Saturday, October 30, 2010

Less Bad

Class today was pretty small; Tony, Ed (with my freshly-added scar), me, JD, Jeremy, and new guy (Ron? Paul?  I don't remember).  Eventually, Ed's daughter Melissa and Gina showed up.  Started with high-crotch takedowns, right into a smashy low pass that snaps open your opponent's half-guard, then went to Klint's most recent position:  in side control, you control his near-side elbow with your leg-side arm, and then put your thumb into his collar for a cross-choke, and take knee-mount.  Up there, your next action depends on your opponents.  If he pushes up with his arms, you take his elbow home and put it on your wall.  If he rolls into you, you shoot your other hand under his near side and sink in the choke.

In class, the rolls were alright.  I was paired with JD, so we went fairly hard.  We're about the same size, he's younger than me (I had to tell him that JUST is a Radiohead song from 1994, and he told me he was 4 years old at the time), and we like working hard.  Found a power sweep, got to the top, was happy.  Next I went with Tony, the purple.  And again, he didn't pass my guard, but I didn't get to where I wanted.  I tried a leg-loop sweep, but he was savvy to it.  I played my guard a lot, but I also maintained it, so I felt good about that.  Ed was last, and I think my youth and inexperience is beginning to be a problem for him.  Right as I got to the position we were working in class and was about to knee-mount him, Klint called time and we had to stop.

After class, JD grabbed Klint and I worked a bit with Melissa.  She said she wanted to go light, and that was good for me, as I have my new goal to implement the feedback I got on Tuesday about not being a bad training partner.  So we went light for like 20 minutes.  I think I did much better than I would have before Tuesday in terms of staying calm, not forcing anything, allowing both partners to work a position.  I.e., not hogging all the development for myself.  Melissa is a good bit smaller than I, a blue belt.  Gina was nearby giving her tips during the roll.  I focused on my stack pass, mostly, and figuring out what to do with my opponent's hooks when she was playing open guard.  Because that is hard, and I'm not good at it.

Again:  advances, none miraculous.  But I think it's a good return and I can't wait to add to it on Monday.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bad Training Partner

Tonight we worked side control and hold-downs.  Most of them involved bonus head control, so it was more than a little uncomfortable being the demonstration dummy, but it's always amazing to feel how different Klint's control is from everyone else I roll with.

For in class rolls, I started with JD, a guy who just got back from his Air Force training.  Now he's in the reserve and back to training.  Apparently he'd be a blue if he'd kept training consistently, but he had to take some time off, so he's about the same level as I am.  He's a strong bastard, too, and roughly my size.  The drill was to start in side control and work what we learned in class---either mount or submit, guy on bottom was to get back to guard or sweep.  This was a preview for post-class training.  It was rough and brutal and painful, but a good fight.  Then I went to Zach, whose hand is swaddled for having a torn ligament.  (Who would sit out for as long as the doctor says?  That means he'd miss training!)  With only one really functioning hand, though, I was pretty comfortable despite the strength disadvantage.

Third and finally, I was put with Neal, who has had 3 weeks of classes.  And this is where I proved to be a bad training partner.  Instead of letting him get to an advantageous position and working back to neutral so that both (a) he could get some experience under his new belt, and (2) I could get some work in on escaping bad spots and getting back to either neutral or advantage, I pulled a dick move.  I just went hard, trying to get the tap as quickly as I could.  Not only is he brand new, I've got probably 6-7 inches and 40 pounds on him.  But thankfully, this wasn't the end.

After class, JD and I slapped hands and fought like bastards.  I hit a sweep (go me), kept moving and used it to get somewhere near side control, then gave it up working for a kimura and forgetting to maintain position.  From guard, he was doing a good job keeping me from gaining any ground but wasn't moving.  (Of course, I wasn't hipping out and inserting a knee-shield to work a scissor sweep or push sweep, but that's beside the point.)  Eventually, he stood up, I laddered my legs, and he left an arm hanging.  I grabbed it for dear life, threw my right leg over his head, and bridged.  After that, I went with Eric a bit.  And I got to top, mounted, worked a choke.  I think we went three times, and I fought hard to finish it quickly each time.  Then I got the talking.

It wasn't a bad talking.  It was a "Let's think about how you approach your training" talking.  See, last night I trained with Klint and Andy.  Andy makes me work hard, and Klint makes me work smart.  Tonight, Klint told me that he noticed me getting more tired working with these guys---guys I know I can beat and guys I beat on a regular basis---than I got working with him and Andy last night.  It doesn't make sense.  The aggression is good, but the energy is too unfocused and wasteful.  I need to be able to get more out of my training than working to get things faster.  I need to hone my escapes---to do that, I need to let guys put me in bad spots, and then get back to guard, and let them do it again.  That will do a few things:  1) it will keep them training with me longer.  Instead of only giving me their best 3 minutes, it will encourage them to keep working longer because they don't lose immediately.  2) it will keep me training longer.  I'll get better endurance work in, because I'll be going for longer rounds.  3) it will get me drilling bad spots even when I'm tired, which will tell me exactly where my technique is and what more I need to work on.  To be fair, there are people with whom I should just work hard like I do now---Andy, JD, guys across town during open mat.  These guys can take it, and they'll give it back to me, and that's important.  But equally so is keeping your training partners improving along with you, and letting them feel that improvement.

I've been selfish with my training the last few months, and I need to be better than that.  It's very difficult to shift gears from the permanent competition that is law school and the office and remembering that I'm not there only for me.  This is a team, and we need to improve together.  Some changes are in order.

UPDATE:  Side Control wrote about this better than I did.  And he did it here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bad Student

I did something tonight that I didn't like and that I want never to do again:  I came late to class and only rolled afterwards.  To be fair, I had a decent excuse--i had a meeting with a professor about the law review of which I am an executive editor.  So it isn't like I was sitting at the bar and suddenly, "WAIT! I have to get to class fifty minutes late so I can roll."  No.  But at the same time, I want to show my instructor the respect of coming to classes that he puts serious time into planning.  Seriously, his classes are tight and I always leave knowing something entirely new, or something better than I knew it before class.  And I'm really bad at finding positional sparring partners.  It isn't that we don't know it's important---we're just bad at it.

So tonight at the end of class, I jumped in to training.  (I had almost stretched out, so I probably should have taken a bit more time, but I felt bad and didn't want to deprive everyone else of Klint's eye, so I just sucked it up and told myself I'd start slow and let my body warm up a bit.)  I started with New Jon, and actually hit a sweep from my back (goal for the next month is to keep hitting sweeps from my back instead of looking for well-hidden submissions).  Thanks to some direction from Klint, I eventually found myself in a kimura-mounted triangle position.  Well, I was in it before he told me, and he helped me realize it and figure out which ankle to lock behind which knee.  My grips that first fight, though, killed me.  That's something that I didn't realize starting slow helped with. I did find myself getting to my knees and even drove into a takedown---maybe the second time that's happened.

Next I went with Andy, and I don't remember much of how this roll went.  I'm sure he and I went hard.  I know my grips were spent, because I was shaking them out while we were moving into position.

I started with Vance, but this was a pretty uneventful roll.  I lost mount (because contrary to popular belief, I'm much stupider than I seem) and locked him in my guard.  Then, we just laid there.  I was waiting for him to posture and try to break my legs so I could spend some time working sweeps, and he was unwilling to back up because he was scared of armbars.  After about 2 minutes of that, we just restarted.

Andy and I took turns working with Klint again.  Klint was "nice" and tried to play only defensive, but his game just isn't built that way.  He's the quintessential "defense should serve double duty as offense" player, so really, the first roll was just me starting from a generally better position.  Then I got lazy or loose or something and he got out of my side control.  I rolled with him probably five times. Right now, I have the problem of knowing that I'm going to lose to him.  The result is that I don't really focus on my game; instead I sort of space out and marvel at the things he's doing to me.  This is a bad way to play.  On more than one occasion, I asked him to just pause so I could replay in my head all the things I did that led me to the terrible position in which I found myself.  I did escape one of his omoplatas and scramble back to an advantageous position.  Of course, I didn't hold and finish it.  But getting there is better than I did last week.

Finally, Andy and I had a few more rolls.  The first one, I hit him with a helicopter sweep right off the bat (count it, the look on his face was well worth the gamble).  The second one, he slapped on an armbar when I was lazy with my left arm while standing to break guard.  The third went longer, and ended with me forcing the tap instead of moving around him once I had extended his arm and changing direction so that he would not be defending it.  No, that seems like the way jiu jitsu is supposed to be played.  Apparently, I much prefer running into the wall over and over until I create a me-shaped hole in it.  It worked, but I was pretty frustrated when I realized (right after he tapped, of course) that I could have ended that sooner and with less energy.  So that's something I'll be on the lookout for tomorrow.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I hit open mat Saturday before I sang at a friend's wedding.  I started out rolling with Oscar.  To say the least, Oscar is an imposing dude.  He's a blue belt, 6'4", 220 lbs, pan-am weight class and absolute champion.  And seventeen years old.  I went excited to try to hit the sweep that Klint showed us Thursday and to keep my guard, avoid the standing pass.  Almost none of that worked.  I came damned close to hitting a butterfly guard sweep, but he was able to post on his head (which means that I was too far away from him and falling the wrong way to work the sweep).  It was a lesson in getting crushed and fighting off the collar choke from someone who is and will always be larger than me.  It was painful, but good.

After that, I worked with Nate, a brown belt with mostly the same body type as me.  So he's got great skills, and flexibility to do things like play upside down and keep guard from grange angles.  It's the kind of game I would love to have in a few years, so I love getting a chance to roll with him.   He also showed me a quick way to force someone to release an armbar defense when on their back, so that's going in the hopper.

And I rolled with Bob, the old man who suffocates you if you're stupid enough to let him get on top of you.  Thing is, he's got the perfect game to back it up--he waits and waits until you give him an opening, and then pounces, all while resting his gut on your face.  So that was a lesson in (a) surviving the wrong end of side control again, and (b) remembering to work to get on top.

That "work to get on top" lesson was a running theme for the night of fights.  Cain Velasquez absolutely demolished Brock Lesnar.  I know I don't usually talk about the fights, but Cain is a Camarillo student, and watching him work off his back and work to finish Brock for the entire first round was thrilling.  After the fight, in one of his interviews he said that he was picking his shots carefully because he didn't want to lose the top position.  It was quintessential guerrilla jiu jitsu.  And now, one of our colleagues has the belt.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Checking In

Sadly, life demands that I limit this post to only a few lines.  Training last night was exceptional.  4 of us--2 new guys (1 within the last month, 1 within the last week), Andy and I.  Klint got the new guys working on basic threads and Jiu Jitsu 101, and gave Andy and I (a) a sickly awesome sweep to work, and (2) individualized recommendations for how to keep our guard.  It was basically half a private.  Then after, he rolled with both of us, Andy and I swapping out after 2 rounds each (ended up being something like 3-4 minutes on, same off).  I almost had Kilnt off balance once.  It was a big day.  So yes.  Excellent class, one of those days that makes me with I didn't have life and law school (which we all know bears not even a passing resemblance to life) sucking up my time.  Rehearsal dinner tonight for a friend, then open mat tomorrow morning, the wedding tomorrow.  Hopefully, I'll be able to use last night's revelations and get something down here afterwards.  Keep on keepin' on.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mapping the Future

Class last night was good, working more 1-2-1 combinations.  Go for a hip bump sweep, if your opponent posts his outside hand, lock in the kimura.  If he drives forward, scoot back and sink i that painful guillotine.  If you want to go for distraction, do the hip bump sweep and put the arm over the other side of your opponent's head rather than the far side, and when he posts to keep from falling, sit back into the triangle.

Zach apparently re-tweaked his hand during 50/50s near the end of class.  So that left me, Andy, and Vanessa, with Klint running class.  Rolls were decent; before Zach got hurt, I was able to work my sweeps again.  With Andy, it was another back and forth.  I was able to sweep and control the top, so that was nice.  My top game is developing, but I don't have the control of far-side armbars that I used to think I had. Of course, I haven't drilled them in a while, so that's probably the basis for that.

Afterwards, I tried getting out from under Klint's side control.  That was more than an uphill battle; it was an impossible task for where I am right now.  I was able to get back to half-guard a few times, but he would of course slice through that and get me back in a painful spot.  It was a good exercise, and a welcome change of pace to open rolling.  I was inches from escaping an armbar for the first time---the standard escape where you look away and roll that exposes you to a triangle but evades the immediate danger---and then he just slapped the armbar and pinched his knees.  I literally screamed like a little girl.

One thing that I want to find the time to do is to map out the standard positions and the transitions from one to the other.  I forget where I read it (no I don't, it was here), but I remember seeing Rickson's own jiu jitsu map, his diagram of positions and the transitions he preferred.  He was a big fan of the mount.  This morning I was diagnosed with my annual sinus infection, so I have at least a few days to work the cerebral end of my game without getting caught up in avoiding chokes and moving my hips.  I do wonder whether I would be getting ahead of my skill level by plotting specific paths and combinations long before I've come close to perfecting (or even mediocre-ing) any of them.  I doubt that will stop me.  It's addictive in a way that I am unable to explain.  Sure, the submissions are sexy and the throws and takedowns are exciting.  Beyond that, though, it feels like I get to learn more and more about myself every chance I get to roll.  Whether it's a white belt whose belt still isn't broken in or the black belt instructor or a purple belt cop who has trained for ten years.  Strangely, it even makes me feel more confident in my legal work and analysis because it gives me a tangible thing that merits comparison.

Not knowing where this post is going or even whether it's long past where it should have stopped, I'm going to call it for now.  Hopefully this makes sense to someone; whoever you are, feel free to explain it to me at your convenience.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gi Review: Keiko Raca 2010 Gi

I'm 6'1.5" tall, 183 lbs (or so).  My first gi was an Atama Ultra-Lite (actually, this was my first pair of gis; I got one white, then a blue when I got tired of the blood showing).  After six months of training, I got my new gi, the Keiko Raca (kee'-ko hah'-sah) 2010 limited edition white gi.  I did some looking around and some more research, and Keiko Raca is supposed to have a cut that fits tall, skinny people much better than the standard cut.

Honestly, the difference between the gis is obvious.  Part of it is the weave (Atama:  rough weave just this side of a single weave;  Keiko:  glorious gold weave softness), but more than that, it's the cut.  The reviews weren't wrong:  this is made for the tall skinny kids.  I have enough room so that I don't feel buckled into my gi, but I know it isn't going anywhere.  It isn't heavy on my shoulders, but I can still feel its substance.

Big big big fan of this jacket.  With the exception of the giant racecar-style patch on the front, it's damn stylish.  The black trim on the cuffs and the bottom give it a clean look, much like the Atama Mundial models but without the script on the edge.  The shoulder patches are simple and more-or-less out of the way, the flag and embroidery at the right and left elbows are not distracting....It's a nice, simple gi jacket with enough character to make it stand out without telling everyone, "Hey--this is a special jacket."  It's the BMW 3-series:  sharp and well-crafted, but not as aggressively German as the Mercedes C-class.

The wrists were originally a bit larger on my arms than I thought I would like, but either I've gotten used to them or they've come to a normal size after washing.  The sleeves have shortened to the point where if they keep receding it will bother me, but they still feel a bit longer than the Atama's.  The weave is outstanding; it's not rough on the skin, it won't give your training partners gi-burn when practicing cross chokes, but it isn't so comfortable that your opponent will like being crossfaced by a Keiko-clothed forearm.

This is the area where the Keiko wins by a wide margin.  My legs are long, and the Atama's pants are just not enough to keep them covered.  After a few weeks, I could have used them in case of heavy rain.  The Keiko's pants are nice heavy cloth (as opposed to the Atama's ripstop material) and they are long.  The material feels better against my legs, and it doesn't get the worn-in-knees look as quickly as the Atama did.  One of the belt loops tore off pretty quickly after I got it, but it might have been that I was trying to tie my pants a different way that placed more stress on the loop than normal.  I'm hesitant to blame the construction on that, and I expect to fix the pants soonish, so it's really a non-issue.

Pros:  attractive design without being flashy, good construction without feeling wooden.

Cons:  all have to do with personal cosmetic preferences.

[camera is out of commission (re: not with me right now); I'll post pics when I get it up and running]

And We're Back

Saturday morning was somehow the antithesis of Friday night.  I was moving decently, I was engaged in the rolls, I was (I think) learning from my opponents, and I was aware of what I was doing.  I rolled with Ron (somewhat older guy, same rank as I--3-stripe white---, roughly the same size if not just a bit smaller), Brady (small purple belt), Damian (bull-framed black belt), a guy whose name escapes me but who is an attorney at a big box firm in town, and Derrick (blue belt, about 30 pounds smaller than I).

Ron was a good fight.  I don't remember how I started those rolls, whether I tried to keep him in my guard or whether I worked to pass his.  Most of the time, though, I was on his back---sometimes with hooks, sometimes with a kimura grip and shoulder control.  I was able to stay pretty calm and methodical the whole time, focus on technique and execution.  My armbars have gotten pretty sloppy, so that's a little disheartening.  I'm going through something of a collar-choke phase, looking for bow-and-arrow chokes and using them to set up kimura-grip control on the shoulder.

My roll with Damian was a bit intimidating.  Part of it was the inescapable fact that he's a black belt, part of it was that he's got at least 40 pounds of muscle and eight inches of chest circumference on me, and part of it was just my pride.  He let me get to side control right away, and it was all downhill from there.  His sweeps aren't as blindsiding as Klint's; I can generally feel him setting them up and can tell when it's getting bad (as opposed to Klint's where I'm suddenly inverted and wondering what happened that allows gravity to release me for a minute before I realize it's his hooks).  I don't know how much of that is the difference in their games and how much of it is what improvements I'm making, but I'm willing to bet more on the former than the latter.  It was fun to train with him; and it's comfortable enough that we can both laugh at my mistakes as I make them.  At one point I was in his guard and my right wrist was under his left armpit, and he started raising his hips; for reasons passing understanding, something in my head decided that it would be a good idea to grip with my right hand, and that if I gripped hard enough, I'd be able to get out of that terrible position.  That was funny.  And by funny I mean stupid.  But it was a great lesson in the economy of motion.  What he and Klint have in common is that neither of them waste a movement.  Everything is as small and controlled as possible; they cut out all the fat and get to the essence of the movement.  Large movements waste energy and create scrambles; small movements let you keep control and dictate the pace.

After Damian railed me for a while, we were talking to Nameless, the attorney, and Damian said we should train.  Nameless (I'll fix this once I learn it) is pretty newish to jiu jitsu.  He spends a lot of time doing cross-fit, only hitting the mats every month or so.  He only had about 5 minutes to roll, and he kept falling back to guard.  The work Andy and I have been putting into half-guard passes really paid off this morning, both against Nameless and Ron; I passed half-guard at least 5 times.

Derrick has a great game.  He started standing, I sitting.  One thing I enjoyed was when he asked where I usually train and I said, "With Klint in Woodbury."  His response was, "Great, that means you're going to have a painful guard."  And not wanting to disappoint either his expectations or my instructors reputation, I kept him in closed guard for the first five minutes.  After finding that armbar, we restarted, and I hit one of the sweeps I'm training myself to look for (even though I didn't have the sleeve and so technically it wasn't great and created more of a scramble in changing position than I would have liked), and I got on top.  We worked for probably 20 minutes, and he was very complimentary at the end.  Said to work on my patience because in his mind that's probably the one thing between me and a blue belt.  I had a few immediate reactions to that:  1) that's sweet, dear, but please ignore my laughter for the next minute; 2) definitely not ready to receive a blue belt quite yet, not when I'm still to scared to shoot in for a takedown; 3) I enjoy giving blue belts a hard time; 4) really, I'm not ready for that yet.

I heard something on the Fightworks Podcast a few weeks ago about how whenever someone gets a new belt, it never feels like it's deserved.  The new belt not only weighs heavily on the hips (much like the weighted crown on a king's brow), but it spurs its wearer to train more and harder to show that the belt is a valid and accurate reflection of its wearer's skills.  So in other words, no matter when you get the promotion, it will always feel premature.  That is both reassuring and terrifying.

Don't know what we'll be working on this week, but I'm looking forward to finding out tomorrow night. I rode 24 miles on the bike this afternoon to get some cardio in on my day off.  (If you're ever in Minneapolis/St. Paul, find a bike and ride the Midtown Greenway; it's beyond cool and reminds you how that pork-barrel spending can help everyone.)  On the way back, the bike shop on the Greenway was giving out hot cider for free to riders.  And all was good and right with the world.

Friday, October 15, 2010

BJJ Everywhere

@ Work:  sometimes you have to file a motion that you know you are probably going to lose because it improves your position for settlement negotiations.  If you don't make the motion and set the schedule, then your opponent has no reason to fear coming out on the wrong end of a decision.  Translation:  if you don't commit to the first attempt at a sweep, then you won't force your opponent to defend and open up your secondary option.  (This came to me while I was working on something at the office.  I decided to leave it here, as it's pertinent to the recurring themes here.)

Open mat tonight.  I feel like I'm just going through the motions today.  I didn't embarrass myself, I don't think---some of the guys that I usually have decent rolls with just wrecked me today.  I went with a new guy who is the same rank as I, and roughly the same size as well, so that was nice.  It's difficult to find someone who's both, so it was a good experience.  Brady gave me some good work, I helped Andy work his half-guard passes again.  But again, my mind was not entirely in it.  It was good to get the work in, and I think I did some things right, but I couldn't recall them for the life of me.

The night did have a nice surprise.  Damian was teaching some of his students a pass for when your opponent has his knee shield up and his bottom leg hooked in half-guard.  He called me over to make sure that I learned it in order to be able to show it to Klint.  So that told me two things:  a) I'm shedding that "outsider" label that everyone gets the first few times in the academy; and 2) that the instructors respect and trust me (this one is more subtle and subdued).

That was a nice cap to an otherwise mediocre rolling session.  Here's to hoping the morning brings fresh inspiration and attention.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finding the Sweeps

Another week of butterfly guard work.  Today was the three basics---stand (framing the face to stand and base), sweep (threading the underhook when the opponent stops your bottom leg and landing a basic butterfly guard sweep), and submit (scooting back into a brutal guillotine when they re-weave the underhook).  First, though, we worked with a few single-leg options and grip breaks, and a standing americana from a whizzer grip.  Lots to take in, and pretty dependent on your opponent's defense (as far as when to go for the americana and when to just throw the poor bastard).  We ran out of time at the end of class to try to implement them, but I worked a little bit with new Jeremy and then with Klint.

I have a new mission:  focus on sweeps.  I love submitting people off my back; in fact, tapping people from guard was one of the things that led me to start raining jiu jitsu in the first place.  But that can't be my only option.  It leaves me on the bottom, and when I fail I'm in a terrible spot.  I need to be able to reverse positions, get on top and work to tire him out from there.  So working with new Jeremy, that was my goal. I went to guard at the beginning and consciously avoided shooting submissions from my back.  One power sweep, one butterfly sweep, one scissor sweep.  Of course, I'm fairly certain that tonight was new Jeremy's first post-class rolling session.  So this worked out well for both of us---I got a body using a lot of strength against my sweeps so I could focus on technique, and Jeremy got his first losing roll in.  I was a bit sloppy, and I wasn't too pleased about that.  It was very easy to get into an advantageous position after I swept, though, so once I tighten my technique, it will be a very useful tool to add to my quiver.

After that, I spent a few minutes rolling with Klint.  Of course, I got waxed a few times and I couldn't get to any position where I could mount any attack of my own.  That, of course, is the name of the game, and Klint is an expert.  Apparently, he's got the best guard among all of Camarillo's black belts.  That's why Dave sent Jeremy Anderson up here while his broken hand healed---so that he could train with Klint and improve his guard.  In his guard, Klint can tap you with ease, but the most impressive part of it (when on the receiving end, anyways) is how you feel pretty grounded and stable, and suddenly you're floating and twisting in the air because he applied the slightest pressure with his inside hook.  The hooks are a huge part of his game.

I have a mid-term tomorrow night, and I should spend more time tonight re-running through my outline, making sure that I know where to turn for which kinds of problems.  This unfortunately means that I don't have the time to dig deeper into the specifics of Klint's game and compare it to rhetoric and language.  But that's something that I will do soon.  Because being able to explain something such that other people can understand it shows that you yourself have a functioning understanding of it.  And I want to get to that place mentally while I work to get there physically.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Class tonight was a review of where Andy and I made mistakes at the tournament.  Klint watched our videos this morning and had feedback for us immediately.  The attention that we get is (I imagine) uncommon.  I'd be curious to poll white belts across the nation and ask how many get personal review of their competition fights by their black belt instructor.  As in so many areas of my life, I have an embarrassment of riches in the jiu jitsu corner of my life.

The feedback was good, mainly that we performed very well for our first tournament.  We showed no butterflies, and the mistakes we made were exactly that:  mistakes.  Meaning that we can fix them.  Not only that---because they were mistakes that would have given us the submission in all circumstances (both Andy and I missed triangles: Andy has more of an excuse as his legs are only average length and the triangle isn't one of his go-to's; I, though, with legs the length of Lake Shore Drive, have no reason not to snap every triangle opportunity presented me).  So we went over half-guard passes from the top, guard recovery from half-guard bottom, combinations from a failed hip-bump sweep, mount escapes, and getting to guard from turtle.  We covered a lot of material, but it was all material that would have changed the outcomes on Saturday, and they were fresh in our minds.  So more positional drilling this week, and those should be internalized.

On a related note---I need cardio.  Cardio killed me.  I was lost before I even stepped to the mat for my Absolute fight, and the last minute of my second round fight was embarrassing at best.  Of course, we have one main problem:  I hate running like fat kids hate diets.  Running is a terrible way to spend your time, and it does terrible things to your knees.  My right knee is touchy right now, so that's particularly relevant.  It also gives you new lungs and a larger gas tank.  So I need to find a way to give me the cardio benefits of running without actually running.  I do have a bike.  It is a 1981 Raleigh road bike with 5 gears.  Of course, it seems that it takes a longer ride to get the same work as out of a run.  I also have a very few kettlebells.  I might get a few more and a yoga mat, work through all that in the basement on days I don't train.  As I understand it, kettlebells are supposed to be outstanding cross-training for jiu jitsu.  Lots of hip movement and strength building, plenty of cardio, and easy to stow in the corner.

What does everyone else do to build cardio?  Because even though training a few times a week has done wonders relative to where I was a few months ago, it's not enough to stay competitive over the course of a tournament.  I need more.  Any suggestions?

And finally:  I've found ways to think about jiu jitsu as it relates to just about everything else in my life.  I have not done well to discuss those connections in this space.  I will make a conscious effort to correct that, and to make this a bit more interesting not only to readers who don't train, but even to those who do.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Submission Hunt

My first tournament experience was good.  The experience that I got was excellent, and the way the tournament was run was a bit slip-shod (i.e., a shitshow), so it averages out to good.  I got three fights--two in my weight division (middleweight, 170 to 184.9lbs; I came in at a trim 178), and one in absolute.  In reality, I should have tapped at the beginning of the absolute fight.  My conditioning is still in the larva stage, and the second fight in my division really sapped me.  But I wanted as many fights as I could get, and I signed up for it, so I stepped in there and took my loss standing up---er, rather, face down in his wicked back mount.

Video evidence below.

1st Middleweight

2nd Middleweight (2 parts - tied up after 5 minute regulation period, so 1 minute more)


As is probably obvious, I'm most proud of the first match.  The second one, though, I can live with.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Touching the Void

Sitting on the couch watching Touching the Void after jiu jitsu and dinner (salad w/ spinach, tomato, mushrooms, olive oil; cottage cheese; fruit juice).  It's a story about two British men who climbed the western face of some mountain in Peru and how far it went wrong.  For more than half the film, you sit convinced that the men in the story died.  But the fact that they are here telling you the story reminds you that they didn't.  It's really an amazing film.  And terrifying.

Class tonight was small again.  New Jon, myself, and Tony (purple).  We drilled sweeps, a new armbar setup from a scissor sweep attempt, a few open guard sweeps, and a new choke that I really just could not get the hang of.  Grabbing the inside collar, hipping out, and throwing your leg over onto the other side of your opponent's head, effectively choking him with your forearm on one side and your hamstring on the other.  I'll have to work it a million more times before I can even think about trying to hit when rolling.  Klint has been focusing a lot on his 1-2-1 attacks---armbar to triangle to armbar, triangle to omoplata to triangle, armdrag to sit-up sweep to armdrag.  Varying attacks so that each defense leads your opponent into the other attack; he defends the armdrag by sitting back, which opens him for the sit-up sweep, etc.  That's Guerrilla Jiu Jitsu.  Every motion that you do puts your opponent in a position where you have the advantage, and where you can finish the fight.

Rolling with Tony at the end of class went surprisingly well.  Unfortunately, I pulled guard, but was able to get full guard without him slicing through it.  And my guard was working.  I was disrupting his balance, I shot a few triangles that I had to abandon in order to maintain my guard--and when he would get an under on one of my legs, I would try to make him pay.  I wasn't able to sweep him, but that wasn't my goal tonight.  Tonight, my goal was not to allow Tony to pass my guard.  At one point I was saved by the wall--we ran into the mirrored wall and had to restart in the middle.  Other than that, though, I was apparently doing a lot of things right.  So while that's not a first, it's a first against Tony and a first with my guard against a purple belt.  Advances, none miraculous.

I also worked with Jon afterwards.  Played a lot of guard, spent some time trying to improve my attacks, tried to give Jon some feedback that may or may not help him.  I know I have more experience than Jon, but I also know that I have almost no experience.  I wonder when I'll feel comfortable trying to teach concepts to people.  Now, all I can do with any sort of competence is point out when people are leaving me opportunities that I like to seize.  I'm a seven-months-in white belt whose instructor told him to expect to have to meet a higher standard than a lot of other people because he tells me that I'm picking it up very quickly.  When does the instructor-style training start?  Because I'm convinced that will only increase how jiu jitsu will benefit me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

One Week Before Competition

I made it to open mat Friday and class on Saturday.  I didn't get a chance to toss down anything about those until now (and arguably I don't even have this time, but I'm using it anyways).

Open mat was not quite as active as I'd have liked, but What work I did made me feel pretty good.  I didn't get that many rolls in---just one with a white-belted Viking Eric and one with a blue whose name eluded me.  Eric is bigger and stronger than me, so I was pretty excited to work with him.  He's also a different bigger and stronger than Vance and Zach, with a bit more technical acumen.  In other words, my distraction tricks tend not to work quite as well on Eric.  But he couldn't pass my guard.  I remember at one point leg-looping his right arm, but for some reason he wouldn't tip when I flared my knees.  And then---as though I knew what I was doing---I un-looped and went back to a different sweep, and when that failed it pulled him back into closed guard.  It's not something that deserves a lot of back-patting, but it's also something I wouldn't have had the presence of mind to do three weeks ago.  I must be listening.  It's weird. Of course, then Eric slapped on a can-opener and I verbally tapped as loud as I could.  I'm not going to deal with that pain and absence again right now, especially with a competition coming up.  At this point, Damian (the black belt across town whose academy hosts the open mat) was watching us, and both he and Eric were a bit concerned and confused as to why I tapped.  I explained my recent injury, and all confusion was put to rest.  Damian also said not to use can-openers in training; they're mean and brutal and, even though they work, it just isn't worth the loss of a training partner and his subsequent discomfort.  That made me happy.  Damian then had us switch positions, putting me in Eric's guard.  I did pretty well, but kept forgetting to get the far-side underhook when he would trap me in his half-guard.  So that was annoying and enlightening.

My roll with the blue belt was pretty good.  I didn't get wrecked.  At one point, I had him in my half-guard, and I noticed that I was on my side, I had the proper underhook, I was stopping him from getting head control---in other words, I was doing multiple things right at the same time.  This is uncommon.  I do wonder how much of my success that roll was because I'm bigger than the blue.  It used to be irrelevant-- blues would just wreck me, whether they were 5'2"--130 lbs or 6'3"--230 lbs.  This time, I got out of the bottom, I escaped back control, and I choked him out (ezekiel).  This relative success against higher belts is unfamiliar, but not unwelcome.

Class on Saturday was more open guard development.  You know, open guard---that part of everyone's guard that no one likes developing because all you do for the first nine months is fail.  But we reviewed a few x-guard moves and the same sit-up sweep we did on Monday--feeding the arm under his legs, grabbing his collar and kicking his leg, pulling your opponent down onto his shoulder and under your mount.  It's a beautiful and embarrassing sweep that I can't wait to perfect.

I worked with Ed afterwards, the photographer-pastor.  He is the personification of old man strength and grit.  So I started working to pass his guard, and after a while we switched.  He prefers staying in someone's closed guard, and he's an oak tree when he's in there.  At one point, he was straight-arm collar-choking me because I got lazy and forgot to check his wrist or something.  Of course, at this point I look up and he's putting all his weight onto a straight arm right in front of me, and I think "Well, here's an arm that needs a lock."  So I throw my leg around his shoulder and try to get it around his head---but come up severely short.  My ankle clocked him right above the eye and he started bleeding immediately. Not a pumper, but definitely an action-movie-style cut.  As he was leaving to get stitched up (and after my seventeenth apology), he said to me, "Don't apologize, you did everything right.  Thank you very much for the work, sir.  I'll see you next week."

I can think of no another activity where I could kick someone in the face on accident, give him a two-inch cut just above his eyebrow that needs stitches, and have that person thank me as he leaves for the hospital.