Saturday, July 31, 2010

To Be In Awe

I sat out takedown drills today. My knee is seriously strange and worst when driving for a takedown, so I figured I would ensure that I could do groundwork by sitting out the takedowns. I got a strange sideways look and questions from Klint, but I think it was the right choice for my body. Plus, I got to watch how other people approached single legs. But really, today was all about Jeremy.

Jeremy is a purple, and wicked awesome. All-American National Champion wrestler in college, he competed in the Pan Ams this year as a blue belt and won both his weight and the absolute. Rumor has it that Lloyd Irvin was in awe of Jeremy, as he took down every single one of his opponents. At one point, someone asked Jeremy and Klint what the set-up would look like at speed, and I swear to god, if you had blinked you wouldn't have seen his set-up and shot. He has monster skills, and he might be 160 lbs, 5'10", and the nicest dude you'll ever meet on the street. Apparently, he's also 6-0 in professional fights.

I also watched this video this week, Marcelo Garcia rolling with Ben Askren.

Marcelo looks like he's moving in slow motion. And he's just wrecking Askren. The choke at the end is nothing short of obscene. I'm wondering how best to approach my own game when watching people whom I want to emulate are light years above me. I can't move too fast, at least at the beginning, because I'll miss some of the finer points of the technique. I can't take forever setting up the technique and getting my grips just so, because everyone at the academy will eat me alive. I guess it's just more and more mat time. Bonanza chokes don't just happen.

Rolls went well today. Went up against Ed, and old blue belt. I went to guard after not being able to turn my grips into anything, and worked my ass off in guard. I got one tap, and he got into side control the second time and ended up choking me somehow. It was a good roll; I swept him with my omoplata again, but my under the knee grip is not really conducive to finishing the submission right now, The guy rolls before I can sit up and scoot out. With Ed, I was able to establish side control without sacrificing my neck or my weight. But the sweep is working, even if I can't finish the submission. I taped Zach a few times and New John and I finally rolled a bit.

Belt test Friday, so I will dedicate most of the week to the threads and drills that I need to know. I'll miss the rolling, but it's possible that I'll be able to get some rolling in during class or a few 50-50s after wards, trying to get to specific techniques.

Friday, July 30, 2010

More Open Mat

It was Friday, and my night shift at the restaurant got cancelled because of possibly inclement weather and a complete inability to predict midwestern storms, so Andy and I returned to Edina for some mat time.

My feeling of comfort on the mat was not something that lasted only at our home academy; I rolled with two whites (one of whom I rolled with last week), a purple named Tim, and Andy to finish off the session. It was good. I refused to accept being on the bottom as easily as I did last week, and that translated to a lot more action and a lot more offense. Strange how listening to your black belt instructor will bring that about. The first white was a guy named Eric.....big, burly, but untempered. I worked my whizzer a bit and tried to throw a triangle, but I got sloppy. I don't remember how that fight ended, but I know that he swept me at one point. Josh was my second roll, and I was much more aggressive this week than last. I tried attacking on the knees rather than falling to my back (something that was completely absent last week) and when I did accept guard, I worked for sweeps and subs the whole time. I've taken Klint's advice to keep looking for their arms. Far-side armbars might be my favorite moves to catch. I landed one kimura, and got into a triangle from a platform armbar position, rolled him onto his back and started working the shoulder lock while the mounted triangle strangled him. Something popped in his elbow, but he said he was alright. I still stopped and worried that I might have injured him. I didn't think the lock was that tight, but he seemed alright at the end of the night.

Tim, the purple, wrecked me nineteen ways. He would start standing, which was a new challenge for me. He passed my guard and threw me into side control. He choked me a few ways that I didn't know chokes would work. It isn't like I was completely immobilized, but his shoulder pressure is outstanding and he keeps his weight impressively low. I did shoot and catch a triangle/platform armbar position at one point: he identified it and guarded his arm while he stepped up, so I hooked his leg, grabbed his sleeve and went for the omoplata. I swept him (couldn't stop his roll---running theme), but right as i was establishing top control, he slapped on an inverted triangle and tapped me. I guess the sweep is a good sign, but I need to work on establishing top sooner. And Better.

Andy didn't fare quite as well today as he did yesterday. At the end, he said to me, "Damn, you're just angry today, aren't you?" Probably five minutes of rolling, and I got him in a wrist lock from omoplata control, a bow and arrow choke, and a triangle. The triangle ended up hurting my leg....something that used to happen only when I locked my right foot into my left knee, and it happened locking my left foot into my right knee. I iced it at home and all was good after about 20 minutes, but I'm partly concerned that my legs will simply fall off at one point. Until then, I intend to keep throwing them around guys' arms and necks in hopes of feeling that wondrous tap-tap-tap that tells me I've won.

The live-rolling part of training has become both a welcome change and a mildly infuriating detour. I noticed today that I haven't successfully pulled off any of the sweeps we've spent so much time working at Klint's against anyone from Damian's---the most successful sweep thus far for me is the omoplata sweep. I'm not entirely sure that I've even tried a scissor sweep yet, I haven't locked in the position for a pendulum against the other side, and I haven't found an opportunity to attempt a butterfly guard sweep yet (my feet always seem to be in the wrong place). I have hit a few omoplatas, I've turned a guard triangle into a mounted triangle, but I haven't straight up swept that many people. That's going to me by next goal---land a few sweeps. Get comfortable turning the tid eand starting to attack immediately.

Really, though, I can't complain. Instead of spending my night waiting tables and getting a little frustrated at life, I got to spend almost 2 hours rolling and working my jits. Many, many worse ways to spend a Friday night.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Getting Out of Side Control

We worked a lot of the same things tonight that we worked on Tuesday. Getting out of side control. We also worked in Saulo's "running escape" and baiting the mount defense. The whole "work your defense so that you can be offensive without worrying about getting put in a bad position" is pretty great, but it does mean that you spend a lot of training time in bad positions. We had an odd number tonight, so I was the lucky one who got to drill the techs with Klint during class. So I got to work a little harder and hit the finer points of transitioning the escape into an offensive opportunity, turning the elbow escape into taking his back and choking, clamping the wrist tight in my armpit to lock the armbar tight and fast.

I do have a problem with getting cut in class. It isn't generally "cut" in the traditional combat sports sense---I got a mat-burn on the bridge of my nose a while back, and it was bad enough to bleed. Now, I can't get through class without someone's gi sleeve (usually Andy, and his Padilla gi is brutally rough) rubbing it open again. So that happened. And then, as I was rolling with Klint, he was transitioning to try to lock a kimura, his knee landed in my eye and opened a cut on my eyelid. I'm used to the black eyes and the bruises all over my torso, but these facial cuts are going to take some adjustment. On the plus, though, I totally feel like the guys in Fight Club to go to work bruised and bloody and just dare someone to ask about their wounds. Yes, these are cuts. Yes, they are from training. No, I don't care about them. Yes, I'm limping because I'm sore from fighting and my knees are telling me to walk softer. No, I will not take a night off class to "let them heal." Sounds boring.

All the same, I'm still feeling fairly comfortable on the mat. After class, I trained a bit with Kyle and stayed dominant on him. Andy is really coming along; he had my back for most of two minutes and got closer to tapping me than he ever has. I stayed calm and kept working to get back to a safer position, but he wasn't having it. It was the point of the drill, and it was good to see his game coming so far along, even if I was on the wrong end of it. Then with Klint, the game turned from attacking to trying to attack and failing and working not to get tapped. And that takes some work, and it always fails because he has lots of set-ups for his kimuras and his armbars and chokes, but I think I might have lasted two whole minutes. My hip movement is getting better, and I can get his knee off my belly without gift-wrapping my elbow for him.

I'm considering signing up for a tournament in October up here in MN. I know I'd still be a white belt, and I would feel pretty good about that. But the tournament is the one free weekend between three weddings I have to attend, and I'm not sure what my work-load for classes is going to look like yet. I think I want to compete at some point, just to see what it's like to face someone who doesn't have any organizational affiliation with you, someone whom you have to respect but with whom you share nothing. I'll check my syllabi when I get them and see what's what. As it is, I've got my belt testing a week from tomorrow and have yet to learn a few of the components of the test. Iggitty. Should be fun though. And nothing like a new belt to keep my jacket closed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Wrestling Sucks. [Brenna tells me I should end my post here. I'm going to charge on in spite of her.]

Camarillo's system has started incorporating a shit-ton more wrestling into the curriculum because, as Dave says, "if you don't know wrestling, your jiu jitsu sucks." I'm not arguing his basic point, nor am I saying that knowing wrestling will do nothing to enhance my jiu jitsu and my overall fitness. I'm just saying that it sucks as a warm-up. Jeremy teaches our wrestling curriculum rather than Klint because Jeremy is a national champion wrestler and Klint isn't. It gives us a much more technical look at wrestling, something more than "DRIVE!!!" which is basically what wrestling seems like from the outside. And my eighth grade experience in wrestling, while probably helping me take to these techniques, is utterly worthless right now. Other than understanding how and why to sprawl, not much has stayed with me.

Five minutes of drilling take-downs will test your lungs, that's for damn sure.

We worked getting out of side control from different positions tonight. It was really, really good and really, really helpful. I know that being able to stifle someone and stopping them from advancing it great, but being able to escape and reverse the position is beautiful, and something that I've been unable to execute when rolling. So now I have new toys to try.

Rolled with Vance after class. He was still dragging ass after a sweaty class across town yesterday, so we only got two rolls in, but I felt really good about them. Vance has a serious size advantage on me, so I don't feel bad pulling guard and playing that for a while. I found a great way to use my whizzer grip that I hadn't thought of before, and it led to finishes both times I went for it. So that was nice---one by shoulder lock, one by armbar. And truly, I finished the second roll with exactly the same sequence that we use to finish two of the three threads that I have to know for my next test. That made me happy for two reasons: a) I know how to finish the threads, and 2) the threads they teach us are useful for more than just learning the techniques. It really builds muscle memory, and that's my bread and butter. So if anyone has any doubt that flow drills help your jiu jitsu, you're wrong. I'm feeling good about my game again. Give it two weeks, and I'll get another tooling from Klint or Jeremy that'll remind me the abyss into which I have yet to tread.

School starts in 3 or 4 weeks. I'm going to miss the mat-time. But I should still have 3-4 training sessions a week, and so long as it doesn't drag too much focus from the work I need to be doing at school and my internships, then I should be ok. It's like a drug, and it feels so good after a training session that I wish I could do it every day. In the meantime, I'll suffer through my friends telling me that I'm losing too much weight and my wife wondering whether I'm eating at all. Just let me go practice choking someone until they have to tap. Everything else will work itself out.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Just Keep Working

It's late, and I went to see INCEPTION (again) after class and before writing this post, so I'm basically guaranteed dreams that are really, really long and intricate with Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon Leavitt and guns and tops and falling buildings and exploding crates and---honest to god---a mid-air, zero gravity arm triangle. So I've got that going for me.

Tonight we drilled more single-legs, worked on how to take the back after passing to the back of the knees, and then did a bit of closed guard work. After class, I rolled with Kyle, then Andy, then Jeremy. With Kyle, I showed him the whizzer grip---the secret to my success---and how to both get it and use it. To be fair, I don't know how to use it all that well yet, but it gives me a sense of further control when I have someone in my guard, and I like that. It slows the game down to the pace that I dictate. Something strange happened to my left knee, too. On the outside, it felt like it was burning for a bit. So I threw an icepack on it for a few minutes and then went back on the mat. Probably not the smartest thing I've ever done, but it didn't bother me after that.

Andy and I had our usual back and forth. The first roll I finished with a kimura, the second ended very quickly with a platform armbar, and the third was a marathon that I ended with a technically-wanting armbar. Whenever I need to work my half-guard escapes, I should roll with Andy. He clamps down onto my leg like I just kicked his dog. I went through all three at some point during our roll, so it made me feel good in that I was able to notice when each was appropriate and shift my approach accordingly.

Jeremy, of course, wrecked me. Armbar after armbar. I was much better about capitalizing on openings with Jeremy tonight than I was all last week. I made him work for mount, and then I was able to get out of it at least once, maybe twice, I can't really remember. I kept him from choking me, but he swept me at will and made me work to survive. Basically though, Jeremy was fulfilling the need in Klint's academy for someone other than Klint to beat the crap out of me. One pass I basically gift-wrapped for him. I also made a conscious effort to try to attack on the top rather than pull guard and look for sweeps. This was for two reasons: (1) I'm fairly certain that Jeremy knows all the sweeps I know and the counters to them, and (2) if I can get anywhere near comfortable attacking Jeremy for top position, I should be comfortable attacking almost anyone for top position. It's funny how looking at my rolls tonight, I come to the same basic critiques: keep patient, keep moving (even though those seem counterintuitive), break the grips, and don't sacrifice your posture. Of course, I wasn't successful in most of those tonight and so I am sore and appreciating my dinner. At 1 am. It's the way my schedule works out, and for anyone who's thinking that's a bad time to eat because my body won't digest it while I sleep, I dare you to train 4 days a week and try to keep weight on. it's awesome, and I eat like a bastard. If I really wanted to get in pristine shape, I would stop drinking beer. But God how boring does that sound?

Saturday, July 24, 2010


It was my first day learning any 7-guard and X-guard moves. Super cool, hopefully useful to my body type, and definitely helpful in getting out of bad spots.

Rolled with Andy, New John, and Tony in class today. Andy and I know each other far too well on the mat, so while it's useful and fun, I think we run the risk of catering our game to beat the other unless we mix up our partners. New John is still a pile of strength and held breath. He didn't allow himself to get tapped by me when starting in mount, so good on him. I don't know how much it wore his arms down, but I also should have been able to adapt and vary my attacks to get the finish. I did better against Tony than I expected to. Starting in mount, he didn't tap me. Starting mounted, he got up, but not as easily or as quickly as I thought he would. In side control, it was the same old story: I was flat on my back, but he couldn't get anything going. I kept my arms tight and monitored his hips. In my side control, I had slightly less success than I had in mount. Not a bad day of rolling, but not a great one, either.

After class, Tony complimented me and said that I'm getting better every day. I was thinking about that on the way home, and how it doesn't feel like I'm getting better every day. It feels like I'm at the same place I was three months ago, when I had just learned not to grip until my knuckles went white. It was one of those days when I didn't do anything terribly wrong--at least, no more than I usually do--but I didn't do anything that made something click in my head, I never felt like I was in control and seeing a move or two ahead (let alone three or five), I never really settled into a groove. It's nice to hear these kinds of compliments, and at Klint's academy, guys who come over from Damian's tell us white belts "man, you guys are tough white belts" often enough that it isn't an uncommon occurrence. I do, though, wish it came with some sort of tangible feeling, some sort of enhanced confidence and awareness. Instead, I'm still the same guy with a flexible right leg who, when he remembers to use technique and keep his wrist away from his ankle, occasionally garners the approbation of his peers.

Three consecutive days of training is a lot. I mean, I read that and I make fun of myself, because really it isn't. I've been eating (in the general sense) and taking in calories and sleeping and all that. But my legs feel like dead weight. And my face looks funnier than normal, what with the mat burn and nicks and scrapes from rough gis and errant elbows. If only this wasn't so much damn fun.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bottom Is Bad

How many ways that title works....

Open mat, and Andy and I went to get worked over by higher belts. And Damian's academy filled the role. I went up against Luke, a blue belt with about my build. Of course, his game makes mine shiver and cry in the corner. I was stupid my first roll and pulled rubber guard. I don't know why, but my leg shot up and my hand grabbed it and I started trying to work it. Didn't work so well, so eventually, I found my frontal lobe and went back to my normal guard. I even swept Luke, but I couldn't tell you how---my guess would be a pendulum sweep. He threw his hips back and put me back in his guard. -----
I'm realizing that recounting every roll that I have in detail may or may not be useful, and I should focus on what I've been doing right and wrong. Thankfully, Andy was able to watch me and Tim gave me some decent feedback. Basically, I'm accepting being on my back too easily. It isn't that I'm giving up the pass, because I'm keeping my guard and contesting the pass well. But once the pass is coming, I'm getting proper hand position and just falling to my back. I'm not getting to my side at all or bridging into my opponent nearly enough.

I ended up rolling with Luke, with Mike (an older purple belt), Josh (a white belt), and Luke again. I think Luke will be a good training partner for me. At the end---and this pissed me off a bit---I had him back in my guard and had my whizzer grip in (because I love it) and threw a triangle, Luke postured, and I grabbed the omoplata. I fucking had him, and I failed to finish it. He rolled out, ended up in my side control, hipped out, and swept me something fierce. Weak sauce.

I need to get some drilling in. Because I don't have the muscle memory that i think I need yet.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Aching and Achtung

More and more class tonight. It was pretty full---eleven of us (seven white belts) and Klint. We worked single legs (again!) and, once down, grip breaking and different sweeps from the open guard. This is something that I really appreciate about such small classes: I had a conversation with Klint on Tuesday about how I need to remember to break grips and go for sweeps from the bottom of my open guard, and on Thursday we worked exactly that. He showed us a few over-the-head-somersault-type sweeps that I barely figured out, but a few drills of those and I should have them committed to memory somewhere.

After class, my first roll was with Stan, a serious blue belt with a wrestling background and a third degree black belt in karate of some kind. He's explosive and has about 40 pounds on me, so the amount of time I spent on the wrong end of side control was massive. Part of it was my own doing--I started trying to play my open guard, and he got around it. I did turtle a lot---Stan couldn't get anything when he had me in side control, so he kept moving around and trying to get my arms out of place. I wasn't letting that happen, but at one point he forced a kimura grip. I put my back to the ground to stop it, and on one of his pulls I went to turtle. From there, he still couldn't get anything going. Eventually, I got him back to my closed guard and even got a whizzer grip on his right arm. If I could explain how much I love that grip and the feeling of control it gives me, I would. So I held that like it was my firstborn, but he wasn't letting me set the triangle or even get my hips into a workable position. I don't remember how it happened, but soon I threw a triangle, and it was a good was one of those where I manufactured the opening and put it up when I wanted to. Stan postured really well, so I went for his arm, but it slipped out and I fell to the ground screaming at myself. I realize this is probably not the polite thing to do (Stan stopped to make sure that I was ok), but DAMMIT I had him.

Next I rolled with Andy. Pulled him into my guard and started working on his right arm. He kept it out of danger pretty well but lost track of his left. Eventually, I remembered that he had two arms and realized that he was leaving his left elbow attached to my stomach, so I just moved over to it. He didn't realize that I was just going for the basic elbow lock, and he stood up right as I threw my foot over his head. The lock was tight, and he didn't tap, so I tightened. He let out the verbal tap, but I could tell he might have waited too long. He sat for a bit, but nothing was out of place and he was back to normal in five minutes. I don't know what I would do if I seriously injured a training partner. To be fair (and Andy said this himself), it was a lot of his fault. The elbow lock wasn't going anywhere, and he had to realize that and tap. But no harm, and I don't have to learn how I would handle it.

Then I re-rolled with Stan, and it was a lot of the same, but he was much more cautious not to get into a position where I could reestablish guard. Eventually, he got my arm free while he had me in side control and locked in a straight armbar. Then I re-rolled with Andy, and this one was much longer. I have to get more comfortable attacking from the knees rather than pulling guard, because enough people know the tricks and can pass if I leave one tiny hole. Also, pulling guard means that I start on my back, and even though that is the position that made me fall in love with Jiu Jitsu, it's fucking tiring and I need to be able to save some strength. Anyways, Andy got me in his side-control and then mount, and I think I upa'd out of that...not too sure, but eventually, I got a kimura grip on his right arm. Andy, though, is a bastard about giving up submissions, especially when it comes to his arms. He locked his right arm with his left and I couldn't move it to save my life. So I let him get to his knees and pulled him into my back control. Sank in a choke, but he recognized it before I could lock my hands and got his chin in front of my arm. I threw on a body triangle, but my arm was trapped in his, so once we rolled to the proper side, I kimura-gripped his arm and hipped out---but he sat up before I could throw my leg over. So I'm on my back again, with an armbar sunk in, but Andy has the RNC defense going and the only thing for me to do is pendulum sweep him---I chain-link my hands through and hook his leg, swing mine to create the momentum and start the transfer and Andy uses his not-trapped arm to base. No problem, I just bring my leg back and armlock the arm I was still controlling. All together, I probably trained for 20 minutes with Andy and Stan, and it was all wonderfully worthwhile.

I am a little upset that I wasn't comfortable enough to be more aggressive against Stan. When I had the whizzer and could start mounting attacks, I felt much better, but it took me at least 3 minutes before I could even get to that point. I need to realize that turtle, while good and defensive, is not a position that I should grow to like. It means I'm losing. And I hate losing. At the same time, I'm really glad I was able to shift that pendulum into an armbar so quickly. I just need to keep drilling and seeing what holes I can create to capitalize on. Because, apparently, jiu jitsu is just that easy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Small class tonight, just five white belts. That's the best part about this school---we had five white belts show up, and a black belt instructor telling us where we were going wrong every step of the way. The thread that we worked today went: armlock-from-guard--RNC-defense--wrist-control-to-over-the-shoulder-sweep--elbow-escape-to-regaining-guard--ladder-up-armlock. I drilled with John, a man whose beard makes other men wilt with shame and envy. He's roughly my size, so we're natural drilling partners. I kept hooking the wrong leg on top to finish the ladder-up armlock at the end. Stupid mistake, but in theory, he's tapping by the time I get there, so it's a wash. Still, good to get the minutiae down while I'm learning rather than having to tear down the house a few months later.

We rolled in class today, going a few minutes then trading partners. I started with the same John, started playing my open guard and worked really hard not to let him pass. It worked pretty well, he never established side control and I could always swing my leg between us. Eventually, I forced an omoplata sweep---I can't even really describe the positioning, save to say that I was on my back with one leg over his shoulder, trying to get the second under his arm, and he kept his arm out but never went for double unders. So I reached in and hooked his arm with mine and forced it out into the omoplata, he rolled and I took his back. I was sinking the choke in right as Klint called time.

I moved to New John, a bit taller than I and probably a lot stronger, but still green as grass and using far too much strength. I mounted him and rather than just crush him, tried to get him to relax and unhook my feet from behind his butt. I want to work my techniques, but I always feel bad when I'm rolling with someone who is either a) very young and light and still working out how his body works, let alone how to choke someone else, or b) so new to the game that he's trying really hard in all the wrong ways. I know I can beat them, but I don't know how good it will be for them. I ended up tapping New John with an omoplata and something else that I don't remember. He'll be a real pain in a few months if he sticks around.

Last I went down to roll with Klint. Glutton for punishment, table for one. I pulled guard (something he told me later he let me do the first time and then wouldn't the second time because I was doing it wrong) and worked my grip breaks trying to break his posture. He ended up opening my legs and I went to spider guard, but I never got around to breaking his grips on my knees to start attacking. So he made it uncomfortable on me and passed my guard, went to knee-on-belly, ended up slapping on a kimura. Then he didn't allow me to pull guard, and I scrambled trying to assert my open guard, but he wasn't having any of it. I forget how the sequence went, but he ended up with me in a triangle-omoplata position, and I refused to let him get my arm across and baited the omoplata so I could have a chance to roll out. He, though, switched his triangle, putting the lock right next to my neck, and clamped down; I didn't feel threatened and the choke wasn't really i--until he shoved his hips up and threw my arm where he wanted it like I stole his son's lollipop. The tap was fast and fierce.

Overall, I am fairly comfortable with how my rolls went tonight. I know my open guard is going to be one of the last things to develop, and critiquing it now is almost laughable as it hasn't gotten past the larva stage. I fought well off my back against John, but his game is one that allows me to play that guard. Klint told me that I'm doing a lot right, and to keep thinking about making my guard offensive rather than defensive---every chance I get I should be breaking grips and disrupting posture and balance and making my opponent uncomfortable. A some point, my lungs will tell me that I'm doing too much and I need to breathe. The easiest fix for that is to be in better shape. But running sucks, and beer doesn't.

The last thing I want to talk about today is belt testing. BJJ belt promotions just happen when they happen---it's one of the quirks of the art. Camarillo schools have just started having promotion tests and ceremonies to reward students when they're ready for the next belt. We have a curriculum and certain things that we must have locked down and be able to use in our repertoire, both in technical drilling and in live rolling. So Klint told me tonight that I'll be testing for my third stripe at the beginning of next month. But it won't be just a piece of athletic tape....the other thing that DCBJJ schools are doing is giving a new belt for each stripe. So instead of a white belt with a piece of tape, the first stripe is a white belt with one blue stripe all the way around, the second is a belt with two stripes, the third is a half-white-half-blue, and--well, I don't know if there's a fourth stripe anymore. One thing I like about this new "testing" system is that I know the things for which I will be held accountable, and that's good. It gives me things to work when I don't feel like live rolling, and it gives structure to the entire process of learning jiu jitsu. It's also more family friendly, and lets students invite their families when they're up for a promotion. I do think it's unfortunate to lose the treat of spontaneous belt promotions, of surprising someone with recognition for all the work they've been doing, for the sweat they've given the mat and the blood they've washed out of their gi. I can't imagine the emotional storm that watching your instructor unexpectedly untie his black belt and put it on your waist must feel like. It's something that I know is years and years away--I can't imagine what getting a damn blue belt will feel like--but the spontaneity of it always seemed, well, awesome. You put your time in and then, when you've done it well enough and long enough, the heavens part and your prize hits you in the face.

Before that, though, I need to work these new threads and polish my armbars and triangles. Again. Also, that mole that Kyle scratched off? It's a pumper. I'll be wearing a shirt under my gi for a few days at least.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Another Monday, and More Abrasions

Class again tonight, the same set of people. We started doing a single-leg drill, grabbing the leg and shuffling the length of the floor. Tough to keep the pressure that Jeremy taught me the length of the mat, but when it's there, it's easy to see how my opponent is going to tip. Then we went to Flow drills--did a guillotine-escape-to-headlock-escape drill, then an armbar-RNC-defense-to-pendulum-sweep drill, then added on a cross-choke/armbar-finish. I've never really felt comfortable doing cross-chokes, and it has always been strange to me that they are considered the basic finish. Part of that is more than likely that I can't do it, but part of it is that they have so many little technical intricacies that considering a cross-choke "basic" is sort of like saying throwing a frisbee forehand is basic because all you do is flick your wrist.

We started 50-50s with a mount-escape drill: one guy has the other in mount, and the game ends with either a submission or an escape from mount to a better position--the only positional change that wouldn't end the game would be the guy on to transitioning to back or knee-on-belly. So I started with John, who is roughly my size and experience. I think I did a good job realizing when I was going to lose my position because I was over-committing to a submission and basing out, or shifting to back control or knee-pillow when John got his hips moving too much for my comfort level. I think I was something of a dead fish on the bottom for the most part, which is something I really want to work on. But more of that later. Next I went with Ed, an older blue belt with a stunning knack of being able to make you uncomfortable no matter what position you hold. I started on bottom, and I never once got tapped. Of course, I also never escaped mount. So I don't know how to grade that one. Semi-fail?

After class, I rolled with Kyle, a fellow two-stripe-white who is much smaller and infinitely faster than I. We started doing the same mount-escape drill, and he's a real bastard to hold down. He's smaller than I'm used to, so I had to adjust my pressure with my hips. He was also able to hook my feet much easier and keep my from crossing them behind his butt. Again---a running theme from the last few sessions---I was able to catch his arms when he got lazy with them or frustrated. Then we had a few rolls that started with one of us trying to pass the other's open guard. I was much more comfortable going to my knees with him, probably because of my size advantage, and when he got my back I was able to clear one of his hooks and roll into his guard. I caught him with a kimura twice, showed him how to roll out of an omoplata, and even slipped an inverted triangle on him. Kyle is going to be one of my best training partners. He's fast and small, and very, very good at throwing multiple attacks at once. He's great at moving his hips because he has to be and makes it tough for me to hold him down and slow the pace because---well, because he is.

The real treat of the night, though, was watching Andy roll with Klint. Andy has been coming for three months and hasn't received a stripe yet, but that's not for lack of skill and mat time. Klint rolled with him for probably three or four minutes, and Andy didn't get tapped until the end. He lasted much longer than I ever have, and he had movement on the bottom that I don't think I've ever been able to pull off against Klint. Kyle and I stopped to watch the end of their roll, and I'm sure he left class feeling better than he has any night yet.

I, on the other hand, left with a fresh bruise on my right cheek, a bruise on the bridge of my nose because someone jacked me right in the face, and a bleed where a mole used to be. And I was still ready to keep training if anyone would have stuck around. Hopefully more people will be willing and able to train longer now. I have to get back to school soon, and I won't have this much time to devote to jiu jitsu in the coming months. Thank god for the internet.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Open Mat Saturday

Klint told me last week that I should find more training partners if I want to keep getting better. So I went to the other school's open mat Saturday this week in hopes of finding a few blues to work me over. Unfortunately, most of the blues were working with other people when I was free, and vice versa. I did, however, get some work in with 3 people I hadn't rolled with before and the small purple who's seen me progress over the last six months.

I had some good rolls, starting with an older guy, probably 230 lbs, my height, and knows how to use his weight. We started in guard and switched positions after a stand/sweep/submit or a pass. One thing I was focusing on was my grip fighting, which my opponent complimented, so that was nice. One thing that I did not do so well was allowing him to open my legs. I would be trying so hard to keep them closed that I would forget to attack. Then we did the same from side control, and I was having more success on bottom there than in closed guard---go figure. I was able to keep my arms tight, and usually get back to at least butterfly guard. On top, he left his arm hanging in a position that I love to grab for a far-side armbar, but when I would clamp down and walk around I wouldn't sprawl enough and he would bridge-and-roll me. So that's a technical thing for me to work.

Next I rolled with a young kid, tall, ridiculously flexible, coming back after a few months off. He had a yellow belt, so he's 15 and under, but he wanted to work. I was able to run around him, mostly, which I would hope. Approaching with open guard, setting up a platform armbar, pulling triangles, that sort of thing. It was a good opportunity to work on staying tight.

Then another white belt who, again, was coming back from a while off. He was broader than me, but much closer to my size. Again, I could set up platforms, pull triangles, etc. almost on call. At one point, I was on his back fighting for the choke---he rolled me over to his side, and I pushed his opposite arm away and shot my leg through for the triangle. I felt pretty good about that one, like some things are starting to fit together. I'm starting to see the whole board. At least, all of the first two squares of the board.

Then the tiny wrestling purple again. I got worked (finally), but it has started taking him much longer to get me into a compromising postion. By "compromising position," I don't mean side control. That sucks, but a compromising position to me is one where I'm fighting off a choke or trying to keep my arm/shoulder attached. Talking afterwards, he said I've gotten tons better at keeping my arms in while I'm in someone's side control, and that my movement was god---I kept him guessing and was unpredictable enough that he couldn't set me up for a few moves he was hoping to hit.

I felt good about this morning. I got a good workout, I didn't gas, and I was effective against people around my own skill level. I was a bit upset that I didn't get to work with some higher belts, but I'm sure that'll come.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fighting Purples

Caveat: This post has absolutely nothing to do with the Vikings.

My academy has a sister school across town that has a lot of students. One benefit of that is that we have higher belts come to our classes occasionally during the week and consistently on saturdays. Our white belt class has about 6-8 solid, consistent students, and we roll together after just about every class.

Tonight, one of our purple belts, one who is helping the black belts in the association work to incorporate more wrestling into our curriculum, helped teach class again. This is great--I wrestled for a very short time, and I never had anywhere near the understanding of the single-leg takedown that I have gotten in the last week. So we worked that, worked a few different passes of the open guard off of butterfly guard/knee grips, and then did some training. I was paired with our Goliath white belt who is still working to remember to breathe when we drill. That has its ups and downs, the big down being that he has easily 40 pounds of muscle on me. The up, though, is that it makes me focus on my technique in a way that working with smaller guys or even guys who are the same size as me. So that's good.

At the end of class, we went live with our drilling partners. I started with Gigantor and caught him with a platform armbar and later a triangle. I can play my guard with him, even with the huge size disadvantage, but that will only last as long as he doesn't figure out how to move his hips. Once that happens, the entire ballgame will change.

Next I went with Brady, a purple belt with a wrestling background who is six inches shorter than me and whom I can't hold down to save my life. We started out good, he played guard, I kept posture and tried to keep his legs open and maintain inside control. He threw a triangle, I posted and turned the wrong way at first, but I realized it and turned towards my trapped arm. Brady tried to turn this into an armbar but I kept turning, got my head free and ended up with him on all fours and me rolling for his back. I muscled him into back control (it was ugly, but I got him there) but couldn't keep him there, and he turned and put me back in his guard. This is where I usually fail: Brady has this uncanny ability to convince me that trying to pass without using my arms is a good idea, and then I gift wrap my back for him. He locked a bow and arrow choke on me---at least I think it was a bow and was the same collar choke, and I fought through it as long as I could, tapping only when the world went grey. Klint called time, and we lined up to mark the end of class.

After, I spent 5 minutes going with Jeremy, purple belt and national champion wrestler in college, pan am blue belt absolute champion, and all around nice guy. We started in closed guard, and switched after a pass or a sweep/stand/submission. I think we went through 5 cycles, and he worked me each time. As I expected. But that's why I went with him. Strangely, I had the same exchange with Jeremy that I had with Brady, getting out of the triangle.avoiding the armbar, ending up reaching (i.e. failing) to get back control. After, he said that I'm half a second away from using muscle memory instead of having to recognize opportunities before acting on them. In other words, drill baby drill.

I've noticed that I last much longer with higher belts than I used to, and that I beat the same guys faster than I used to---with a few exceptions. Andy will always give me a bastard of a fight, I always forget to slow down when fighting Kyle, and John is deceptively strong. I know I need to work basic things like elbow escapes from mount and hip escapes from side control, cross chokes, etc. I need to drill more and I need to consciously work my technique when rolling with guys I know I can beat. Also, I need to spend the time with guys I know will make me embarrassed to be on the mat. I have a few guys who push me as hard as I push them, and I have a few whom I can easily beat. I need to go find a few that can beat me soundly, so I can use that experience and get better.

So Thursday was a good class. And I wish I could spend an hour and a half rolling after every one. But sometimes, bar trivia calls.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This is going to be where I keep my notes about Jiu-Jitsu class. I'm a two-stripe white belt in the Dave Camarillo Jiu Jitsu System under Klint Klass in Minnesota. Klint is a black belt under Dave Camarillo, a phenomenal instructor, and a tough bastard on the mat.

What to expect:
- Definitely going to get some of my internal reflections about class and any training I do.
- Probably going to get some of my personal notes to remember things we worked in class.
- If this goes anything like my previous blogging efforts, it won't last a month; but i've stuck with jiu-jitsu for six so far, and all I want to do is keep training, so that's a good sign.

It's entirely possible that I'll be the only one to find this blog useful. If that's how it breaks down, I'm fine with that. However, I maintain some small hope that, in some way, it might be useful to someone else, be it other lower belts who love miserable company or instructors who want to refine their approach to teaching.