could have tried to pull it in and push him in that direction but that’s a good way for him to trap my arm as well. Again he’s nice and lets me get half guard.

I start to invert and looking at it now miss the ankle lock and kneebar that he’s feeding me here. Maybe I just wanted to get out but I’m pretty sure I didn’t see the opportunity. I have to capitalize on attacks like that as a scramble is always 50/50 but an attack at least means I’m dictating the pace….except with him…

He starts to pass to my right and I don’t push his head down to the mat and to my right. Or I could try to invert immediately but I think I’d be behind on that. He keeps his hips forward and sets up the cross footlock which I’m not even thinking of until I’m tapping to it.

Part 2
We start we with me flapping my leg into a triangle position. He started putting his weight to his left to do a thigh crush. So I decided to use this to pivot around his back. Now of course the whole time it’s a set up. He’s probably just thinking about armbaring my right arm but I think I’m being slick with my combo.

I get the back and right when my left hook goes in I grab his shoulder. I start to work my ratchet sequence. It looks to me like he shrugs on his left side while pushing up and creating space with his right arm. I feel him move out of position and let go of my Gable grip to reposition the over under grip. He knows I’m going to do this so he times it perfectly and grabs my arm. Once he grabs my arm, I know I’m done for because nothing I can do will make him let go. I know this from prior experience.

I’m not sure what I should do instead there. Maybe go to mount? Again it’s probably a matter of bailing on the choke once he’s repositioned himself like that. I don’t have a good answer yet.

Once he get’s my arm, I try a crappy collar choke but don’t give him any motivation to let go of my arm. He secures a funky Americana derivation.

On the next roll I again make the mistake of not securing handles ie head control, collar control etc. so I’m already behind. But my thick skull realizes this so I go inverted and secure sleeve control and foot on bicep. I try to whip back but my aim wasn’t so great so my left leg landed on top of his head rather than around it. Again I need to drill this more.

I let go of the triangle but see that he’s posturing back so I go to hip bump to try to get his hand on the mat which is yet another sequence I have. His arm was underneath so the hip bump inadvertently became a “hopping” triangle (can’t really call it flying)

This time he framed his hand on the inside of my thigh and shrugged. Again he stacked through and this time I let go sooner in order to not get passed. Once again I am too slow to react to the x pass and he blows through it. I need to drill this more as well.

I tried to invert but he put knee on stomach before I could react. Again I’m concerning myself with not getting my head controlled but not doing enough with my hips or walking away or much of anything.

I give him no real resistance to the mount and should have at least tried to get half guard on his left leg. Once mounted I’m trying to use little bumps to get space. It looks like a crappy spazzy dance move but that’s what I’m doing. I’m lying way too flat on my back the whole time as well.

He then pops to side mount, distracts my arms a little, pulls his own gi skirt out and does the rolling choke he just showed us half an hour before.

I learned a lot by watching these videos and so far have just focused on what I did (mainly wrong). I'll watch them in the future focusing on my instructors movements.

I'm going to keep videotaping myself even though my goofy skinny ass and voice that I swear is not mine makes me cringe, it's helping me learn and that's the bottom line.

Monday, March 9, 2009

3/9/09 jiu jitsu notes - doubling down

Doubled down today. Drilled and rolled with E tonight who is super tough and has some attacks I’m not used to. Realize that I need to really work on my guard if they’re moving to my left because most people move to my right. Again making the same mistake of not starting an initial attack and having to react.

Could actually feel the MBF sidemount escape’s potential but I’m going to need to add it to my list of drills. There was a bump that I noticed which could be capitalized on but I wasn’t basing out with my arm properly and I just haven’t practiced it enough yet.

Could not keep up the pace either. Need to find ways to slow down the game a little. Inverted guard was ineffective due to me not getting wrist handles, leg control and bicep control. The angle he used to press my feet down was different than I’m used to as well.

Also he passed on my left side, which I’m not used to. I supposedly know the correct sequence to do but really never drill it, so that also needs to be added to my list as well.

Overall disappointed in my ability to adapt. Some of the sequences I have ingrained in me worked well but made me realize how many more I need to drill as moments where I’m mentally slow, the creativity that’s there when I’m feeling quick, like Saturday are replaced by cloudiness.

Was having a conversation with someone today about how I do better when I don’t think. Sometimes that seems to work and sometimes I catch myself thinking about how I’m not thinking or thinking that I don’t know what to think.

The point is the sequences are automatic and if more of the game becomes automatic then my headspace doesn’t matter as much. I’ve got a lot of shit to drill.

3/9/09 jiu jitsu notes - drills

Today was just drilling and the first day that I’ll count the rep totals.

First up was the wrist control to triangle from the closed guard. I learned this a long time ago and having watched a lot of competition footage lately of Ryan Hall and some other triangle masters, this still seems to be one of the most effective and basic setups there is. As I mentioned before, when I drill this move, it seems to just start happening when I spar. And when I stopped drilling it, it was as if the opportunity for the move disappeared as well. Strange

Next up was inverted guard to triangle setup. I’m working on springing my hips up to the sky. I’m finding the visual image of reaching out and snatching their head down works best for me. I did 10 on each side.

I also worked a few of these without using grips so no foot on the bicep or anything. The advantage to doing it this way is you can actually spring from further out. The disadvantage is it’s a little harder to nail down the timing and I’m a little worried I’m going to accidentally kick people in the face!

Finally I’m working on entering into inverted guard from the x pass. This particular pass has always given me trouble as I’m still fighting for position when it’s too late. Once the legs are pinned down, it’s damn near impossible to pull into the direction of their push.

But what I’m finding is that if I straighten my legs and rotate in the direction of their push it almost “ab wheels” their arms. From here I can pop my hips out and go to a front headlock. Or I can continue the rotation and go to inverted guard.

So total rep count so far:
Wrist control triangle – 10
Inverted triangle with grips – 10
Inverted without grips – 5
X pass counter to inverted – 10

I’m really curious to see how the fluidity and timing feels in sparring when I’m up to 200 reps or so. As always I should have done this a long time ago but hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Tribute to Gary Claxton

Not to sound John Wayne about it, but you learn a lot about a guy when you bleed and sweat together as you try to beat the shit out of each other. When I moved out to Austin in July of 2006 one of the first things I looked for was a good jiu jitsu school. I had dabbled for a long time in it while I lived in LA but I made a deal with myself when I moved out here that I was going to fully dedicate myself to the art for the rest of my life.

Once I found William Vandry’s school and started training there I started hearing rumblings about this guy named Gary Claxton. Tough skilled men simply nodded their head as they all had the same tale of a 145-pound whirlwind of destruction. I was around the school quite a bit and never saw Gary as he had sustained a pretty serious neck injury and had just had surgery for it to fuse two disks together.

I also had some injuries but by October was training almost every day when I finally caught sight of the man. Frankly he’s the farthest thing you would ever think about when the word “fighter” is thrown out there. He’s slight framed, late 40’s and has a relaxed rockabilly look to him which makes sense as he’s also an awesome musician who plays at The Continental Club amongst other places.

I really didn’t get to train with Gary much at that point as he soon found out his vertebrae had not fused properly and he had to have surgery again.

I remember the day when he came in to class to tell everyone. His hair was slicked back and I’m sure he had a gig to play that night, but his face was solemn. Six months may not seem like a lot in the course of a lifetime but to someone who wants to be on the mats more than anything, it’s an eternity.

While Gary didn’t look happy, I noticed something: there was not an ounce of self-pity on his face. He took the whole thing like a man. As much as people may say they don’t make them that way anymore, it’s important to remember that they were made and some of them are still out there. Gary is one of them.

This time the surgery was a success and the months went by and Gary was back on the mats again. As with the last time, it was only a matter of weeks before he was terrorizing everyone. It’s not often that you meet someone with that fast of a pace who also backs it up with precision. Many have one or the other but I’ve only met a handful that have both.

As time went on Gary and I trained together more and more. It became an unspoken rule that we’d drill together and spar every time we both were in class. There were many times that I’d try to keep up with him but tornadoes are hard to chase. We’d exchange techniques and talk about new ideas we were working on all the time. He always impressed me with his open mindedness and constant pursuit of more knowledge. He still had the same wide-eyed wonder that many mistakenly lose thinking that they’ve “got it” or “understand” jiu jitsu. That is a lifetime pursuit that will never be fully realized.

He’d been training pretty consistently over the last few months so when the seminar came around today, I had a feeling it might finally be his day. There was something in the air that just made me so happy to be alive, to be around my friends and to have the opportunity to be training.

Will, my instructor, likes to have some of the assistant instructors sneak up behind people and slap them with belts. Usually he has a code word or phrase that they’re to listen for, then “Whack!” the person gets hit with their new belt.

Today Will started talking about fortitude and I felt a lump in my throat. I wanted it to be Gary so badly and when I looked up, I saw Jeremy, an assistant instructor behind Gary I had to look away because tears were in my eyes.

This can be a frustrating, mind boggling sport even without injuries.

This man in his late 40’s had been out almost two years with two major surgeries but there he was wearing the belt that he deserved. Gary gave a typically modest speech about not feeling ready for the belt but doing whatever he could to honor it.

I had to keep looking away because the tears were still in my eyes.

Some days everything is right in the world. Good people get what they deserve if they stick around long enough. Gary’s one of those people and I’m a better man for knowing him.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

3/5/09 jiu jitsu notes


Didn’t even suit up but watched class and ended up drilling the wrist control triangle set up from closed guard and inverted guard entries from when they start to pass as well as some inverted triangles.

Really see some good possibilities of either transitioning to inverted guard or just getting back to guard from the x pass where I just push my legs in the direction that he’s pushing. Should have the effect of almost a double armdrag and is very easy to spin into inverted.

Also just from the drilling seeing how I could spin around his leg to either the 50/50 heel hook or a cross body ankle lock. Having some hip issues right now so the training will be touch and go but the mind feels like I’m getting out of my fog a little bit.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

3/4/09 jiu jitsu training notes

Had a good training session tonight. Wanted to really work my passing and top game pressure but still take the submissions when they’re there. Rolled with RS and wanted to make sure I stayed on top and prevented x-guard attacks and Zapruder sweeps. So I kept my hips low and really tried to use shoulder pressure on his chin. Grabbing the skirt whenever possible to increase this as much as I can. This seems to make it easier to whip legs out. Also I’m working on being very conscious about not accepting the sweep. This is a bad habit I got in a while back since I wanted to work on my guard. I took every sweep as a gift to continue doing that, which is a big mistake. Pace felt pretty good but I was definitely tired at the end.

Also rolled with JC. Again wanted to keep that chin pressure going. Found it worked fairly well on the bottom as well to prevent the pass. I sometimes worry about pushing someone’s chin as it’s not the nicest thing to do, but it’s very effective in limiting the directions they want to go. Got to work a little inverted and saw some triangle opportunities but I wasn’t able to capitalize as well as I’d have like to. Felt very tired at the end and his pressure on side mount made me want to quit.

Almost got caught in a shin across the stomach arm lock from the bottom but was able to bump his “shin” knee with my knee to loosen it up.

Things done well

1) Top pressure. I still don’t feel like passes are flowing together as well as they should but limiting their upper body, especially head, movement is allowing me to get around the legs easier.
2) Inverted guard feels like it’s starting to make a comeback. Was able to get to it as I was being passed from a tornado roll which I’ve seen before and probably done but usually at that point I’d feel like I was passed so nice to still feel in the game.
3) Pushing the pace. I felt like I got the first move off and was able to dictate the pace

Things to work on
1) Keeping that pace without forcing moves and positions. For the most part things felt good but I did feel like I forced a few things.
2) Facing the reality that pushing the pace will make me tired. I may need to continue to work on my conditioning but it really may just me a matter of rolling with that pace and mindset more importantly that I need to get used to.
3) Drilling. I’m going to write about this in the next paragraph.

I had a long talk with my instructor yesterday and he mentioned that some of my finishes and triangles looked pretty good a few months ago. At first my inner George Costanza kicked in and I kept feeling like “I peaked. It’s all downhill from now!” And I kept scratching my head all day hoping that wasn’t true but wondering if it was.

But then I remembered what I was doing a few months ago. I was drilling reps of inverted triangles and just basic triangle from the guard when I got wrist control. And I saw a direct correlation to the number of triangles I’d get from both positions. I wasn’t even looking for them; the opportunities just seemed to appear.

So now it’s time to start drilling those two things along with pulling guard and my armlock sequence. I’ll do a minimum of 10 of each class each day I train and pick another day where I just do the drills rather than roll. I’d like to see where these moves are when I’ve logged 500 reps of each.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

more 3/3/09 jiu jitsu notes

Had to double down today as I wanted to drill just pulling guard as basic as that may sound. I just like the idea of becoming proactive in my attack rather than reacting and trying to get ahead of the game. This is a good first move for me to make that immediately puts them on the defensive. Many times there hands will hit the mat and I can clamp down for Williams guard or rubber guard stuff right away.

Passing felt a little better tonight as well. Starting to utilize grabbing the skirt to increase the torque when I push my shoulder into their chin. Helps the pass even when I feel loose on the hips.

Need to keep working on the simple armlock sequence but to me , just getting the guard pull down a few times was a good first step.

Also was able to do a move that my instructor did on me today where I go for one armlock and as they get their elbow to the ground I jam my hips in to get the triangle on the other side.

Things done well
1) Getting to closed guard and starting the attack
2) Chin pressure on the pass.
3) Rear naked squeeze.

Things to work on
1) Need to drill armlock from guard sequence more.
2) Once I get that better, throw in wrist control to triangles
3) Have one day a week of only drilling and add 10 minutes after each sparring session.
4) Passing still has good moments in a base, but times where I find myself watching their attack rather than moving forward with my pass. Want them to be defending the pass the whole time
5) Still need to remember my defense is my offense at this point. May make me uncomfortable and may need to push my conditioning more, but this is the only way for me to progress.

3/3/09 jiu jitsu notes

Rolled with DS and my instructor. DS crushed me. I had absolutely no answer. I couldn’t even figure out what I’d done wrong at first other than spar with the wrong guy ;) He was passing my guard at will, crushing me then collar choking me over and over. I was a beating, pure and simple. I had no offense what so ever and by the end I just decided he’s better and that’s the bottom line.

Rolled my instructor afterwards, which was of course, even more of a mauling, but a very precise one as it always is. He explained to me afterwards that at my size, I will never be able to deal with guys 60 plus pounds bigger if I’m just playing defensive like I’ve been playing. He said I was doing it well in January so hopefully I haven’t peaked already!

So it’s time to really attack again. I seem to come to that realization every few months then somehow forget again. My defense can only get so good but if they’re defending the whole time, maybe then it becomes a matter of time for them. I guess I’ll find out.
He gave me a good sequence about pulling guard from the knees which sounds dumb since I should already know such things but I don’t’.

Basically it involves controlling the collars high up the neck, stepping between his knees, then sitting down while snapping the collar hard down.

From there, we worked on collar and sleeve control then transitioned
1) to basic arm lock
2) if they keep their head in a little, lock over shoulder and armlock again
3) if the get their arm slightly out, leg over head and collar choke with one arm
4) if they try to block that with their other arm push their elbow
5) and if they get past your guard, keep sleeve control and you can end up getting a type of kimura/ umo plata (hard to explain)

he also talked about my half guard game being where I lose confidence. This is definitely true when people get past a certain weight as I can decide to try to whip up and single leg, electric chair, go back to full guard and by the time I done debating that, they’ve long since passed.

Things done well
1) Attitude. I really don’t think I did much of anything right physically, but I’m still inspired and will put these lessons to use in my next training sessions.

Things to work on
1) Half guard. Just need to make a choice, some choice…any choice, other than sitting there.
2) Inverted guard. Where oh where art though?
3) Getting to closed guard.
4) Patience in closed guard.
5) Attacks immediately after closed guard.
6) Actively attacking rather than “defending the pass”

Sunday, March 1, 2009

3/1/09 - today's workout

Today’s workout:

Really getting into kettelbells again. My gym has several sets along with a climbing rope and many other cool toys to play with. Modeled workout on Team Quest barbell circuit,

Used two 36lbers for the workout

3 rounds of 6 reps of:
bent over rows
power cleans
military press
squat press (thrusters)
staggered squats
swings (with one dumbbell)
1 rope climb with no legs

rested a minute between rounds. Shoulders felt pretty tired by the end and I want to ease into this. Long term goal is 6 sets with 1 minute rest.

After this did two rounds of
Close grip pushups on medicine ball x 15
Turkish getups with 26lb kettlebell – 3/arm

And finally 1 set of leg blasters (first learned about these from JC Santana’s website). All exercises back to back with no rest.
Free squats – 24
Lungers – 24
Jumping lunges – 24
Jump squats – 12
Would like to build up to 3 rounds non stop on this.

Overall goals are to increase metabolic conditioning capabilities as to really get my jiu jitsu to the next level, I need to not be afraid of getting tired. I don’t have the size to really be lazy. Feel good and energized like I could do more, but like the idea of leaving some gas in the tank for next time.