Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back Home

Class last night was full of people I wanted to roll with--Jeremy was back fresh off his 1st round RNC win in Atlantic City; JD decided to show up; Beard John is back to his regular schedule; Jon came to class; Vance was there--and sadly, none of it came to pass.  We worked on the switch--a means of getting to someone's back from top side control when they bridge into you.  This is something that I need to shove into my arsenal as soon as possible.  It has great application against those bigger guys that you just can't hold down, not to mention it helps you stay one or two steps ahead of the smaller guys who you can.

Andy's in-laws are having a kid in Madison, so he had to run home shortly after class.  As a result, I only got maybe ten minutes of proper rolling in.  Neal was the only one ready right away after class, so I let him work his top game while I focused on trying to realize when to abort mission and go to my knees.  It didn't work out terribly well--I have an affinity for playing off my back, and while it's fun and pretty and supremely useful in class and sport, it doesn't translate to pavement all that well.  So while I controlled Neal and got him to positions that let me try to work what I wanted, I can see in retrospect that I did not focus enough on what my initial goal was.  When I did, it was fine---Neal is tiny, and that lets me go through the movements with enough resistance to see where my holes are.

I also got 2 minutes in with Tall Strong Jon.  He went to his back at the beginning, which is uncommon for him, but I wasn't complaining.  I was able to control him, but at times just barely.  He's going to be real problems in short order---he shows up a lot, he has natural athleticism and understanding of how to move his body, and he likes it.  Dangerous combination.  I got to mount and even got to practice a little knee-on-belly for the first time.  I didn't get bucked off the wave---I held it and even got myself to Klint's cross-choke/armbar dilemma control for the finish.

I was sad to have to leave so early, but family is family and some fights are not worth having.  So I'll go again tonight and get some proper training in, no matter who stays after.  First, though, I have to hammer out some of this final brief for class.  So when I go silent for a few weeks, don't worry---I'm still training, just running out of time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In Lieu

In lieu of a proper post about my first day of no-gi training on Friday, I will post a musical treat:  John Legend and the Roots covering Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" in the studio.

John Legend and the Roots - Wake Up (Arcade Fire cover) by Cover Me

Once I get through finals studying tonight (or possibly tomorrow or never), I'll put down something proper about why not having handles for collar chokes makes mount way less fun.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Easton BJJ - Day 1

Hopefully, I have more training to come in CO.  Last night opened the window to the possibility of getting an hour of rolling in on Friday before Family Pictures [re: Colorado Water Torture].  I'll see whether I have the juice to pull that off throughout the day.  Here's hoping.

Last night was great.  Chris, one of the black belt instructors at Easton - Arvada, was super accommodating, happy to have someone from out of town crash/join their training.  It was interesting to see how another school approaches classes.  We started with an arm-drag entry to an ankle pick from standing; didn't finish, as it's kind of a rough fall and class was fairly full, but good.  I was paired with a purple belt whose name eludes me---for class, the students line up against the wall and your partner is your mirror from the center of the line.  So the lowest belt on the wall practices with the highest.  I liked that, especially as my partner was roughly my size.  So anyways, arm-drag to ankle pick entry.  Then we worked armbars from mount.  Again, instead of going 5 for five, they have one person work the technique for about 5-8 minutes and then switch out, giving you serious time to get feedback from your partner and work out the kinks.  So we did the takedown entry, two armbars from mount, and then the equivalent of our 50/50 drills.  Six spots on the floor working, which left maybe 4 or 5 people on the wall to come in when a pair finished.  The rotation was top/bottom/out.  It gave you a chance to work with most of the people in the room.  I worked with a handful of blues, a purple, and a brown throughout the end of class.  Not displeased with my performance at all.  I never really felt overmatched, not even with the brown; he was clearly more technical than I and would wreck me in a match, but I was able to keep calm and move with what he gave me--even took his back at one point.  To be fair, I started mounted on him so it gave me a bit of momentum to start.  But I still felt pretty good about it.  I wasn't going full speed or anything, because I didn't want to be that guy.  For the last 15 minutes of class, it was 5 minute rounds.  I started with a blue named Matt.  I wasn't sure how this was going to go, and I think that cost me the first armbar.  After that, though, I was able consistently to out-scramble him, force him to turtle, and get to his back.  The first time he got his back to the mat quickly, so we started it over again and I refused to give up the position the second time.  Again, we were roughly the same size and I never felt over-powered or out of my league.  I even got a judo roll to escape side control.  That one felt nice.  Last, I worked with another blue belt.  I passed his guard (on purpose, I swear), worked from side control/north-south, he pulled a slick escape back to guard, and we finished locked in a stalemate.

Then there was a 2 minute break, and "randoori" started.  Really, that just means open mat with 9 minute rounds and 1 minute breaks.  So I started with another white belt, and was too hard-headed to recognize when to abort mission.  So I spent too much time on the wrong end of a wrestler's side control.  That is something I'll have to work on. I did catch an arm from guard, so that was nice, but that's something that I've been working on for a long time.  I need to focus on things that I don't naturally see---takedowns, half-guard escapes, open guard, etc.  But at the same time, when at a different school and more-or-less representing your own academy and instructors, you don't want to be that asshole running around at top speed and trying to rail everyone in the room.  Besides, I'm a mile higher in elevation than I normally work, and seriously--they need more air up here.  I had to sit out the second roll to find my gas again.  The third, I worked with Hector, another blue.  Again, my initial hesitation cost me the first armbar (far too quickly, might I add), but after I settled, we traded positions and I found mount, worked from there.  Just before our third reset, time called.

It was a great experience.  I got a shirt (you know, support the gym that helps me sneak away from the in-laws), and the room itself had a really comfortable atmosphere.  After some time, we all realized that we were escaping family in one way or another.  One guy was taking every possible class that night--from fundamentals to randoori (6-8:30)--and his wife asked why he was taking fundamentals for the first time in two years.  "I know I haven't taken it forever, that's why I have to go; my fundamentals are getting weak."  I think if you'd polled the room, 80% or more either had family at their house for the weekend or were forcing a reprieve from the weekend's festivities.  It made for a welcoming, exceptionally collegial atmosphere, especially for me, the guy from Minnesota stealing time away from his in-laws to train with a bunch of strangers. 

So if you ever go to Colorado, make some time to train at an Easton academy.  I'll definitely carve out some time to do so whenever I'm in town.  It helps that it's a 5-10 minute drive from my in-laws' house.  This means that I will definitely be taking my gi with me whenever I travel and dropping in on another academy for some work.  The rest of the night was so much less stressful than it could have been, thanks to the training.

Now for the gluttony.  I'm not really sure how much of this food my vegetarian diet will allow me to eat (I'm the only one here), so I might still be hungry after dinner.  We'll see.  With luck, I'll be able to train at lunch tomorrow.  If I do, you'll hear about it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quick and Dirty

I did go to class last night.  And it was good.

Beard John has returned from his travels.  I didn't get much of a chance to roll with him, but that will come with time.

I am now in Arvada, Colorado, visiting my wife's family for the rest of the week.  Tomorrow night, I will go to Easton BJJ 15 minutes away and get some real training in.  This excites me.  I don't know when I will be able to get a proper post about this week's training in (as my internet access here is questionable at best for reasons passing understanding), but I will have one up as soon as I can.

Enjoy too much food.  Make it organic if you can--it just tastes better.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mat Time

Open mat last night, class this afternoon.  Enough guys there to get some work in, but most of the upper belts were busy so I ended up rolling with mostly white belts.  Nothing wrong with that.  I worked with Matt, then Matt again, then Renato, then Brady a little bit.  I was able to focus on finding the subs that we learned on Monday, and I worked getting to the back as often as possible.

This afternoon, we worked on half-guard escapes and sweeps.  What I am terrible at is getting on my side when in half-guard or the wrong end of side control.  I can get to the underhook and work my legs into a good position, but I think my hip movement is atrocious.  So that's something to work over the next few months.  I trained with Klint and Zach after class, and kept having the same problem.  I'll make sure to ask Klint for some tips o Monday.

Today was the first chance i had to break in my new gi, a Shoyoroll Batch #7.  My immediate reactions are a bit mixed....the shoulders are cut pretty huge.  I've got wide shoulders, but it seems like the cut is for NFL-type shoulders.  I even shrank it before using it.  It might change with some use, so we'll see.  THe pants are exceptional--long and reinforced in all the right places.  Also, the gi material is pretty soft, so it's got a leg up on my Atamas.

Next weekend we go to Arvada, Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with my wife's dad and step-mom.  I had to miss two practices this week, and it was too many.  We leave, on Tuesday, though, so I've done some research and I'll spend at least one session at Easton BJJ, only 15 minutes from where we're staying.  So that's pretty awesome.  It will be my first traveling jiu jitsu experience.  Any tips you guys might have are more than welcome.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Near Passes and Back Control

Class tonight was about back control and finishing when you get it.  Fall to the head side for the rear naked choke, or you can feed the gi for a different collar choke; if you lose that, dismount right into an arm triangle.  Falling to the arm side, you have a different gi choke (same basic grips), the armbar, or progress to mount.

Rolling afterwards, I made my opponents start on my back with their hooks in and over-under control.  I rolled with Zach and Neal a ton---I don't remember if I had a chance to roll with Eric or not.  We did some of the same drill in class.  I didn't work with Andy tonight, as we're actively trying to get time with everyone else in class.  We train together a lot, so no need to do it every class.  I also rolled with Klint again.  I came away from that feeling pretty OK.  There were definitely moments when I could tell that my entire weight was on just one of his hooks, and he gently let me down with a smirk.  He let me work the snake-the-leg technique that he taught us on Saturday.  I also ended up on the wrong end of an arm triangle choke (that wasn't choking me unconscious but was definitely giving my neck reasons to question my chosen pursuit) and gift-wrapping my arm for him at least twice.  Of course, I didn't realize that I had gift-wrapped it for him until it was straightened, but that's beside the point.

A few months ago, I rambled for a few posts about excellence in jiu jitsu (here, here, and here).  We've had two of our excellence events at school (the third is costing me training Thursday night), and by far the most interesting was by Vito.  (Just because I don't want to ruffle feathers even unintentionally right now, I'll call him Vito.)  Vito is widely recognized as one of the best trial lawyers in the business.  He came and talked about big game hunting in Africa (he's got taxidermic lions and wildebeests that he killed in his house), playing the trumpet (he was weeks from pursuing a career as a trumpeter in Count Basie's band), and lessons from the Godfather movies (really just Parts I and II; Part III never happened).  After the event, a handful of us got to join Vito for dinner.  The concept of excellence peppered the conversation.  At one point, he said that everything else has to be secondary to the one thing in life at which you want to excel.  I asked how that affected his family, and his response was beautiful in its terror:  "I left my family for ten years to be a better lawyer."  And he had; he lived in New York during the week and came home to Minnesota on the weekend to kiss his wife and kids on the head, switch out briefcases, and go back.

So it's going to take a lot of time and effort.  Many other things in life have to take a back seat.  And I truly think that jiu jitsu is a particularly demanding pursuit; it changes your body, your eating habits, your energy levels, your self-confidence--literally everything about you.  It changes how you think and your willingness to adapt to address problems.  The hardest part is that it does all these things only after hours and hours and infinite hours on the mats, growing cauliflower ears and tweaking joints and getting gi burn on your neck from cross chokes.  It is not for the faint of heart, that's for damn sure.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I live in Minnesota.  This is what it looks like outside:

Some people love it, some people hate it, and some people just bitch and moan because that's the way midwesterners deal with life.  I really don't care all that much.  The end result, though, was a class this afternoon that was just me, Andy, and Klint.  We worked Russian tie grips from standing to work wrestling entries, then went to the ground and worked threading the needle and snaking the leg (rather than dropping the elbow behind the leg) and driving a takedown.  Apparently this is what Cael Sanderson did all the time through his 159-0 run, so it may or may not work.  After our functional private, Andy and I rolled together first, then with Klint one by one.

Last night we went to open mat and I got to work with a few guys I didn't know:  Greg (blue belt, about my size), Matt (blue belt, a bit smaller than I), Casey (white belt with 6 years no-gi experience and 260 lbs of wrestling experience), and Michael (blue belt, 130 lbs).  Greg is just coming back from about 3 years off, so we started with a flow drill (armbar from guard -- defense -- triangle -- defense -- omoplata -- roll out -- recover guard -- other guy repeats) for a while.  After that we rolled pretty light, working through positions and only sweeping, letting the subs go when we ended up with them.   It was good to get that movement in, and I still need to focus on sweeps.  Matt was a tougher fight, and I was doing some very stupid things (like forgetting to break his grips on my knees in open guard and just surrendering to my back when he was passing my guard).  Still, I hit a very very fun helicopter sweep, stayed calm in bad positions, controlled position a good amount of the time, things like that.  Eventually I'll get to the point where that isn't enough to keep me happy and I want to be able to thrash whomever I roll with, but I have miles to go before that happens.

Besides, guys like Casey exist.  He wanted us to start with him in my side control.  I, being dense and not all that smart, thought to myself, "Great, I'll just smash him in this position and work from here."  Of course, his wrestling/no-gi experience and raw size and strength had other plans.  It took me 5 minutes of being squashed to realize that it would be smarter to move around him than through him.  So I started going for far-side armbars when he would bridge into me.  That was a much more successful strategy, but only for a few seconds.  After that was Michael, the tiny blue belt.  I tried not to use my strength and to work with leverage, but there's a point at which 5-6 inches and 50 lbs is a difference too great to ignore.  Still, it was good work.

So my last few days of jiu jitsu have been very, very good.  And now, I sit at home with my semi-completed homework hidden safely in my backpack, a Capital Brewery Autumnal Fire (2009 vintage -- that's right, I saved a 6-pack for a full year) opened on my right, and The Brothers Bloom playing on our television.  If you've never seen it, you should rectify that immediately.  Here's a taste:  the opening scene.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Still Working

Last night we started with an escape from front head-and-arm control.  I guess it's sometimes called the Schultz head lock--it's the grip with which Matt Hughes choked out Ricardo Almeida.  So we started with the escape from that control on the feet, then worked the same escape from the knees.  One was rotating the head to the inside and driving through your opponent, and if he keeps up with your rotation you just tap the far-side knee and he tips.  On the ground, we did more push-pull work, mainly the same techs that we did Monday.  The head-and-arm escapes took a lot of time, so we didn't have time to roll in class.

After class, though, plenty of time.  I started with Jon, and his size is brutal.  I don't have his strength, so I need to remember to use leverage better against him.  Holding him down is almost a lost cause.  I was able to scoot from my guard to his back and work from there; but it wasn't clean, it wasn't technical, it was a bit slap-dash.  I have success breaking my opponents down, but I need to start using their effort to gain posture as momentum to sweep.  Also, I need to remember to come up with a quick-and-dirty game plan before I start rolling with someone.  It doesn't have to be complete, it doesn't have to be a game plan to win, but it should be a plan of attack.  A position to escape from or a specific attack to work.  Some sort of goal.

I worked with Jeremy, Neal, and Zach after that.  I made it a point to get into bad spots and to get out of them.  Naturally, I didn't use the momentum to attack, because I wasn't thinking that far ahead.  But that seems to be the entire basis of push-pull.  Use what they give you, move what you can move---get them to react, predict and recognize the reaction, and use the reaction to start the process all over again.  Commit to the sweep and if they post their hand you grab the kimura and take it home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lagging Behind

I have a bad right knee/shin.  I don't know exactly how bad, but it's occasionally questionable.  When I lock triangles, for instance, it hurts on the outside of my leg from my knee to my ankle.  This topic will return.  Completely unrelated, I have been late in posting.  I chalk this up to the rest of my life.  It should stop bothering me and taking up so much of my time.

We focused on the push-pull concept all night.  Well, almost all night.  We started with take-down entries from grips, and then went to the ground.  The push-pull is basically the entire concept behind judo (as I understand judo, of course, which is probably not that well because I have never practiced), and the easiest way to conserve energy on the ground.  All that means is that it's very, very hard to do.  We had a flow drill that went like this:  from half guard; recover guard, keep opponent from getting grips and pull him down with your hip flexors; roll their elbow towards you; when they sit up to resist, do a hip bump sweep; when they drive into you to resist the sweep, throw your hips back and slap on a guillotine.  Do it right, and you use only your opponent's energy and a little bit of leverage.

After that, it was more positional drills; mount, then side control.  I worked with Andy at the beginning from mount and Jon from side control.  Still trying to feel more comfortable on top.  To be fair, Jon has around 30-40 pounds on me, and not much of it is fat, so staying on top of him is an effort and an accomplishment.  Near the end, I got to my knees and started to stand, but he drove in with a double-leg.  So I realized that a guillotine was coming and grabbed his neck, but my right foot caught on his pant, and then snapped up.  For some reason, that decided to shoot pain from my ankle to my knee.  So that was awesome.  But it was also the last roll before Klint called time, so it wasn't world's end.

Started with Andy after class.  He got me with an armbar that he really shouldn't have because I was too lazy remembering to bring my arms with me when I stand up in guard.  Later, after finding a strange semi-x-guard-roll-up-type sweep (that's the technical name), I ended up in his half-guard.  His pressure on my leg made the same spot hurt like a bastard.  So I screamed a little bit, moved my leg, and on we went.  Later, I was playing guard and had both butterflies in; I elevated him and he twisted or I shot for a sweep and our shins collided--I don't remember exactly.  But again, the pain shot from my knee to my ankle.  I screamed like a baby.  A hungry, angry baby.  So if anyone has a leg they're wiling to trade, I'm somewhat in the market.

Eventually, I got back on the mat and worked with Zach a bit.  I let him pass my guard and worked out of half-guard for a while.  I didn't want to play guard for fear of the gangrene spreading, so I avoided it as much as possible.  I did end up hitting a tripod sweep twice (and then helping Zach remember how to identify and defend it) and eventually was taking his back from half-guard when he gassed.  I was a little upset at that, I wanted a bit more work.  It was his first night back after 2 weeks off, though, so his conditioning is below what it was.

Then I rolled with Klint again.  And got wrecked again.  I'm getting a little frustrated with myself and how I work when rolling with Klint.  I end up forgetting to use anything that I've been working on, like what little technique I have has flown out the window and I'm left as the guy who walked in the door in February.  I notice that I instinctively do some good things (believe me, it's not on purpose) and once I start thinking about how to improve from where I am--i.e., stop defending and start attacking--I'm caught in a new kind of pain.  Rereading this, I think it's probably overall good; my defense is at least improving, and once I think about attacking and start the process, that's when I get caught.  I'm not sure that's completely correct, but I need something to boost morale every now and then.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Weekend Recap

I missed making an entry after Thursday and Friday.  I was a bad blogger.  It happens every now and then.

We worked self defense, wrestling entries, another flow drill (scissor sweep to lazy guard recovery to butterfly guard sweep to upa and roll), and did more positional drilling.  Worked with JD again after class, and we seem to have our rhythm down.  By that I mean that we are roughly the same size and skill, and our rolls are hard fought and satisfying.

Andy and I worked with Klint, too.  And he decided that today he was going to wreck us with speed.  It wasn't like his technique was lacking....he just tore through us round after round.  We put up solid, technical resistance as best we could, but it was like a talented pony leaguer facing Mariano Rivera---it was only a matter of time.

Friday, New Jon had a promotion to get his first stripe, and instead of going to open mat, Andy and I went to give him people to fight with.  As a trade off, we got as much mat time as we wanted afterwards.  Of course, I knocked my elbow and bailed much earlier than I would have liked, because that's how my luck has broken lately.  So we called it a light session and found barstools at the Muddy Pig.

This morning, class was the same setup.  Colin was there, and that's always entertaining.  High crotch entry to the step-back dump; then from the bottom, grip break to foot on hip to shooting armbar to triangle when they stack you.  After that, more positional drills.  Mount, side control, guard.  Those in attendance were Tony, Ed, myself, Colin, and Neal.

Afterwards, the old guys just started talking, so I worked with Neal.  Started in his mount and went from there.  I went slow, working technique, getting him to try to calm down.  I'm actively trying to work specific things i rolling, especially when it's Neal.  He's 4 weeks in and even though he has a huge martial arts background, it's a different world.  And he doesn't breathe.

So it was a good few days.  Deadlines and finals and briefs will completely screw up my schedule for the next few weeks....something like 2-3 times a week instead of 4-5.  Weak.  These grades better pay off.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Reviewing

Last night was more review.  It is always nice to have a week of review after a few weeks of techniques.  It reminds me that the purpose of this art is first and foremost self defense.  We worked a headlock defense, two bear hug defenses, we pummeled to remind us to get the underhook for control.  After that, we worked a smashy butterfly pass and the side control escape from bonus head control.....the pass was new, the escape was not.  That didn't make it any easier, of course, but good nonetheless.  Then we did more 50/50s, starting in mount, then side control, then we were out of class time.

Started with JD immediately after class.  Once again, we were pure bastards to each other.  In the best way, of course.  I wasn't able to successfully use the smashy pass that we learned in class, and I got mounted again, but he wasn't able to finish me, and I got back to guard.  It took me longer than I would have liked; I can tell that I need to improve my mount escape.  I got back to closed guard, and eventually found an armbar when JD stood up.  It was a good 5(ish) minute roll, but once again, I was on my back working from guard.  I love working my guard, but I need to work top more often.  I guess against JD (and Andy), it will be less likely until it improves, but it's something I need to remember.

After that, I worked with Neal (the new Jack Russell terrier), and I was much much nicer than I had been.  We worked a lot of positions, and I tried to help him keep breathing and got probably 15-20 minutes of work in.  I'm going to make a conscious effort to treat new students the way that Klint treated me when I started.  Of course, I got worked, but I also had a lot of learning opportunities.

Sorry for the short post, but school and work demands keep me from sitting and pondering any longer.  I'll be back on the mat Thursday and get something down here shortly thereafter.  Same on Friday open mat and Saturday noon class.  In closing, here's something that I heard in an interview with John Danaher:  "It is very very rare that someone becomes more unhappy by the study of jiu jitsu."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


That's what a lot of today was; we didn't learn any new technique.  We started doing headlock self-defense techniques, then a bear-hug self-defense tech, then two single-leg defenses, and into a few flow drills.  Worked scissor sweep, hip escape, triangle, triangle escape, and s-mount armbar.  Then we worked butterfly guard sweep directly to side control, mount, direct choke to arm triangle.

(Right now, the Judo World Team Championships are available on ESPN3. Who doesn't love watching judo throws?)

I worked with Tony, which was really good.  He's roughly m size, has years of wrestling and jiu jitsu experience on me, and is technically exact.  After the flow drills, we worked 50/50s, starting first in mount, then in side control, then in full guard.  Mount I worked with Tony, and I had much more success mounting him than I had escaping his mount.  He got one cross-choke on me, but I also escaped once, so I called it a draw in my head.  Side control I worked with Neal, the new guy who's roughly the size of a jack russell terrier.  I was nicer this time.  And for full guard, I worked with JD.  We're still very evenly matched, even after he's been back for a week.  I can't tell if that means that he's slipped in his time away or if my time is paying off.  Hopefully the latter.

After class, Andy and I initially worked an actual slow pace.  Probably 15 minutes, paying attention no only to how best to tap the other guy, but working positions and letting the other guy hit sweeps and find transitions.  Then Klint threw me at JD, and we went pretty hard for a while.  I hit a leg-loop sweep for the first time, but I didn't commit enough to generate the momentum that would bring be on top.  Instead, we were laying there kicking at each other's legs.  Because my technique was weak.  So even though the leg-loop was a high point, I also went for an armbar and (for reasons passing understanding) rotated my hips the wrong way.  So Instead of an easy armbar, I gave myself an impossible omoplata.  Smart, I know.  I also lost a few positions that I had no reason to give up.  So there are a few more things to keep in mind.  Finally, Andy and I trained full out for a little bit.  He's got a promotion coming up at the beginning of December, so we'll be drilling quite a bit in the coming weeks.

I've been doing well looking for and hitting sweeps, though I notice that it's almost always the power sweep.  I need to drill different sweeps and look for those as well.  I also need to remember to get off my back, because as fun as playing guard is, life is easier on top.