I”m finally completely over my superflu, and thus have begun training at home again. My cardio, strength, and flexibility are all good, certainly sufficient for me to go five or six HARD six-minute grappling rounds, which I”ve been doing at practice, after technique and specific training. At this point I”m not sure what my goals are going to be, conditioning-wise, so for today I did intervals, which are always a good default workout. My knees are pretty sore, and my biceps are VERY sore from pulling on gis and defending armbars, so I didn”t do any pullups or leg work. I did:
Round One: one minute each of pushups, kimura situps, supermans, overhead kettlebell press, kettlebell upright rows.
rest interval: one minute of shadow standup, focusing on exploding into my opponent for the takedown.
Round Two: one minute each of bear crawl pushups, kimura situps, supermans, overhead kettlebell press, band pull-aparts.
rest interval: same as above.
Round Three: pushups with feet elevated, cobra pushups, overhead kettlebell press, one-arm kettlebell rows, kimura situps, lying side leg raises, overhead side bends, supermans.
After that I did a neck session–neck nods, ear-to-shoulder, chin-to-shoulder, and wrestler”s bridges, followed by three sets of the wrist roller.
BJJ practice has been going really well–my instructor is touring his schools in Europe so we”ve had a rotation of guest instructors, always a good thing to get different perspectives…I”ve been forcing myself to try lots of new things in practice, in some cases they work and some not, but I think it”s important to keep expanding my game. the positions that I work best from are the top side-mount, top head-and-arm position, and the bottom guard; my LEAST favorite positions are bottom north-to-south and bottom knee mount, so I am going to work on developing better strategies for dealing with those. Onward and upward….
I had one of the best training sessions that I’ve ever head last night…once it was over and I was driving home I realized that I didn’t win a single sparring round, and that’s okay, as I was going against two people with skill levels far greater than mine. One was the guest instructor–my regular instructor is touring his schools in Europe–the other is the best grappler that we have (in my opinion), Eric….the first time I rolled with Eric he tapped me in seconds, repeatedly, and that was quite unusual for me. Due to various factors (illness, scheduling etc) we hadn’t rolled in a couple of months, so I immediately picked him to grapple with to see how I’ve been improving, and I was able to negate many of his attacks and work my positioning fairly well. He got me in the end of course but with people at his level I focus on improving my defense and positions. I am VERY GLAD to be able to notice such improvements in these areas, and I am really motivated to continue training…
I had an outstanding practice last night, one of those where I was just “on”…I sparred two five-minute rounds and tapped both of the guys I sparred with several times while not tapping myself….deliberately took bad positions in order to work out of them, and I used a new technique that I got from Renzo Gracie’s excellent book MASTERING JUJITSU, a neck-crank turnover. I hadn’t even practiced the move once, but the setup is so easy–from the bottom guard I raised up like I was going for a guillotine choke (as if I would be using my right arm to choke under the neck), then hooked my arm under the armpit instead of bringing it under the neck; brought my left arm over his back, clasped hands, and used the back of my right arm to put pressure on his neck–sortof like a reverse full-nelson, the same type of neck action. This took his ability to use his arms away, instead of applying the crank from bottom guard I wanted to see if I could reverse positions, and I could-I swept him then tapped him with the neck crank–it was sweet. This move rocks because it’s a natural transition from a guillotine attempt–one can flow from a kimura lock to a guillotine to a neck-crank turnover to a sweep, keeping the pressue up until one of the moves sinks in. I also got a lot of wrist locks off–they are easy and one needn’t lose position to get them, and often the opponent doesn’t see them coming–one of the times I had taken my partner’s back, he was defending the choke and I got him in the wrist lock from behind instead.
Overall I am feeling much better today–I don’t need any flu meds and can tell that I am well into recovery, which makes me really happy. My jiu-jitsu instructor is leaving tomorrow to visit his schools in Europe, we are going to have three instructors visit us for the duration which is very cool, I am always glad to train with as many new people as possible, I think that such is very important. I will exercise this morning, and then do class tonight….as I’m better but still not fully recovered I’m just going to work on strength-endurance and not push the intense cardio, staying with high-rep calisthenics and lots of core and neck work; I will wait at least two weeks after I’m fully recovered to start pushing the cardio, but once I do I am going to WORK IT!!! NAGA is in April, and the NAGA Midwestern Grappling Championships are tentatively scheduled for the fall—and I want to do well in both of these. remember–anything can happen in a fight, you can be 99% on but if you slip for just a moment your opponent can capitalize, conditioning is the one thing that you have total control over, don’t slack off in this area, because your opponent probably isn’t…
So I”ve been having trouble with my half-guard from the bottom position–with many people I don”t feel like I have good control with a standard half-guard leg closure (closing my legs as if I were pulling full guard) OR with the figure-four leg closure…of course my job in half-guard bottom is to sweep or submit so I don”t want to lay there forever stalling, but when I want to control position I want to CONTROL position, and I haven”t felt like I had a good way to do this.
BUT–now I think I do.
I”ve been reading books on jiu-jitsu in an attempt to evaluate this problem, and I think I”ve found a solution. This comes from Eddie Bravo”s first book, Jiu-Jitsu Unleashed, which begins with the half-guard. He uses a variation that he calls the Lockdown, where e.g. the person on bottom brings their left leg over the top person”s right leg, and then brings their (the person on bottom) right leg over their left foot and then under the right ankle of the top opponent; from there the bottom person extends their hips which effectively takes away the top”s leg as a post….from there it”s simply a matter of pummeling in to secure double underhooks, and then working the bottom game from there. I haven”t used this in practice yet, I got the book last night and tried it on Lauren and it seemed secure. I”m pretty sure that if I can lock one leg down I can hook the arm on the same side and easily sweep–Bravo”s sweeps are different than that, some of them look interesting but I need to adapt whatever I can use of his stuff to MY style—his is WAAAAAY more agility based, and while I am athletic and fairly agile I tend to use strength more than he does (he”s admittedly not very strong at all).
I haven”t had a chance to report on my standing guard pass technique mentioned below, as all we”re currently working on is half-guard, but as soon as I see how it works I will detail here, as I will also with the Lockdown.
Another technique I”ve learned is a gi-choke from the half-guard top–the Brazilians call it a “Bravo Choke”…if a person is on bottom half-guard and curled up into the body of the person on top, the top takes the corner of their gi, wraps it around the back of their neck, overhooks their upward-facing arm and feeds the gi to that hand, then takes their free hand, posts it on the bottom person”s shoulder and levers the throat….it”s a nice choke IF someone has a sufficiently long gi–chokes like this are harder with heavier guys who tend to have shorter upper gis—the gi needs to be longer to get around their bulk.
I exercised (independently of class) for the first time yesterday since I”ve been sick–I did a quick mini-workout, first I did a core/crunch video, followed by 100 pushups, 40 pullups, some high-rep kettlebell work and a thorough neck-workout…felt good, I will ease back into exercising slowly then up the intensity as I feel better.
It”s been a long times since my last blog post—I caught the superflu and was OUT…I kept training at first, but eventually got to the point where I was simply too depleted to continue. My intent was to make t to the Gracie Barra internal competition, compete, then rest up from there, but Iwasn”t able to do this. But, my good friend and training partner Garfield won our weight category, and I am very glad for him.
For my training this week I am going to only go to class, I won”t be doing any conditioning work besides rolling, as I need to let my body adjust to training again, and as I still have a tiny bit of the flu left in me–I just can”t put training off anymore, the lack thereof is driving me crazy.
I did learn a good defense for someone hooking the leg during a standing guard pass (I read lots of jiu-jitsu books while ill and practiced this on my girlfriend Lauren a bit)…typically if i went for a standing guard pass and someone hooked my leg I”d just drop back down, reestablish my base and then either pass from there or attempt to explode up and pass from standing again. The defense is simple and, now that I know it, seemingly obvious: when someone shifts their body in the direction of your lead leg in order to hook it, lean your bodyweight directly over that leg, bring your elbow to that leg thereby trapping their leg, then step back with your rear leg and press down on their knee, breaking their guard. I am going to work this into rolling as soon as I am able—probably tonight—and I think that it will work much of the time…shifting my bodyweight to the lead leg made it”s position secure, she couldn”t pull it away from it”s position. I will report my results from this once I have them.
I’ve been sick the past few days, tonight was my first night back at practice. We worked on basics–a takedown from a double underhooked clinch using a leg hook, a guard pass and a stacking guard pass. This Sunday we will be having an internal competition at Gracie Barra, I am looking forward to it regardless of whether I am 100% or not physically.
This quote by Sam Sheridan (if you haven’t read his book A Fighter’s Heart then you should do so–it is one of the best on the topic) aptly summarizes some of my love for jiu-jitsu:
“By now, we all know that jiu-jitsu, the art suave, if not just a martial art–but an aesthetic art as well. It’s an expression of creativity, personality, style and ego in a world of danger and opposition. It’s purely confrontational and at the same time uniquely collaborative.”
My BJJ instructor–Carlos Lemos Jr–multiple world, Brazilian, pan-american and national champion–says that he can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she rolls; in this regard, jiu-jitsu is both a psychological profile and a method of personality development, IF THE PRACTITIONER IS STRONG ENOUGH TO ALLOW IT TO BE SO. Real fighting (as opposed to fake styles of “martial arts”) offers the opportunity to release the slavish conditioning that our/western culture fosters and instead embrace qualities of character that allow for empowerment. The key is to allow the ego, the primarily conditioned set of ideas that one has about oneself and the world, to get out of the way and instead embrace the experience of exercise of resistance in the present moment. As we roll and fight we learn our place in the food chain of combat, and this knowledge is humbling, motivating, and empowering all at the same time.
Jiu-jitsu/grappling/submission fighting/MMA is a constantly evolving organism, and its essentially live nature is what allows for us to embrace truth….we KNOW if a technique works, we KNOW if our opponent is more or less advanced than us, we KNOW that no matter how much we learn there is a constantly unfolding path that deepens as we do, allowing us to know our true natures, which develop with and through this path…when we fight we aren’t just fighting our opponents, we are fighting those aspects of ourselves that keep us small, weak, and mindless.
Day Five: Today was the competition class, where we basically perform an hour of competition drills at HIGH speed…typically we will do drills for two minutes, then instead of rest we grip-fight for one minute, then back to drills. I really enjoy grip-fighting, it’s fun to calibrate my opponent’s reaction, then lead them…for the first few times I’d go for a cross-collar and elbow grip, once he started anticipating that I’d fake the same, then as he went to defend I’d instead go for a thai clinch, or underhooks, or a double-leg. Learning to lead your opponent is good–if you can keep him playing YOUR game he won’t have as much time to implement his.
Day Six: Today we worked some more on the half-guard, from both top and bottom positions. I tend to not like the half-guard as much because my legs are long, and while the bottom guard is great with me I don’t feel like I get as secure a closure with the half-guard. On the bottom we worked on a nice control involving moving from double underhooks to passing my head under the hooked arm of my opponent in order to hook their leg, then executing various reversals from there. From the top of the half-guard we worked on passing into side-control and the mount. after class I did stayed a bit over and did some supersets of parallel-grip pullups and jumping burpees. After that we did specific training, rolling for position from the half-guard.
Day Seven: This is my only scheduled rest day, and it must be working because I’m chomping at the bit to get at it tomorrow!
Today was supposed to be an impromptu off day–typically I would have BJJ this evening, but I have to take my daughter to a birthday party, and I thought that a day off would help my injuries…BUT I ended up doing a core and leg workout–basically lots of crunches, side bends, back raises, squats, and lunges–followed by a few four-minute rounds of working takedown positioning from my grappling stance. At this point in my grappling “career” I prefer takedowns to throws and sweeps, they utilize my power better and they”re not as technical as the judo-type moves, which, though I”m working on them, I don”t know if I can actually pull them off in competition.
I”ve got a cool move I”m working on–basically backing up to get my opponent moving forward, then shooting in fast for the takedown while he”s moving toward me. I drilled that a LOT, along with some duck-under movement and general footwork from my wrestling/grappling stance. I then finished with wrestler”s bridges, foam-rolling, and stretching.
Morning: I did a mini-workout; 100 jumping jacks, 100 squats, 100 pushups, 100 kimura situps, followed by foam-rolling and 40 minutes of stretching.
Evening: We worked on a hip-toss from an underhooked clinch, followed by kimuras and sweeps. After that we rolled for 20-30 minutes, I did well, won my matches against all except for a three-striped blue belt–can”t remember his name, last night was the first time we”ve attended the same class and his name wasn”t on his gi–who got me every time…I think he has a few more years experience beyond the atoledo time that his blue belt would signify, he was very relaxed and his structure was great….I”ll be glad to roll with him again.
We received good news last night, we (Gracie Barra Countryside) are going to have an internal competition in three weeks….this will give us some more experience in formal competition structure, and will, of course, be FUN!!!