Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New website!

Sorry blogger.com you've been replaced!

I'm moving to www.fiskbjj.com

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I’ve been injured a lot over the last year. It started with shoulder problems, continued with a broken foot, then torn labrum in one hip, then a sports hernia and torn labrum in the other hip.

As I plan out my return, I keep thinking about the concept of picking my battles wisely

While my ego and overall quest to master jiu jitsu would like to say that it’s important for me to learn how to deal with a 240 pound wrestler crushing me in side mount and be able to escape easily, the reality is I’m 36 and 180 pounds. It’s probably a smarter use of my time to learn better ways of preventing that crushing sidemount from ever happening.

And while I agree it’s important to explore all positions, I also think that positions were designed to have one person inflict maximum damage at minimum risk. Which would imply that the other person is getting most of the damage and most of the risk.

So I think one solution is drilling details of the in between “grey area” moments.

What I mean by this is rather than constantly working on my sidemount escapes I want to work on the moments when my opponent is past my legs but hasn’t passed the guard. There is a whole world of the “in between” that I all but ignore in lieu of working my “side mount defense”.

This “in between” is everywhere. I notice it a lot when dealing with D’arces, half nelsons and guillotines. While there are defense to all of these, I’d rather spend my time working on proper underhooking, head position and correct hand fighting so my opponent never has a chance to do these in the first place.

It also means looking at some of my offense from the guard. While I love the triangle, it’s time to really pick my moments on that attack. I see people attempt the triangle all the time while letting themselves get stacked. I’ve done it many times and while many times I would get the tap, it still started to wreak havoc on my neck and upper back.

So I think the golden rule now will be to get my opponent out of position while keeping a strong position myself and then getting the submission. A triangle when they’re falling forward out of base is a good thing. When it’s with your own knees in your face, it’s not.

I guess all of this comes down to wanting my jiu jitsu to age gracefully.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The zero point

To me, one of the most hindering things that can happen in my jiu jitsu progress is when a technique starts to work too well.

A lot of times it will work because my training partner reacts just the right way for it to be the right moment for that technique to work. And while it’s good to know how to recreate that magic, I think it’s more important to know when that magic isn’t there.

Almost every time I feel myself start to force a technique it’s because I’m focused on a time it did work. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve held on to a triangle when it was slipping off because I was remembering the times it didn’t slip.

It seems like it becomes more important to remember why things were successful and to be completely honest with myself when they’re not. I’m trying to temper my ego in situation where I know a quick movement or a little more “oomph” would make the technique “work”

I remember a long time ago when Rickson talked about the idea of getting to a neutral or “zero” point where he had no expectations of his opponent and he was “connected with the variations.”

It reminds me of when I took acting classes years ago. Our teacher always told us to do as much preparation for the character as possible and to know our lines backwards and forwards. But when it came time for the cameras to roll, he said we had to throw all the preparation out and see where the moment leads. We couldn’t go into the scene with any preconceived notions as to what we were going to do or the other people in the scene were going to do because that would come across on film as disingenuous. He’d always remind us that, “the camera never lies.”

Jiu jitsu never lies either. There is an answer to every situation. It takes a certain type of discipline to fully acknowledge that verses trying to make a situation something it’s not. This inevitably turns into fear and panic, especially if the situation becomes further complicated.

For me this is the next step in my jiu jitsu. I am most effective when I am relaxed, but right now this is limited to certain situations. I want to adapt this to all situations. It’s a lifetime project so I better get started now!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Position vs Submission vs Control

When I started jiu jitsu, “position position position” was drilled into my head. Back then they told us good position would allow you to control and dominate your opponent, whether it was jiu jitsu or fighting. And when you got a superior position, you did everything you could to hold it.

But as people were learning jiu jitsu, things were changing. It was no longer a done deal when someone got position on someone. Before that, when a jiu jitsu guy got the mount or the back the fight was over. But once people started learning how to defend and to escape, the idea of just holding position seemed to wane, even with punches.

As my training continued, I started seeing other types of games that were more submission oriented. The goal was to get the tap and if you spent all your time holding position, you were stalling. Now these were mainly in jiu jitsu situations so no punches were being thrown so one could argue position with punches leads to the submission.

Without the punches, and with the influence of leg locks things really started to change in jiu jitsu too. Your legs can do many things to defend the pass but when you’re worried about someone dropping back for an ankle lock or spinning to a knee bar it changes the game.

With no gi, the heelhook further complicates this situation.

So at some point, for me, it seemed like there were two possibilities: be a submission guy or be a control guy. And in my own training, I would go back and forth on that. Usually it depended on what I could do to the opponent: there were people I could tap and there were ones I could only get position on.

I would fall back on controlling people that were hard to tap. And the control always felt like a type of panic. I was exerting a lot of energy and muscle trying to keep them put. When I’d go in submission mode, I’d let them move more, which felt fine as long as they weren’t a threat.

But over the last few weeks I’m beginning to see something different. I’m thinking that the real object is control. And most times control is about not only having position, but putting the opponent out of position.

Position and control are deeply intertwined. But to control someone doesn’t mean just to keep him immobile. I think more than anything it’s about putting them out of position, giving them a series of bad options.

I was watching a wrestling instructional by Cael Sanderson where he talked about not worrying about what takedown he was going to do on his opponent. He simply wanted to put the guy out of position and from there the correct takedown would appear.

From a jiu jitsu point of view, I look at this as modifying the concept of any position.

Take the closed guard. For a long time I’ve worked on breaking posture. I figured as long as the head was down, I had opportunities to attack while the other guy had to work himself back into position.

Against someone with good base or someone big and strong, this quickly would turn into me trying to hold them down and hopefully catch an arm or a choke when they were on their way up. It often felt like a 50/50 moment where they would either posture out completely or I’d catch the submission.

And this always bothered me. I don’t like even odds in a situation like this and it’s certainly not something I’d want to teach to someone either. Jiu jitsu is about stacking the deck in your favor.

For a long time, I felt like maybe the answer was just going for more submissions or sweeps. Maybe going for the pendulum sweep or rolling for the knee bar would keep them on the defensive.

This would work, but only up to a certain point.

A higher-level player is waiting for these submissions and will use it as an opportunity to advance his position or to attack with a counter submission.

So was lost in what to do past a certain point. It felt like controlling was involving too much strength and that submissions had too low odds. Both ideas seemed limited by either physical or skill elements.

But both ideas are also not really jiu jitsu.

Throwing up submissions looks flashy but stops working on people when they get past a certain skill or size or combination of the two.

And simply trying to pin someone or keep them in your guard is not only boring it also does not motivate a calm person to do anything. So if you’re crushing someone who isn’t bothered by being crushed, it’s only a matter of time until you get tired.

I think it’s mainly that the mentality is wrong. The idea of holding someone implies that if they escape, you have failed. You want the person to try to escape. You just want to give him only bad escapes.

So rather than a crush, it becomes collar bone control, neck pressure, far hip control and more combinations of specific pressure. If your opponent has to realign their body first and then escape second, you can always be a step ahead of him.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The importance of wrestling for jiu jitsu

For a long time I looked at wrestling as a separate entity from jiu jitsu. I figured that yes, the takedowns were important and wrestlers did them best, but the rest of wrestling was essentially useless for jiu jitsu as there was a different goal in the end: the pin vs the tap. So while I would train it from time to time, it was always just from the standup.

But lately, I’ve been seeing how being a jiu jitsu guy who looks at wrestling as just a way to take someone down is as limiting as a wrestler learning just enough jiu jitsu to prevent themselves from being submitted.

While the end goal may be different, what lies in the middle is the same, which is control. Both systems should use leverage, handles and misalignment to force an opponent to react to an increasingly bad set of options. And both systems have follow up moves that are specific to the opponent’s reaction. Interestingly, I notice that most wrestling instruction incorporates this more than jiu jitsu tends to.

I look at takedown defense and defending the guard pass and see how similar those two things are. In both cases, for the most part, the object of the person taking someone down or passing the guard is to control the opponent’s hips.

And the goal of the person defending is to prevent their hips from being controlled. Common counters for both are things like
pushing the opponent’s head away from the hips, controlling their wrist and keeping your hips square to them.

Take downs are often set up by disturbing someone’s posture and when they compensate, that’s when the shot is taken. That’s very similar to most sweeps from the guard.

I learned yesterday about the concept of the spiral ride as a way to pin someone. It’s also as great way to take their back, work a twister or an armlock.

The front headlock set ups in wrestling can quickly take the match down in a D’arce,/anaconda/arm in guillotine position.
There are so many opportunities to use wrestling in the standup to enforce your jiu jitsu on the ground beyond just taking someone down.

And even if you may not be able to take someone down, using wrestling concepts from the stand up can allow you to flow into your jiu jitsu attacks much better than just jumping to guard.

I think this will be my main project in my own training this year.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Doing what you want verses doing what you need

Everyone knows that doing what you want verses what you need are not always the same thing. I’ve always felt like I had a good grasp of this and, in a way, have been very lucky, as I generally like to do things that I thought were good for me.
Working out, in some form or another, has been a staple of my life for over 18 years now.

When I started it was all about getting big and strong. Like many a young man, I thought muscles were the solutions to my problems.

As that faded and my interest in jiu jitsu increased, I started searching for the ever-elusive “functional” exercises.
This led me to the somewhat bizarre subculture of kettlebells, crossfit etc. where people were obsessed with doing all sorts of crazy exercises, then showing off their physiques and claiming they didn’t care about looking good, it just sort of happened.
It always seemed strange to me to be so obsessed with trying to not care about looking like you worked out and yet constantly talking about working out, then putting down people who actually admitted they worked out.

But I bought into it, and thus dropped my “bodybuilding” routines and started my “functional fitness” routines.

I did just about everything you can think of from combat conditioning, to Crossfit, to kettlebells, Ross training, caveman training, Tabata intervals and a whole bunch of other things I’m forgetting.

Some things seemed to work better than others. I definitely noticed certain types of conditioning seemed to help my endurance on the mat and certain types of weightlifting helped make me bigger and stronger.

I know, good work Sherlock.

But I also noticed something else: Injuries. Lots of them.

Obviously jiu jitsu is a sport that is always going to lead to injuries. But at some point I knew I would have to really examine my attachment to always “working out” in the way that I had and what it was really doing to my body.

I had a friend who had been doing jiu jitsu longer than me who had come to this same revelation and started doing posture exercises and was able to rid himself of many of the chronic and acute injuries he had from doing jiu jitsu.

I started doing these exercises but refused to quit jiu jitsu for even a few weeks and continued to “supplement” my training with lifting, conditioning work and whatever else I felt I wanted to do.

The result was continual jiu jitsu progress and consistent injuries.

But I continued on, thinking that if I just got a little stronger, more conditioned, more flexible or some other answer, my game would keep improving and it would be worth it.

And in a way it was. I wanted to get my black belt and I got it. Life was good. But once I got that goal, I started to think about what my next goal was.

I decided that it was time to really be honest with myself.

All these supplemental activities were helping injuring me as much as they were helping my jiu jitsu. And while that made sense to me before, that simply was no longer the type of math I wanted in my life.

What I want now, at 35, is for supplemental activities that make me healthier and offset the damage that jiu jitsu has done to my body.

Part of this formula is to really give my posture work a real shot. And that means no jiu jitsu at all for a few months.

It’s been four weeks of no training and two and a half of posture work. My program will change every week as my posture coach examines the changes in my posture.

So far it’s been interesting to feel some of the changes. The injuries are still there, although feel like they’re fading. I can feel my weight more in the balls of my feet than my heels. My hips are starting to finally be above my knees rather than behind them.

It took a long time to get this bad so it will take a long time to get better.

And if I can rid myself of these injuries, the next step is to start adding more activities rather than “exercise” into my life.
In my mind this means things like hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, swimming, and even playing on a jungle gym.

All these activities can make me stronger and more conditioned but more than anything they can make me a better athlete.

For so long I wanted to train like the jiu jitsu champions trained when it finally dawned on me that I don’t want to be a jiu jitsu champion. I want to master jiu jitsu as best I can and still be healthy enough to do a lot of other fun stuff.

This revelation has been bizarrely freeing and I’m excited to see where it leads.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Getting healthy

The goal for the next two months is to work on being healthy. I have golfers elbow in both arms, especially my right one. I have some type of piriformis strain in my left leg that has been there for almost four months. And most significantly I have a labral tear on my right hip.

I had a proltherapy injection for the hip on Dec 7, 2009. I immediately went back to training jiu jitsu and lifting weights. About 9 days later the hip started flaring up so I took a week off. I trained sporadically until last week when I trained on Monday and Tuesday (Jan 5th and 6th). I also lifted weights on Jan 6th and did plyo jumps onto a box.
The next day my hip flared up again. Saw my prolo doc and we both agreed that I needed to get a PRP prolotherapy injection, which I got on Tuesday (Jan 12 2010)

I have a follow up March 9th, which is 8 weeks from now.

The goal between then and now is not to get in the way of healing.
In my mind that means limiting my hip flexion and internal twisting as much as possible. What it really means is no jiu jitsu, or at least no sparring. I’d rather take two months than continue to push myself towards a surgery that I don’t believe is really effective and would put me out for most of the year.

I look at this as an opportunity to address a few things I have been avoiding.

Number one is the other injuries I have. The piriformis issue may just be a matter of ART treatment and rest. The same could be said for the elbow issues. They may also need some prolotherapy injections as well.

Number two is continuing to work on my posture exercises. I have been very inconsistent with this over the past year or so. I’m pretty sure that some of my hip problems are caused by the extensive pelvic tilt I have so now is a good chance to work on correcting that. I’m going to be in contact with Geoff Gluckman once a month to update my programs.
I’m also going to take pictures once a week to monitor my progress much more closely.

The third thing I’m going to focus on is swimming. I tried this last year when I was also doing a lot of weight training. The result was an inflamed rotator cuff in my right shoulder.

I’m confident that if I focus on my posture work and drop the weight training, I can start swimming with less strain on the shoulder. The kicking motions of the freestyle stroke involve minimal hip flexion so I should be able to spare my hip some discomfort.

This is a great chance to really delve into an exercise system which is very practical in terms of real world survival that I have never really worked on before.

For additional cardio work, I’ll hike and jump rope. The goal is to minimize hip flexion and do as many “natural” movements as possible.

The goal is to be pain free by March 15th 2010.