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.