Friday, December 23, 2011


We're in the Black Hills for the holiday.  his means that, unfortunately, I won't get to train again until Tuesday.  This is sad.  I even tried to get in touch with a few academies in town, but none of them are going to be training while I'm in town.  In case that changes, the gi, rashguard, and belt are all in the trunk.

I told Brenna earlier this week that she has no idea how much of my thinking time is spent on jiu jitsu.  On the way through South Dakota, we were listening to Radiolab, my new podcast addiction.  We were listening to the episode on Words.  (Here is the link; if you haven't listened to Radiolab, it's probably the smartest thing on the radio right now.)  In this episode, they were discussing the idea of whether language is what allows children to think better than rodents, and later, whether language prevents us from feeling as much emotion as possible.  [Rereading that sentence, it's terribly written and only kind of explains what I want it to, but we'll see if I can make it better.]  One of the stories focused on a woman who was having a stroke, and she wrote a book about the experience.  The left side of her brain was shutting down, and she lost all language.  In those moments, when only the right side of her brain was operating, she said it was indescribable (not the least because she didn't have language) and allowed her to feel in ways that the logic and design of language prevent.

There was another bit about neural connections, and how evolutionarily advanced it is to be able to form the thought "left of the blue wall."  Both rodents and humans have the capacity to define the noun and adjectives in that phrase ("wall," "left," and "blue"), but for some reason, rodents are unable to build the connections necessary to define an item's location in relation to a differently colored wall.  [Again, bad explanation--listen to the radio show.]  So it's as though each of our brains has these islands that define colors and directions and objects, and language (prepositions, in this particular case) allows us to connect those separate islands to one another.

So we were driving the expanse of nothing that is Dakota Country and I started thinking about how my training has been going lately and the feedback that Klint has given me.  I know a lot of techniques.  I can talk about (and even reasonably teach) armbars, takedowns, triangles, kimuras, the Camarillo switch, chokes---when I write it down or try to explain it, I realize that it's a lot more technique than I expected.  I have these islands of technique, and a few bridges between them that I constantly use.  (And this is where the two parts of the episode combined to fuel my thoughts.)  But I'm scared to turn off my left brain when rolling to see whether any other bridges exist for me to use.  Occasionally it happens---I'll do something that's really good and that I didn't expect, but I don't remember what I did so I can't replicate it or even explain it.  But that is what my jiu jitsu needs right now:  less left brain.  In jiu jitsu parlance, I have to flow with the go a bit more.  Stop thinking about it and just roll with the roll.

It's hard.  I have a rather overbearing brain--I want to understand everything that I'm doing, and shooting from the hip in these situations, especially when I'm up against Klint, means that I'm going to have to lose a lot and that I won't enjoy the time I spend training.  Which is simply a fact of life.  And I should get used to it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Why Not To Be Upset With My Progress

This conversation has happened a handful of times in the last three months:

Them:  You have really good movement.
Me:  Thanks, I appreciate that.
Them:  How long have you been doing jiu jitsu?
Me:  It will be two years this coming February.  So around 20/22 months.
Them:  .....That can't be right.  You're much better than that.  Did you wrestle?
Me:  For a year in eighth grade.  So kind of, but really no.
Them:  That's not fair.

I wish I could take credit for it all on my own.  I can't, and I refuse to.  For starters, I still think I'm not all that good.  I have a few tricks, and one or two standard attacks and set-ups that I always look for.  But I'm not a monster on the mat by any stretch.  Also, my progress is almost entirely due to Klint's instruction.  He's a technical madman.  Every lesson takes the minutiae of each technique, explains why it's important to the particular combination we're working that day, and at the end, goes from the six-inch view to the thirty-thousand-foot view.  From explaining why the elbow control helps more than wrist control for this one set-up to why we should attack constantly and how that affects not only our game, but our opponent's defenses and concentration.

And it all shows in my training.  So that's nice.  And though I'm frustrated and feel stagnant, it seems that I am the only one who thinks that about my game.

I imagine this is something that everyone has to go through during their training.  At least, everyone who isn't BJ Penn (or some other equally ridiculously prodigious grappler) and has to suffer through life with regular concerns like a job and familial obligations.  We're not learning knitting or how to make a collage.  We're fighting.  It's hard, and sometimes it sucks.  But you're not always the best judge of your own progress.  That's something worth remembering.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

That's what you get....

Jeremy returned.  I have weeks of thrashing to look forward to.  At the end of class Thursday night, Klint and Jeremy pickled me.  It's like baseball in the back yard when we were kids, where one kid runs between the bases and the other two try to tag him out.  Just back and forth, with the kid in the middle pickled.  That was me.

I honestly can't say whether I was doing anything well or not.  I know that I made some stupid mistakes, and that I hate making those mistakes in general---especially when either Klint or Jeremy are watching me train.  So the fact that each of them was working me over while the other watched was hard on my psyche. Very hard.  I was fighting and screaming at myself over it until I went to sleep.  After gaining a certain level of proficiency at anything, you always get pissed and irritated when you can't do anything, when none of your techniques work.  And that was all of training Thursday.

Friday I got a text from Klint telling me that class was cancelled on Saturday, so Saturday I spent the entire time at Edina, taking class from Gina and her girls early and working through the open mat afterwards.  And for a lot of Saturday, the roles were reversed.  There were a few rounds where I was fighting out of my class---some rounds with higher belts who I knew were going to handle me and they did.  I got to work on my defenses and survival, and the thrashing I took Thursday had me better prepared for those rounds than I otherwise would have been.  I stuck myself into turtle too often, and one of the areas I need the most work is keeping moving through those transitions, from stiff-arming the guard pass to my knees to either my guard or my own takedown reversal.  I left myself in a few terrible spots simply because I didn't keep moving.  So I have some drills to work on, and I'm sure Klint and Jeremy will be able to help me work that problem.  Against a few similar belts, though, I was the driver.  I rolled with two people who were being just as hard on themselves and getting just as frustrated as I was on Thursday.  So I caught myself telling them the same things I heard at the end of Thursday's training:  they're doing well, that they're going to get beat sometimes and that's part of the process.  A few of the other rounds were a bit closer, no one losing self-confidence or slapping the mat.

A bit of the time, I even surprised myself with the techniques my body went to.  I was working a baseball choke, a few bow-and-arrows, some guard passes, Jeremy's back was a really good morning of training.  I only wish I could remember that those nights that aren't so reassuring.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Plays poorly with others

I went to a seminar this past weekend, given by a very public figure in BJJ around the world.  He is a second or third degree black belt, runs a world-famous academy in southern California, and is a relentless advocate for his family's brand of jiu jitsu and way of life.  I won't name him, though if you do minor research, it won't be hard to figure out.

I was disappointed in the seminar.  One session was about side mount, and the second was about triangle.  Neither went that deep into the position or strategies and philosophies around it.  I think part of the reason was that the hosting academy is new, and it's full of white belts and some blue belts.  As a blue myself, I hesitate to cast aspersions on others who hold the same rank, but looking around the room at some people moving around and drilling, I don't think many of them would have been blue belts at other academies.  So that's my snarkiness for the day.

I went on my own, and no one I knew did the seminar.  it was a room full of strangers.  The effect of that, though, is that my partner was always someone who I didn't know---which is more than fine---and who either doesn't pay as close attention to technique as I do (first session) or simply doesn't normally practice jiu jitsu (second session).  So I felt like I ended up re-teaching the techniques once we started drilling them, which seemed to be wasted time.

If nothing else, it gave me still more confidence in my home academy, and in my instructors methods and philosophy.  Exactly what I need---more reason to feel quietly superior.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I was working last night at the bar and a training partner ended up coming in for a drink with a lady friend. They had dinner and a drink or two, and then she left and he waited at the bar for his bus.  So we got to catch up; he and I don't get to train together that often.  He trains across town at night, when I'm usually at Woodbury.  We started training at roughly the same time, I think, but I have one distinct advantage:  I'm 6'1"-ish, 180 lbs, and he's 5'3"-ish, 130 lbs.  [You heard it here first---size matters.]  He said something that resonated with me:  "I see everyone around me making leaps and moving forward, and I feel like I'm just plateauing."

Why did this resonate with me?  I look over the history of this blog, and I can see (and remember writing) posts about how I feel good about my jiu jitsu, and how I feel like I'm progressing.  Right now, it's a little different.  I know that I'm progressing and improving.   I feel myself giving certain people more trouble than I used to, I see myself beating guys who used to stomp me.  I take my training seriously (more seriously than I think my lovely wife would like), and I make time to roll with guys across town so that I get training in with different bodies and higher belts who are not my instructor.  I hear guys complimenting my progress, etc.  And it still feels like a plateau.  Explain that.

For one, improvement is becoming much more of a slog, a much steeper incline.  It's no longer about learning the basics; now I have to build combinations and increase push-pull sensitivity and up my aggression without sacrificing my defense.  For another, I don't have people with whom to practice building those essentials.  I have Klint to wreck me, I have the white belts to wreck, and I have guys across town to measure my game.  I don't have drilling partners.  And those are the ones I think I need right now.  Blue belt, as I understand it, is where you build your game, where you craft what kind of jiu jitsu player you're going to be and determine what goes into your A game.  I'm going to be here a long, long time.  And I'm cool with that.  What would bother me would be being a blue belt for a long long time and feeling the entire time like I'm not training properly.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I just got back from a family trip to Texas.  We have family in Ft. Worth, so I got to train twice at Genesis Jiu Jitsu.  A training partner recommended it to me a few months back, and this is the first change I got to train there.  Great bunch of guys, they train hard and were extremely welcoming to me.  They heard I was in from Minnesota and just opened the doors, both literally and figuratively.

I trained one session no gi with them (seems the only time I train no gi is when I travel and visit other academies) and one session gi.  I matched up pretty well against guys of similar rank, I felt.

Right now, my jiu jitsu feels great.  This goes back even to my tournament performance.  I'm very happy with where my game is for the amount of time I've been training and how I'm able to handle myself against people with years more mat time and depth of experience than I have.  I don't have a good competition game, and I'll be the first to admit that.  We just don't get enough competitions in the great white north.  If we want a decent depth of competition, we have to drive to Chicago, and that's six hours and a hotel room for a few nights.  It's brutal.  I think that if I had more opportunity to throw myself into the fire, I would have finer timing and quicker synapses in those situations.  So my tournament results do not coincide with my confidence in my game.  But I don't train for tournaments.  I train for fights.  I train for unexpected situations.  I train for no time limits.  I train so that I'm not the one who gases.  So that I can outlast my opponent and take no damage at the same time.   Of course, I've never had to use it outside the academy.  So there's that.

And that's where I'm going to leave it tonight.  Go train.  Get better.  I took the night off to stay with my gestating bride and pet my forlorn dog, but tomorrow night I'll be back on the mats.  And Friday I get sworn in as an officially licensed attorney in the State of Minnesota.  (If that's not weird, I don't know what is.)  Still, I'll be learning, losing, and loving every second of it as often as I possibly can.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Hate Rules

Here are my matches:

Weight 1:

Weight 2:

Weight 3 (bronze medal match):

Absolute 1:

Absolute 2:


I'm happy with where my jiu jitsu is, if not with my tournament performance.  I felt that if there were no governing rules or scoring system -- if this were a sub only tournament, for instance -- then I would have won every match.  I never felt out of my depth, I never felt sideways.  I was in a bad spot once or twice, but I never felt threatened.  And I didn't gas, which was a nice realization.  (Though I'm sure someone will tell me that it just means I wasn't working hard enough.  I will tell that person to pound sand, but that's a different post.)

So here's some more of my jiu jitsu.  Enjoi.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Game Time

I'm on weight.  And miserable for not having had a proper drink in weeks.

I've my schedule plotted to drive down, sleep, weigh in, eat, and then compete.  With a bit of luck, I'll have someone video it.

There's nothing else for me to do at this point but drive down and compete.  I'll do a quick bike ride tomorrow, get some blood pumping in the morning.  But at this point, it's like all those law school tests:  there's nothing I'm going to learn in the hours between now and go time that will make the difference between success and something else.  So it's time to get legitimate work done that I've been delaying, to sleep, and then to fight.

See you on the other side.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I registered for the tournament in Chicago.  No backing out now.  Which is good, because the diet I've restricted myself to sucks.  I'm not much over, just a few pounds, but I don't want to have to bath in salt or wear mountain climbing gear in a sauna the day before.  So that's on.

I have two weddings this week, both Friday and Saturday, and a rehearsal dinner tonight, so I won't be able to train again until Saturday.  I front-loaded the week to balance it out, training Monday morning and evening, Tuesday lunch, and Wednesday morning.  I'm pretty lean and sore, but it appears to be paying off.  I had a few pretty good rolls with higher belts, lasting entirely too long and doing much more than surviving.  I was successfully attacking.  I didn't finish all of my attacks successfully, but that's the way it goes.  It's been something of a confidence booster.  I'm not letting myself think I'm better than I am; I still got wrecked on more than one occasion.  But I'm evolving.  And that is good.

I registered for both my weight division and absolute.  I told myself beforehand that I would do only my weight division.  But going to Chicago is a long way to go, and being guaranteed only one fight just wasn't enough for me.  So I'll have at the very least two (hopefully many more), and I'll be ridiculously tired that night.

Oh yeah, and this morning I found out that I passed the MN bar exam.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I went to a movie last night with my wife and some friends, and I found myself looking at the actors' ears to see whether they train jiu jitsu.  Granted, it's not a foolproof system---plenty of people who roll have pristine ears.  But for some reason, I was hoping this actor had a little bit of cauliflower.  It would have helped me to connect with him just that much more.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Movin' On Up

To the East Side (yeah we movin' on up).  [You were singing it in your head, I just put it to words.]

ADCCs are streaming in front of me on the television (thank you PS3), my wife is still asleep, my dog is curled at my side, and the coffee is still hot.  This is a good morning.

I trained five and a half times this week.  Half because I got to open mat pretty late on Saturday, and I only got to work for about fifteen minutes with Dumi.  Mind you, this is still fifteen minutes of good work with a purple belt that I would not get at my own academy, and Dumi has a super smooth game that requires constant attention and careful technique.  We weren't rolling hard, and he was working his inverted guard, so I concentrated on passing, top half-guard, and grip control.  If I could change only one thing about my academy, it would be the number of training partners we have.  I'm lucky to have the school across town with a stable of guys who want to train every day, and I'm lucky to have an understanding wife who understands my need for physical release and exercise.  So when possible, I get to travel cross-town for some serious work.  Friday, though, was fairly light, which is actually what I wanted.  I just wanted more time for it.

Saturday morning with Gina's class was good.  I keep working one takedown setup with options to go to a single leg, an uchi mata, or and knee tap.  Klint has me focusing on this one setup for two reasons:  1. I'm not generally comfortable with takedowns and we don't have the guys to constantly work them (especially since our guys keep getting hurt); and 2. it keeps my head out of trouble when working for the takedown.  So I'll have to put more time into that, slowly upping the intensity.  JD has said that he's more than willing to work with me on it, which is good because he's bigger than me.  So if I can work it on him, that bodes well for tournament utility.  I'll be in the 175.5 lbs division, and if some guys cut serious weight, it's not outside the realm that they would be JD's size.  Good things all around.

Then Klint's class was again good, working on defenses--triangle and armbars.  After class, he tested me for and awarded me my first stripe on my blue belt.  Had to demonstrate a few techniques from the set curriculum, and then rolled with the three guys twice through, live the first time and starting in disadvantageous positions the second time through.  I was pretty tired by the end, and Klint said a few very nice things, we bowed, and that was the day.  So now I'm a one-stripe blue belt.  Is that any different from the beginning of the week?  No, not so much.  I had some people come watch my promotion from white to blue, and Brenna asked if I was going to do the same anytime soon.  I think not until purple.  That's the next big step.  Everything until then is like "What About Bob":  baby steps.  And I have a lot of baby steps to take before then.  So that starts with training on Monday.

Tournament date:  October 15
Weight class:  175.5
walking around:  177-82
Should be easy enough to make that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Note To Self

Worst way to prep for class:  spend the weekend before at a beer festival.  Iggity.

We're working defenses this week.  Last night was triangle defense.  We worked a grip-break arm drag takedown series, then drilled the defenses Klint wanted us to work.  He's been having us work pretty hard in class, and I'm pretty sure it's because he knows I have a competition in my sights.  Lost of "OK guys, you have one minute; guy on top pass, guy on bottom submit, win as fast as you can GO!" kind of drills.  It's good for getting used to struggling and getting your body accustomed to fighting with a lot of energy and adrenaline, but it's damned tiring.

I've had a few conversations with Klint about how I'm not improving as quickly as I want to.  In the end, I know that I'm doing well and that it takes time and I'm probably ahead of the curve for a lot of guys.  I've been grappling for a little more than a year and a half and I can give purple belts who've been training for ten years trouble, so that's a good sign.  I want, though, to be competing with them, not just giving them trouble.  And I'm not exactly easy on myself, I'm competitive, and I've been known to be impatient.  A lot. So if my mind and body could just get their shit together, I would really appreciate it.  I've started giving myself specific goals in training (focus on breaking grips and killing hooks, finish with only this submission if you get a dominant position, work open guard instead of closed, etc.), and I think that helps.  It's the problem with development, though; it takes time, and I don't want it to.  As the great philosopher Jagger once said, though, you can't always get what you want.

I read The Cauliflower Chronicles this weekend.  It took me an afternoon.  It won't win any awards or anything, but it was an entertaining read.  It's one guy's story of going to Hawai'i to train at BJ Penn's academy and earn his blue belt.  I'm sure part of the reason I enjoyed it is that it is temporally very close to my own quest for a blue belt, so I can empathize with a lot of the author's tales of getting waxed on the mat when you feel you should be doing better.  That, and I want badly to go to Hawai'i.  So if you enjoy hearing stories about jiu jitsu, I would recommend it.  But if you get frustrated by grammatical conventions and sentence structure (and on a few occasions simple things like subject-verb agreement), you would be better off spending the time on the mats.

More training tonight.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I realize what I've been doing.  And what's more, I know that it almost certainly doesn't affect anyone other than me.

I know that each time I return to post, I pledge that I will write more often and resume the regularity with which I once updated this space.  As often happens, though, life has other plans.  The sporadic timetable that I've been following in recent weeks/months?  It's probably going to be the regular schedule.  I say "probably" because that isn't set in stone.

Here's how it breaks down:  I bartend two nights a week (if you're ever in Minneapolis come to Republic for a pint or four); I'm working for two different attorneys (one estate planner and one military defense guy) to do odds-and-ends projects for money (because as it turns out, that's important); I train at least four times a week; I have a job on the horizon (federal clerkship for January through August, '12) that will demand attention and therefore time; and my wife is currently incubating our first.  So strangely, blogging time has not returned as I expected.  Instead, I find myself wondering where a lot of my time went.  Add to that the fact that our attendance is or has been expected at eleven weddings this calendar year, and it makes sense why I have started and abandoned this individual post at least three times before this one.

I just finished re-reading two of my favorite books, AMERICAN GODS and FIGHT CLUB.  AMERICAN GODS is great and makes me wish I was more connected to the tribal myths of my heritage.  I didn't live in a house where we left milk out for the piskies and leprechauns, where we sacrificed to the gods of winter and spring, where we reveled in tales of tricksters and hid from the valued a good con.  But I kind of want to raise my child in one.

FIGHT CLUB is different entirely.  I can't tell whether it's cliche for someone my age to enjoy and appreciate that book, either independent of or in conjunction with the film.  But I thoroughly enjoy it every time.  David Fincher did such a good job capturing the voice and tone of the book, but he changed a fundamental part of it.  Well, maybe not changed; he diverted the focus, and I think Tyler Durdens' purpose and motivation is more fully portrayed in the book to the point that too much is left unsaid in the film.  His quest for perfection is lost. The purpose of breaking everything, of hitting bottom, is not only to see what one is truly capable of, but for the perfection of the moment in which the rock-bottomed-out person realizes it.  It is that perfect, fleeting moment--rather than the resulting mayhem--that drives Tyler.  Anyways.  I spend hours upon hours a week thinking about and practicing combat sports, so parts of this book make perfect sense.  You break yourself down so that you can see what lies beneath, so your mettle shows.  Jon Fitch has said that FIGHT CLUB is the reason he got into fighting.  I would be lying if I said it had nothing to do with my interest in combat sports and martial arts.

[insert week-long pause for various reasons]

This afternoon I read THE CAULIFLOWER CHRONICLES.  It's a book about a white belt whose network dumped him shortly after his girlfriend did, so he took the opportunity to spend a semester in Hilo, Hawaii and train at BJ Penn's academy.  It wasn't particularly well-written, but it was still enjoyable to read.  I wanted more to be underneath the surface, but in the end, any story about someone who wants to train as much as I do will find a receptive audience in me.

I've picked up my training a decent bit this last week, and I'm hoping to maintain that pace for the next month.  This weekend I spent drinking beer (a brew review in town, combined with a friend's thirtieth birthday, means that my liver is a little angry with me right now), so I'll be working that off next week and then spending the next few getting down to 175.  Shouldn't be too hard; I walk around somewhere between 177 and 183, so minding my diet and portions should take care of it nicely.  I have another wedding between now and the competition, though, so I need to pay attention.  As far as the training itself has gone, I've had mixed results and personal reactions.  A few guys across town got promoted, and they were due.  I find myself having an internal conflict about how to structure my training so that I get the most out of it.  I need to carve out time for takedowns.  I need to find someone other than my black belt instructor to train with, because as useful as that is, I don't think I'll ever be able to fully implement my gameplan against him, much less get to the point where it's muscle memory.  I do feel a bit snobbish when I read myself bitching about training with a black belt too much, though, so really I don't have any complaints.  Last week I went to class and I was the only one there.  So I spent a half-hour trying to pass Klint's guard.  It's all breaking grips and killing hooks, but implementation is always much harder than conceptualization.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What Kind of Day Has It Been

I just realized that I've had this blog running for over a year.  That's kind of strange.  When I began this, part of me was certain it wouldn't make it through six months, let alone a full year.  So that's something of an achievement.  Nothing thrilling, mind you, but something.

Also, I just passed a year-and-a-half of training jiu jitsu.  That makes this as good a time as any to try to evaluate my game and jiu jitsu's effect on the rest of my life.

In short, my game is expanding and improving.  I'm more comfortable working for takedowns, I'm feeling my body move right into natural transitions without thinking about it--things are progressing.  Considering the state of my knee and the pressures of my life outside the academy, I've come pretty far in a short period of time.  I attribute a lot of that to my wife's patience and understanding.  She doesn't really at all understand the allure of grappling and why I feel the need to do it every day.  That being said, she does get that it makes me feel better and has peripheral benefits in my life, such as helping my thinking process and keeping me in shape.  Still, I need to figure out how I can get to train every day of the week.  Cause that would be outstanding.

I have noticed that I'm not spending as much time in closed guard, but that changes when I'm facing a higher belt who is bigger than me.  Well, that's not quite accurate; when I train with a bigger advanced belt, I find myself struggling to get to closed guard and oftentimes failing.  That seems to be what my body reverts to in times of stress.  I need to work a bit more on being comfortable scrambling and moving to what's open rather than straining to get to a specific place.  You know--move what you can move and take what's open rather than refusing to do anything but what I already have in my mind.  (This is a lesson for my professional life as well.)

I have also noticed how big a role confidence plays in my performance.  I would never describe myself as a modest man, but having been embarrassed by smaller opponents early in my jiu jitsu life, I know the benefit of respecting your opponent no matter what your pre-conceived notions may be.  I sometimes have trouble finding the balance between respecting my opponent and entering a roll expecting to get thrashed.  It becomes less of an issue the more I train with someone, but I need to change that.  In a tournament setting (let alone a self-defense situation), I'm more than likely going to know nothing about my opponent.  I can't go into either of those confrontations expecting to get thrashed.  I don't expect that to be a problem off the mats--most of the world doesn't know jiu jitsu, and according to Henry Akins, it's like having special powers in that you can be in a physical confrontation and emerge unscathed.  But training, I want to get over that hump sooner rather than later.

So I'm almost 19 months into training.  I've attended two black belt seminars (regular life scheduling got in the way of the rest), something on the order of 275 classes, probably 30-40 open mat sessions, competed in a tournament, and received a blue belt.  For the next year, I intend to attend the same number of seminars, compete at least once (Oct 15 US Grappling in Chicago if the chips fall as I expect) but hopefully twice, and work on many many aspects of my game.  Oh yeah, and I'll most likely become a father.  So that's weird.  But hey, I hear they make small gis for small people, so that kid will be training young.  I just have to decide whether I want it to start with judo or jiu jitsu.  Decisions decisions...

Monday, August 29, 2011


I just found out that one of my training partners got word earlier this month that he's headed for the mid-east for a year.  He's a soldier (I'm pretty sure--if I'm wrong, let's presume that I said the correct branch moniker and offended no one in the process), and he's been training with us for a bit over a year.  He took some time off to go to basic, then came back once he was back in town.  Now, he is headed headlong into fire.  He said before he left, though, that Klint's instruction has him progressing through the Army Combatives program faster than those around him.  (Force sprawl, spin to the back, choke, repeat.)

I didn't expect these kinds of relationships out of jiu jitsu.

Monday, August 22, 2011


We didn't move far, but we've certainly moved into a new apartment.  So most of my training last week was lost to playing tetris with couches and bookcases and boxes and our piano inside a u-haul.  I would say it was great, but it wasn't.  So I won't.

Now, though, I should be able to get back to regular training.  Class tonight was a few more open guard setups, working to get the sweep off the power sweep (or the tripod sweep, or whatever name your academy decides to give it when you hook one knee, cross grip a sleeve, grab the ankle and kick the hip).  Klint keeps surprising me, showing us new setups for attacks that we've been working over the last few months.  One sweep is a great and unexpected entry for the clock choke, for example.

I don't really know how our academy survives.  We have probably seven regular, dues-paying students.  I know that teaching jiu jitsu is not Klint's main source of income and that one of the reasons that he does it is that he actually likes the students he currently has.  This is great for us--we get top notch instruction in consistently small classes.  I don't know how it affects our learning though, because we don't have a lot of guys to train with.  We tend to learn each others' games and work to adapt to them, figure out how to beat one guy.  i've worked hard to get past that, but I don't see my teammates doing the same thing.  Some do--a certain few make time to train across town with new people.  Others, though, don't.  I don't know whether this is just because they have an actual life that can't take second place to jiu jitsu as often as mine currently can or because they're not interested or because they're scared.....I have no idea.

More flow drills, please.  And some training partners to boot.  That's all I want this year.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In The Grind

I couldn't train Thursday; wife's family was in town and I caught some pink eye from the bar, so grinding away on the mats was not a good idea.  I got the anti-biotics on the double and was non-contagious by Friday morning.  So Saturday, I was back.

I went to Gina's class first thing in the a.m.  She was just back from a week in NYC studying at Marcelo's academy, so we went over some x-guard entries and sweeps.  My knee is doing much, much better.  My training partner, though, was simply unable to maintain any semblance of balance when I went into x-guard.  I couldn't tell if that was because of unfamiliarity with the position or because I'm just that good at geting underneath my opponent and upsetting/manipulating his base.  I'm presuming the former, because really, I'm not that good.  Trained a bit at the end of class, worked on finding those positions and transitioning to and from them.  Mixed success and failure, so it was valuable experience.

I stuck around for a half hour of open mat afterwards, as well.  I could only stay a half hour because we had a wedding that afternoon, and juggling the car meant it had to be back earlier than I would have liked.  The Alliance guys are prepping for the Chicago Open next weekend, so rolls were timed at 6 minutes and going at a pretty good pace.  My first opponent is my build but about 20 pounds lighter.  Still lanky as all hell, and pretty good at using his legs to get between himself and his opponent.  I fared pretty well against him, but he's in the process of coming back from a while off.  He's not quite at where he was, apparently, so I can stay a step or two ahead of him.  My next roll was with a frequent training partner who's a bit smaller than I but more experienced.  He doesn't like my game because it poses problems that he does not normally confront, so his normal tricks run into unexpected obstacles.  We stalemated all six minutes, trading positions and attacks and defenses.  It was a good, hard, technical roll.  Lastly I rolled with a brown belt female.  We were taking it easier than my other rolls, trying to progress and defend, etc.

The coming week is full of moving and packing and unpacking.  Also, my wife things that jiu jitsu should come after relocation in terms of priorities.  I think this is crap, but have decided that fights with pregnant women should be chosen carefully, and this topic did not make the cut.  So I'll train (with luck) thrice next week.  We shall see.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How Fast Is Too Fast?

Class this week is all about Ezekiel chokes.  They are terrible, horrible things.  They hurt, they are easy to forget about defending, and they are disproportionately effective for how simple they are to execute.  Pick a position, and there is almost certainly an Ezekiel waiting there for you to snake around your opponent's neck.  Mount, knee-on-belly, half-guard, inside the guard---I imagine there's one from side control, we just haven't worked it.

A friend of mine and training partner landed a legal internship at Zuffa, LLC in Vegas for the coming semester, and another is doing his tax LLM (or something equally boring/tradeworthy) somewhere in NYC.  So of the nine or so standard students at our academy, we're losing two for the coming few months.  As happy as I am for their opportunities and how much these will boost their value when looking for employment, it means that I personally am losing two of my best training partners.  This is unfortunate.  On the upswing, one will be training at Marcelo's gym, and the other might be able to land me some free fight tickets.  So clouds and silver linings and all that, it might be a wash.

Neither of those two were at class, however, so afterwards I scooted over to Klint for my weekly thrashing.  I decided at some point that I wasn't going to be as accepting of position this time around.  I don't remember when I decided that--it might have been mid-guard-recovery for all I know--but the result was that I worked harder than I anticipated, I lasted longer than I thought that I would, and I transitioned to things without really registering where my body was going.  On the way to class, I was listening to an old episode of the Fightworks Podcast, and their poll that week was about how much attention the audience pays to their individual progress; most of us said that we think about it a lot.  I am no different.  I want to be getting better, and I spend a lot of time and energy trying to ensure that it happens.  Rolls like tonight, where I notice my body doing things without consciously having to go step-by-step betray more progress than I had expected.  I don't know whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Andy told me last night that my transitions were looking a lot smoother, and that my body was starting to seem to end up in the right place to capitalize on an opening that I created by attempting a sweep or testing my opponent's balance.  (He didn't say it exactly like that, but if we had been carefully dissecting that night's training, it would have sounded along those lines.)  This has to be a direct result of the flow training from the last few weeks.  So to anyone who hasn't tried flow rolling---do it now.  Your transitions will thank you later.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I have never in my life been to Spain.

Gina, the female brown belt from across town, is in NYC this week training at Marcelo Garcia's school.  Beard John, our academy standard over-thinker, will be moving to NYC for a year to do some tax program (because apparently his advanced degrees and ridiculous experience are still not enough to find him employment in this economy, so that's encouraging).  While he's there, guess where he will roll?  That's right--MG.  So that's #2 on my list of places to travel for training--right behind Camarillo's academy in Pleasanton.

This week we worked on mount positions:  escapes, maintenance, reversals, submissions.  We had a decent number of guys in each class, so we had plenty of opportunity to train afterwards.  My knee is much better, though still not at 100%.  It can't be rotated inside too far, especially if my opponent grabs my ankle and pulls it to the outside.  That usually results in an involuntary yelp, but it's not a lasting pain.  I can tell it's getting better, and that I can use it in more ways.  I'm not playing the outside hook with that leg yet, but I can trust it to stay intact throughout a roll.

My blue belt it getting pretty worn in--the belt itself, that is.  I'm getting a decent amount of mat time.  It's never enough, of course, but that's because I'm an addict.  ("Anyone up for beers tonight?"  "Can't until after about 9, I'm training" is a standard weekday conversation.)  I am at the point where I can't really gauge my progress.  Despite Klint's abilities as an instructor, our academy remains pretty small--10 guys or so.  The benefit is that we all get quality rolling time with Klint.  Well, I don't know about all of us, but I know that I do.  And most other guys who ask to train get the time too.  The hook, though, is that the only guy that I can constantly rely on to test my game against is the black belt instructor.  I haven't been able to get across town to train as much as I would like, but that's something I can work to change over the next month or so.  They have more higher belts I can train with, and I need to avail myself of that opportunity on a more regular basis.

My blue belt is still pretty heavy.  I don't know how much of that is my own doing, how much of that is part of the social structure of the academy, and how much of that is standard operating procedure.  I was the first student promoted to blue belt under Klint, but we have three other blues now.  I don't know how regular this is, or how much this will change over time.  I also know that I need to start being smarter about my training with the lower belts, start forcing myself to work only on certain moves or set-ups, work my weak side or my guard passing (because passing guard sucks)--basically, I need to remember to challenge myself when rolling with lower belts.  That is how to improve and use my training time most effectively.  And basically, I need to get rid of that bit of ego that's worried about getting caught when doing something that I don't have completely down.  Because, again, that's how you get better.

Damn this is hard.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Roll out

This week has been pretty OK for training.  I got to class Monday and Tuesday, got to train for a bit after both of them.  We have a new guy who has started taking class, a karate black belt from the other side of the school.  (I say the other side of the school--our academy is in a room of a karate school, the school that Klint started a handful of years ago and sold.  He is still the head black belt instructor over there, which requires him to be at all the graduations and give all the instructors one class a month, but his main teaching focus is jiu jitsu.)  He came in chin-up, pretty jonsed, full of confidence.  When rolling, he came at us like it was the world championships.  So it gave me a chance to work some push-pull sweeps, some top control, some reaction and flow training.  It was great fun for me.

I've talked with a few guys about the difference between jiu jitsu and karate training, and why we can't get more guys from the karate school to come over and take jiu jitsu.  It sounds cocky, and I definitely don't mean it to belittle karate or karate fighters, but I think jiu jitsu is more physically taxing.  It's harder; at least, the way that our schools teach and train.  So we'll see if this kid sticks around.  I hope he does, I hope he takes the opportunity to learn some fine control of his movement, rather than relying on explosion the entire time.

Really, I just want to spend every night training.  I wish I could mak this a job, something that I could use my law degree to benefit.  The idea of instructing some time in the future has popped into my head intermittently in the last few months.  It is a few years away still, but it's definitely somewhere on the horizon.  I want to be much better than I am before I hold myself out as qualified to teach others.  I have a lot still to learn from my training partners--I'm still a young blue belt, six months in.  I have a long way to go.  The other reason is that B and I got a kid on the way, so my attention will be sufficiently distracted in the next year or so.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

And I'm back.

The test is over.  With any luck, I need never talk about it again.  I have to say, though, studying for the bar probably benefitted my training.  I needed an outlet more than ever, so getting on the mat and working through some of that frustration and tension was pretty high on my priority list the last few weeks.  I even went to class the night before, the night between (the test is two days), and the night after the test.  It was great.

I realize I haven't posted in a while, and a few things have changed.  As I said before, we got a few more blue belts at my academy.  This is good for them, without a doubt, but good for the school as well.  We have probably 8-10 consistent students, and most of us train somewhere between 2 and 4 days a week.  We don't have a lot of young, hungry guys who want to go out and win tournaments--in fact, I would say that we don't have any.  Sure, a few of us have competed, but competition is not our goal.  We just want to get better.  And the biggest drawback to our academy being so small is that we don't have a huge pool of training partners.  But we put in the time, and we try to give each other challenges so that we don't stagnate.  And John, JD, and Vance getting their promotions was a nice affirmation of our training.

My knee is doing pretty OK.  I have two braces that I wear when training, and I stop myself from doing any movements that put strange stress on it.  No de la riva hook with my right leg, no knee-through passes, nothing like that.  Hell, I can barely defend my guard if they pass to my right, which isn't so great because that's the side most guys take to pass.  But, it forces me to work my defense and sweeps and reversals while staying technical.  Scrambling on a bad knee is not good (especially on wresting mats--those things get slick), so I have been trying to work sweeps that keep me close to my opponent and put me on top.

I'm having successes where I used t have serious challenges, and I can feel my game improving over time.  I've grown to love taking the back and collar chokes, we've spent a lot of time focused on digging out the far-side armbar and kimura, I've spent a decent amount of time and concentration on improving my's been a busy month.  Klint got us all to start flow-rolling as a class, which came at probably the best possible time for my brain.  And tonight, I'll be at it again.

So if you're still reading this, I shall return to my fairly-regular posting schedule.  Hope to see you on the mats sometime.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Medias Res

I had the first day of the bar exam this morning.  I do the second half tomorrow.  I trained tonight.  Without training, I may well have simply killed myself to avoid finishing tomorrow.

Don't you worry.  It will all be over soon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

In Case You Missed It...

Here's a new video of Rickson talking about his jiu jitsu philosophy.

And here is a picture of our new blue belts.  Also, my instructor and two of our white belts.  (I'm the one distancing myself on the left; me and pictures don't get along.)

I'll be back to regular posting after the bar exam.  Honest.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


I have fellow blue belts from my own academy.  This is a proud moment.

Pics to follow once made available.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Less Dammit

I went to class tonight, though I didn't participate.  Not really.  First off, Klint wasn't there, so no "class" per se was held.  Instead, the four guys who are testing for their promotion on Saturday showed up to drill through some of the techniques they recently went over in class.

I showed up for moral support.  I had to explain to my wife why I was taking my gi.  And assure her again and again (and that third time too) that I was not going to do anything that put my knee in jeopardy and definitely was not going to train.  In fact, I barely even demonstrated, asking JD to go through the movements as I described them.  Because I know he's good enough to do them, and our minds tend to work the same way when it comes to movement.

So they will test Saturday.  And I will be there, wishing I could push them harder.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I had a friend of mine who is a sports trainer look at my knee Monday afternoon.  He poked, prodded, crowbarred around in there, kept asking "How does this feel?"  I can get around, but it takes me twenty minutes longer to do anything, including and especially get out of bed in the morning.  Peg-legging seems to be the way to go, at least for now.  It's weird, though, because when I'm sitting, I seem to have most of my flexibility still.  And without pain.  It's the straightening that sucks.

"MCL, which is probably the best news I can give you," he says to me.  "It heals on its own, and there's almost no change in treatment from second to third degree injury on it.  So don't be an idiot with your knee for the next few days, we'll see how it heals itself."

That being said, I'm going to class tonight.  I'm not doing takedowns or guard work--hell, I'll be amazed if I can do half of the stuff Klint works in class.  But this weekend he's having a few of my teammates test for promotion, and I refuse to miss that.  I want to be able to help them as much as I can, even if it's chirping from the sidelines tonight.

So I haven't gotten an MRI, but I've gotten the best advice that my cash-strapped self can right now.  Besides, I really should be studying.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I want to say this up front:  I love frisbee.  Ultimate is one of the best sports I've played, with just as much focus on fun and spirit and sportsmanship as on athleticism and skill.  I wish only that it didn't pose such devastating threat to life and limb.

Plaid Pick-up, a great group of people who get together every Saturday morning in the summer to play some disc.  On the Saturday closest to the solstice, Plaid holds a game to 100.  They draw stones (white and black) to pick teams (light and dark), and people show up throughout the day to provide fresh substitutes until one team reaches 100.  It's a day-long affair, sprinkled with wit and grilling, beer and gatorade.  If you play ultimate and live in the cities, it's worth the trip to St. Paul.

I'll get back to this game, but first--jiu jitsu.  I've really been training a lot.  Four or five times a week, I'm on the mat sweating more than I probably should and loving it.  I've been placed on a submissions-from-guard ban for the next month to ensure that I use the time in my guard to work on my sweeps.  It's a good tool, and last week I worked my sweeps a lot.  Even against the purple belts, I'm not letting myself shoot for submissions even if I want to use them to set up sweeps.  I need to get more fluid with my sweeps on their own, so I'm making myself work on them.  A few of my teammates are getting promoted next Saturday, so we've picked up the training pace a little bit, and we've started incorporating flow rolling into class and post-class open mat.  I think the only reason Klint hadn't had us working it before was that not enough of us had the necessary base knowledge to get a tangible benefit from it.  I'm starting to get more comfortable in transition, finding more success in scrambles, and realizing how much of my game is based around letting my opponent get to his knees and spinning around him to pull him into back control.  It's been a fantastically educational month for my jiu jitsu.

Yesterday was the game to 100.  Early on, though, I went to Gina's class in Edina.  I knew that I wouldn't be able to make Klint's class in the afternoon because I had an old roommate's wedding that promised to be a memorable affair.  So at Gina's class, I worked with some of her girls and incorporated more flow-rolling after class, working only position rather than digging for submissions and trying to keep my opponent pinned.  It was fantastic, it was fun and tiring and one of the best hangover cures I an remember.  So I rolled for about an hour and a half.  After rolling, I figured I would use about an hour of the Game to 100 to get some more cardio work in.  And I hadn't played ultimate for almost 2 years--law school and (more importantly) jiu jitsu stemmed my attendance and refocused my attention.

The welcome to the field was warm despite the sixty-degree semi-drizzle.  I strapped on my cleats, pulled my plaid jersey on and claimed my spot on the line.  I played probably ten points.  I wasn't the force that I remember myself being on the field, but I wasn't embarrassing myself either.  I was running, throwing, defending--I was playing about as well as someone who hasn't played in two years is expected to play.  One play I'm defending Mike, the guy who organizes the game, and this teammate sends it long for him.  So I turn on the jets and work to make sure that I'm not scored on.  The disc gets to the end zone and Mike is a step or two behind me.  He's old and wily, though, and in ultimate (much like in jiu jitsu), age and experience can be just as big an asset as youth and athleticism.  So I know not to take chances with him and dive to get the defensive bid.  I get it, slapping the disc away.  Our momentum, though, intersected, and Mike tripped over me.

Tumbling into one another on the frisbee field is not uncommon.  I've been in several crashes myself and walked away unscathed.  (Ironically, my only serious injuries in frisbee came from (i) fooling around in warm-ups (sprained ankle) and (ii) pivoting surprisingly quickly for my back to keep pace (threw out my back for 2-3 weeks)).  So I'm down, and Mike basically surfs over me.  Unfortunately, he lands on my leg between my knee and ankle.  And the knee pops.

I take a few minutes on the field, just kneeling to see how it feels immediately afterwards.  It isn't that bad--a bit throbby, but this is the same knee that pops all the time in jiu jitsu so I might have dodged a bullet.  And it's the inside of the knee, the same place that always makes my training partners stop in their tracks and ask if I'm ok when it barks.  Mike's worried and asking about me, but I think I'm ok.  Besides, it wasn't an intentional crash, it was just one of those plays where the game results in a tangle of arms and legs.  We stand, and my leg feels a little wobbly, but not bad enough to worry.  Then I step, and know better.  I call injury and hobble off the field in search of an icepack and a fistful of ibuprofen.

So here I sit, valu-pak of ibuprofen (aka Vitamin I), and a limp that would make Verbal Kint pity me.  I'll go to class Tuesday, just to watch and not participate, and talk with Klint afterwards about what I can do.  Really, I will probably go mad if I have to stop all activity for more than a week, especially with studying and the inherent stress that causes.

So.  If anyone has suggestions about how to care for a soft knee, let me know.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Not Dead Yet

Still alive, still training on a very regular basis.  Training to the point where my wife tonight asked me when I would be able to give up a night or two a week of training.  Because she thinks I'm there a bit much.  I'm not saying that she's wrong, I'm just saying that I like it.

Klint gave me a few jiu jitsu guys to find videos on and watch over my spare time.  You know, those fifteen minutes between sleep, bar class, bar studying, bartending, and jiu jitsu-ing.  That's right, I'm taking bar prep classes (to take the bar to become a lawyer) and working at a bar (a mainly alcohol-serving establishment with multiple tap lines of fantastic beer) this summer.  So keeping bar class and bar prep separate from bar fun is a linguistic nightmare.

My jiu jitsu is moving forward.  I think.  It's not stagnant, so that's good.  But, as always, it isn't progressing as quickly as I think it should, and definitely not a fast as I would like.  My blue belt is getting some hours put on it, but we just finally started incorporating some flow-drilling into our class time and post-class training, so the last two training sessions have felt fantastic.  It finally felt like I was doing something right, like the time I was spending on the mat was for more than just repping the techniques that I'd learned that day and seeing how it fit into my game as it now existed.  Instead, it was seeing where my body wanted to go and what opportunities that opened up.  I found out that I like taking the back more than I knew, and that knee-on-belly is going to be a position that I love.  I found out that my triangles are good, but not where I thought they were, and that I need to work my sweeps.

So I'll be watching Abmar Barbosa, Romulo Barral, and Kayron Gracie for the next few days.  Probably with a little Rafael Lovato Jr. thrown in for good measure.  Need to hammer down this guard work.  I'm on a hiatus from guard submissions for the next month.  It's all about working my sweeps and controlling the top position once I get it.  I think.  I'm not quite sure, we were talking it out over text message.  Hopefully tomorrow night will shed a little more light on my training goals for the next month.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Weighing In

This post has nothing to do with actually weighing in, but rather (at least, as I start it) what you do with your weight.  More specifically, what I do with my weight.

I am a bit over 6'1" tall, and walk around at about 180 pounds.  Back in 2006, before making my diet environmentally conscious and training jiu jitsu, I was a bit north of 200.  Never overweight or anything, but now I'm just skinny.  In the last two weeks, I've told a few people I train with what my weight is and they're all surprised it's so high.  They were convinced that I actually weighed more like 160 or 165.  Klint, my instructor, is one of those people.  Now to be fair, some days I get home from training and I'm more like 175 on the scale at home, but I've never been much lower than that.  At least, not since high school or college.  So this evening, these observations and shocked reactions got me thinking about how I use my weight when I'm on the mats.

To start with, I'm not really that strong.  I never really added any athletic muscle onto my frame.  Ever.  I have always been lanky and lean, and m legs are strong and flexible.  I'm a dude, so I have a little meathead strength hidden in my DNA, but really, I try to keep my jiu jitsu game about movement and baiting-and-switching rather than pinning and crushing.  At the same time, I know that a lot of my game would probably improve if I were to start putting some thought into how I was using my weight.  In my guard passes, for sure.

This hasn't gone anywhere, really.  I guess I want to sort out why it seems to me like I'm not using my weight effectively.  If several of my training partners think that I am not as heavy as I in fact am, I take it to mean that I'm not efficiently using my weight to its full potential.  6'1", 180 lbs isn't small by any means.  Now I just need to sort how to use it without losing the sensitivity I've been building.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

What did I do after writing out a post this morning, you might ask?  I went to open mat.  Like an addict.

I got to roll with Dan (4-stripe blue), Timmy (purple, 2-stripe I think), and Casey (4-stripe purple).  I'm a decent amount bigger than Dan, but roughly the same weight as Tim and Casey---I just carry it taller.  I spent the afternoon working my good game.  At least, when I could consciously implement a game, I opted for my good one.  Which is my guard.  And it worked pretty well.  Dan was having serious problems with it.  Talking afterwards, he said that most of the big guys he rolls with are my height, but at least 220, and that extra weight makes them move drastically differently than I do.  I, with my spindly legs and flexible knees, give him problems that he doesn't normally see.  But I was bad with my gas tank, and sapped it much quicker than I wanted to.

Tim just wrecked me.  I think my success Saturday against him was either him working a few specific things or him not being fully warm and ready for a spastic man with long legs.  But today, he took none of it and gave me a serious lesson.  A few collar chokes and armbars later, he even let me work simply takedowns and stand-up for a few minutes.  Here, I had mixed success and failure.  But, it was probably the second time I worked only takedowns, and I didn't embarrass myself or my academy, so I was alright with it.  Tim is one of the big personalities of that academy.  For a while, that school and ours were under the same flag.  Since January, Edina has come under a different affiliation.  The politics of jiu jitsu don't really attract me, but as I understand them, those politics can cause serious clashes between schools.  we thankfully don't have any of those.  There is a palpable disconnect, though, between Damian's students and Klint's, though, and it's not just the kind of game that their students pick up from their respective instructors.  Damian has had students longer, and he has many, many more of them.  Klint's been running his school for maybe two years now.  They have a swagger that they've earned with blood, time, and tears spent on the mats.  Klint's students are always welcome at Damian's academy to train or take classes, open-door policy.  In that respect, the instructors are world class.  I think I'm the student from across town who goes to Damian's most often, and occasionally I get that high-school, "not quite in this clique" vibe.  It's a strange thing, and today it was wonderfully absent.

Casey worked me pretty well, and complimented my defense afterwards.  As the defender, it never feels great to hear "Your defense is great" because it means that he was attacking the entire time and you couldn't get back to even a neutral position.  The good part, though, is that it means that your defense is improving, so eventually, you'll have time to spend on attacking.  Double-edged sword and whatnot.

Mat Rat

It's been a busy week.  I trained Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday night, and Saturday morning.  I worked Wednesday night, and Bar prep classes were going on all week.  I feel like something else happened, but I can't quite piece it together yet this morning.

As for training, though, we worked on escaping north-south all week.  Lots of useful stuff I hadn't seen before, and plenty of opportunity to drill it, which was nice.  Again, breaking down movements so that you look for indicators is a useful concept that Klint has brought to his classes, and he uses it with every technique and from every position.  Your opponent's movement triggers your attack; everything he does falls into a newly-set trap.  All week, Klint also left the last fifteen minutes or so of class and answered any questions that any of the students had about techniques or things that were giving us trouble during training.  We reviewed tech-mount escapes, high mount escapes, back-door escapes, counters to the standard triangle defense---basically everything that I have in my bag of regular tricks.  So this will not only help develop everyone's game on a general level, but on a specific level it reminds them that they already know counters to just about everything that I do and forces my game to evolve.  So I'm all good with that.

Friday night I got to do a few rolls with Stan, and then rolled for about a half-hour with JD before we just went over techniques.  Stan has been teaching at his karate school in Hugo for the last few months, so hasn't had a chance to train that much or that hard.  It's great for me, because it means that he and I are closer in abilities than we were when he was training all the time.  JD is still just a monster who can bridge for an hour at a time, but knows how to use his body so well that it's disconcerting for most of the rest of us.  He's a fantastic training partner, and we both get a lot out of rolling with one another.  His guard passing is getting pretty solid, and my recovery and sweeps seem to be getting more threatening.

Saturday, I trained with the women in the morning, then got to roll with Timmy and Bob at open mat before I had to leave at catch class with Klint across town.  That's right.  Three chances to train before 2pm, it just takes some planning and a car.  And four training sessions between 8pm Friday and 2pm Saturday.  It was awesome.  I got to roll with Swicker at Gina's class, and she's coming a long way.  Gina is giving those ladies some great technique and fundamental knowledge of the game.  A handful of them are competing at Mundials this coming weekend, so they are all in a head-down, move-forward mindset.  She did a good job pressuring me the whole time, and it let me work out of compromising positions.  At open mat an hour later, I finally got a chance to work with Tim.  It was the first roll of the session, but I was still kind of warm from the ladies an hour earlier, and I didn't have that much time before I had to go to Woodbury, so I just dove in.  He beat me pretty soundly---two or three taps in fifteen minutes.  But I performed much better against Tim than I ever had before.  I was not just floating between bad and worse positions, I was active in regaining guard and working to attack from there.  I know that I shouldn't rely so heavily on my guard, but that's the strongest (or at least most developed) part of my game and Tim is a higher belt against whom I want to do well, so I'm going to rely on the parts of my game that I've tested and somewhat proven.

At Klint's class, we trained with everyone at the end of class---it was Tony, Mel, me, Andy, John, and Klint.  Again, pretty OK with how I did.  Tony wanted to start under north-south to work on the techniques that Klint taught us all week, and I was able to stay on top and keep attacking.  He got to his knees at one point and I dove on a clock choke, but I was barely not deep enough and he defended well. Rolling with Klint was much more enjoyable than the last time.  Though really, that's a low bar to pass.  But still, I did a few good things I think.  Rolling with John and Mel was good--I don't think I got to Andy.  But by the end, I was sapped.  I went to a bar-b-que that night, but by 10:15 I was sleeping on the couch, so I dragged myself to bed and didn't move until the dog started whining at 7am.  That might be the first time I've slept nine-ish hours straight in a few years that wasn't beer-induced.

I just watched Miguel Torres's fight from UFC 130.  If you like guard work, that's necessary viewing.  He didn't get the judges' decision, but his technique is simply outstanding.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

And All Shall Be Well....

And when I returned to the mat, something else entirely happened.

We worked through the week's techniques in class on Thursday, and added a few that they must have done on Tuesday and Wednesday (because I don't remember them).  Again, working out of side control and trying to recognize indicators that your opponent gives you, each of which tells you to move on to a different technique.  Then you string them together so that no matter what your opponent does to keep you in side control, you have an answer, something that either gets you back to guard or reverses the position.

Thankfully, this class did not start with "real life self-defense" practice.

After class, I got to train with Colin.  And I did very, very well against him.  We're fairly evenly matched--got our blue belts within a few weeks of one another, roughly the same size (even though he has ten to twenty pounds on me), and we're both pretty athletic and competitive people.  So we got to train at a pretty decent pace without going break-neck.  I felt confident, in control, never behind, and aggressive.

After class, Klint was walking out and asked if I was alright after the other night, that I seemed pretty broken up at the time.  Yeah, I'm all good, I said, sometimes the five-year-old in me decides he needs to break out.  I told him I was just reacting to the drubbing he'd given me, and he said he was being aggressive on purpose.  "Oh I know," I told him, "and it isn't like I didn't know at the time, that was just the reaction my psyche decided to have that night."  Having an instructor so invested in my progression, as I'm sure I've said before, is very comforting.  And I know that I'll benefit from getting wrecked like that--it won't even be in the long-run, the benefits will start showing in short order.  And I think Colin was their first display.

Friday, May 20, 2011


So that whole "be careful what you wish for" adage?  Not entirely off the mark.

I finally got back to class tonight.  I was there Monday, and we are focusing on escapes from side control this week.  You know, those terrible things that everyone always needs help with and that no one ever enjoys.  Also, Andy competes this weekend, so training afterwards was directed mainly at him, giving him fresh guys to put him in bad spots.  So we worked for him a while and tried to get him thinking in a competition mindset.  Then the restaurant I'm working at opened and I've been working too often there, so I didn't get to train Tuesday or Wednesday.  By the time I got to class tonight, it felt like I hadn't done jiu jitsu in two weeks.

We still worked side control escapes.  I had some trouble with a few of them; part of that is that I'm kind of lazy on the bottom of side control, and part of it is that my partner is very strong in that position.  So it wasn't good, but it wasn't all bad, either.  Afterwards, I worked with Zach first.  I let him get to advantageous positions for me to work out of.  That lasted for probably ten minutes.  He's finally back to training after his knee decided to fail him, and he's trying to find his lungs again.  Also, he's still gripping with all his might and muscling a lot, so that will come with time.  Klint had been training with Vance, and when Zach was done I stepped up for a little whupping.

And what I got was much more than a little whupping.  I got stomped on.  Nineteen different ways.  He played an aggressive game, and it was apparent that it was going to be that way all night.  At the beginning of class we did a few "real life self-defense techniques":  elbowing to the top of the head from guard, eye-gouging, throat-grabbing (the Roadhouse, as he called it).  His reasoning is that in real life situations, the rules we impose on ourselves in the academy do not apply, so we should be ready for anything.  And that means that if we have to get up to prevent someone's friends from running over and having a boot-party on our face, then worrying about his eyes or throat are less important than getting right the hell out of Dodge.  So that's the mindset he was in at the start, and his training reflected it.  We weren't (and he didn't) actually eye-gouging or elbowing or anything like that.  It was more to build familiarity with that movement.  On the mat training, he didn't give me any quarter.  At least, it didn't seem like I got any quarter.  It was one of those rolls where the black belt decides he wants to work a few things, and you don't get any say in it.  It's humbling, it's painful, and it reminds me exactly where my game isn't.  In short, it sucked.  And it made me feel like I've never done jiu jitsu in my life.  I couldn't get out of mount.  I couldn't come close to passing his guard (which is nothing new).  I couldn't protect my arm.  I felt my body resorting to pure survival and my technique packing up and running out the door.  After the first tap, I realized this was how the roll was going to proceed.  After the second--where I still couldn't do anything--I felt some control slipping.  I suppressed the tears and slapped in for the third.  Repeat.  And again.  And one more time (I think; I don't know how many times we went---I know only what happened).

At the end, I was demoralized and reverted to the five-year-old that part of me never stopped being.  So I bowed, thanked, and curled up in a ball on the side to try to regroup.  I refused to leave the mat in a blubbering mess, so I stayed there for much longer than was comfortable and, quite possibly, much longer than was appropriate.  I stayed there as Gina and Klint rolled, and he did the same thing to her.  She is much, _much_ better than I, and he played the same game.  It's even possible he gave her less quarter than he did me, but I have no real idea.  I was trying too hard not to embarrass myself to really measure Klint's degree of ferocity.

This is hard.  And we as practitioners are deeply invested in our technique and our progress.  And when it seems like we have made no progress despite the hours and hours of hard work we have put in, it is hard on our self-esteem.  It is emotionally draining and defeating.  And last night, I was both drained and defeated.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Itch itch itch

I'm dying to train.  But I won't be able to until Monday night.  And next week, I'll get maybe 2 training sessions in, 3 if I work some magic.

No news.  March in graduation tomorrow.  I'll officially be a doctor.  Of law.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More Training

Open guard.  Again.  If it wasn't so entertaining, I would hate it.  Because it's hard.  And sometimes it hurts.  But the feeling of finally getting your opponent pretzeled and confused and then gently tipping him over and choking him is worth every bit of effort.  Not that I got to feel that sensation Tuesday night.

I couldn't possibly ask for a better instructor.  I don't know whether it is because my learning style fits with his teaching style, whether I think that because I've never tried learning jiu jitsu before taking lessons from Klint, or what.  I don't even really know if I'm actually progressing.  I mean, I can tell when I'm progressing in relationship to the other lower belts.  I know that my game is ahead of the white belts, and that JD is catching up to me right quick.  I also know that I can force Klint to have to work harder and longer to get the same tap out of me, so that's something.  But I've yet to feel like I'm in control of anything.  Even rolling against other blues across town, I feel like I revert back to relative flailing.  The calm and cool demeanor from my home academy vanishes and I'm left relying on my natural attributes more than I think I do at home.

Also, the balance between aggression and control still eludes me.  I don't know what that tipping point is that allows me both to be aggressive against a higher belt and also to maintain control and composure at the same time.  Part of that might be the anxiety of rolling with a "superior," someone who is higher than me on the food chain and who should, for all intents and purposes, be able to beat me.  And then I throw myself forward in an effort to prove my merit and abilities, whether or not they result in a submission or a positional battle or even just a scramble.  And that isn't what I train to do.

So I don't know if my training is helping.  I don't know if I'm fostering those habits of excellence that will serve me for years to come.  I know only that I keep training and hoping that, if I keep showing up for a long enough time, eventually I'll stop sucking.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Status Quo

More and more systems.  This is week two of open guard, and we're learning how to use the outside hook to our advantage, transitioning from one open guard attack to another, knowing which indicators tells us to go where.  "This isn't anything that someone taught me, this system of indicators and progressive attacks," he told us last night.  "This is stuff that I put together after failing a lot and reviewing what went wrong and where I _should_ have gone."  So literally, these systems are his own creation.  They aren't anything new--the techniques are the same ones that he was taught--they are just wrapped in a new presentation style.

And they're great.

So, Christopher, how's your training?  To be fair, I don't know.  I think it's going well.  I'm spending a fair amount of time on the mats (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday nights, Saturday afternoons and sometimes mornings, and probably every other Friday night open mat), so I don't leave enough time for any cobwebs to set in.  From time to time, though, I have a few of those training sessions where I feel like nothing goes right.  I don't quite embarrass myself, but I definitely don't perform as well as my training indicates that I should.  Last Monday, for instance, I made it to morning class across town, and I got to train with a few guys there.  One I should be even with, going back and forth, and I felt sluggish and a few steps behind.  Another, a three stripe blue, went back and forth with me, and I felt like I should be ahead of him the entire time.  It was probably good that I was there and working all the same.  I didn't fail entirely.  So there's that.

I'll be back in this space more regularly in the coming weeks and months.  Andy has a local competition in about a week and a half, and I have a take-home final and law review editing to finish.  Because I graduate law school in five days.  And with luck, I'll be sober by Saturday to help him from the sidelines.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

BJJ and MMA Gear Deals

If you are not looking for a new gi, this probably isn't for you.  But if, like me, you're always keeping an eye out for another gi or a new rashguard, pay attention.

MMA HQ offers one great MMA gear deal a day. The sell gis and rashguards pretty frequently. Today's deal starts at midnight eastern, and it's:

Fuji BJJ Kassen Pearl Weave Black Gi for $94

It's $139 everywhere else. MMA HQ is by the company that brings you lost of great martial arts uniforms, Karate Depot

Extremely light, high quality pearl weave gi with patches by Fuji.

Every day is another great BJJ or MMA deal on

The Pain of Progress

This stuff sucks.

I mean, let's be serious about this.  Roughly four times a week, I go to jiu jitsu.  I learn or refresh my memory about a technique or three, and I spend some time training.  Once every week or two, I get to train with Klint.  And when that happens, I end up in pain.  All colors of pain, from that gentle off-white "this is a strange position I've found myself in" pain to that bright red "I need to scream before he keeps pressuring that lock" pain, even that subdued green "how the hell did I get here and what exactly is he doing to my shoulder" pain.  Usually, I can walk away fairly unscathed, only my pride hurting (which, to be fair, is half the reason I keep going to jiu jitsu).  Every now and then, he'll hit something with just the right pressure that tears shoot out of my eyes as I tap.  Last night, it was a lot of that.

In class, we worked open guard sweep cycles.  The last few weeks, he has been very adamant about putting everything we're doing into a fluid system, and it's been amazing.  I have not put this many different moves into this kind of context before.  So we've worked side control, guard opening, guard passing, back defense, closed guard, now we're on open guard.  What they've done with the curriculum is really impressive.  And we get to reap the benefits by having a six-man class with a black belt instructor every day of the week.

So I rolled with Klint, and the results mixed improving failure (with a waft of success on the horizon) with abject failure.  At one point my body reverted to stupidity and I just held a collar hoping that it would stifle his pass.  Clearly, it didn't.  And we laughed at that.  He said that my pressure on my guard passes was better, and that I have to improve my side control.  Which was obvious when I (for once) got side control and was back in guard within four seconds.  That first roll, though, cracked my neck and back in a few places, to the point that the pain woke me up a few times throughout the night.  (It's along the same vein as when I wrenched it last fall, but not nearly as bad.  I just need to be careful with it and work to relieve a bit of the stress on it over the next few days.  I even opted not to go to morning class because I didn't want to tweak it any more.)  And the rest were partly a thrashing.  At one point, I definitely had to dig deep, force myself to continue.  And not only to continue, but to continue training with the requisite attention and effort.  Anyone can revert to "just tap me already" mode after a few rounds of abject failure; refusing to do so is very, very hard.

Then I worked with Andy for a while.  We need to figure out how to get him beyond the psychological barrier that turns him into a purely defensive creature when we train.  He's going to be competing on the 21st, and I'll be there supporting.  But training with me only not to lose the same way is not going to prepare him.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I am in the middle of a terrible week.  And I should be spending tonight remembering administrative law.  But that's all day tomorrow.  Instead, I will reflect on my night of rolling.

Klint has been on a streak of giving us systems to use---a side control system, a guard-opening system, a back-defending system, ways to structure our attacks and defenses so that one flows into the other.  This week, we're doing an attacks-from-guard system.  Every set of grips, we're drilling a system of attacks that we can use.  Armbar-to-triangle-to-armbar, sweep-attempt-to-armbar-to-triangle-to-omoplata, that kind of thing.  This week, of course, I'm buried.  And a little upset about that fact, because I love love love attacking from guard.

After class, I'd told Andy that JD and I were going to start prepping him for the tournament in late May.  It's about 4 weeks out, so I told him that we were going to start working him.  So we took turns starting mounted on him, starting with him in side control, getting him into bad spots and making him work out of them even though he's tired.  Probably six or seven two-minute-gos in a row.  I also worked for a bit with John, and after Andy cashed out, JD and I worked for a bit.

I've been feeling pretty OK about my training lately.  I got to open mat on Friday, and I was working with a few of Damian's higher belts--a smaller blue and a large, older purple.  I could do what I wanted with the blue, but that was mainly the size disadvantage.  I've got probably 40 or 50 pounds on him, and our technique is pretty close.  The purple let me play guard for a bit, and after he told me he would have let me just work a little more if I wasn't doing so well.  So I took that as a compliment, and drove across town for more open mat.

I've been trying to go to my knees more and work from a wrestling position, and sometimes I'm actually doing it.  I have to admit, wrestling is one of my least favorite aspects of grappling.  The submissions and sweeps, those are just beautiful and entertaining and intricate.  The throws (even though I have no idea how to do them) are amazing.  Wrestling, in my mind, is the journeyman's tool, the thing that gets the job done.  I know it's the most useful and beneficial base to have--I get that.  I just wish it wasn't so tiring.  And really, I wish learning Judo was as easy as learning wrestling.  Because the throws?  Come on.  Just exquisite.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Explaining the Absence

I'm still going to class.  But law school is killing me.  My attendance next two weeks will have to be subject to a few things:  a) returning to the restaurant, 2) finals and final projects, and c) sanity.  I'm almost done.  I'll be going to only a handful of classes the next few weeks, and then I'll be back.

These same distractions have prevented me from regular posting.  For that, I apologize.

I will make it up to you soon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

War Wounds

We're all broken.

I'm almost certain I've talked about this before.  And even if I haven't, everyone else has.  But we're all training through some sort of injury.  Zach hasn't seen training since December.  Mel's shoulder is tweaked.  (And she competed this past weekend, winning two of her divisions.)  JD's knee is wonky.  Vance is perpetually rotting.  Andy falls apart if you blink at him wrong.  Kyle's knee seems to be better.  John's ribs seem to be OK.  And my toe and hand are operating at less than full force.  Steve actually returned to training today for the first time since I started, new knee and all.

A friend started his sample period tonight.  He's in sports medicine, works with athletes all the time, understands competition.  We worked some pretty advanced techniques for his first night--the Camarillo switch, multiple choke defenses, taking the back, two separate passes.  Then we trained for a bit.  He didn't join in the rolling--that would be a bit of a tall order for his first night.  I worked with Tony first, and we stalemated.  He couldn't open my guard, and I couldn't get anything working against him.  But I was threatening, and that's leaps above where I used to be.  Then I worked with Steve.  It was my first time rolling with him, and he has a different style from what I've yet encountered.  He got me in side control, and I was able to reverse the position.  (Always a confidence booster.)  Mel and I trained afterwords.  I found a new grip to use in side control with which I can both trap the near-side arm and finish with a bow-and-arrow-esque choke.  So that was fun.

Training injured, though, is always an entertaining and challenging.  Hell, at this point shaking hands without wincing is a challenge.  And most of the night my toe was doing great being buddy-taped to his neighbor, and then two minutes before we finished I felt it go.  Of course, nothing to do about it but soldier on.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


"The secret? It's hard to explain, because, like I said before, this is a chess game.

"What for me looks easy because I have the capacity to set him up in a way where when he is trying to fight he is always one second late. So it is a tremendous amount of precision and understanding of what is coming next to keep myself a beat ahead, and to give to him the feeling where he is going, little by little, down, going in a worse position."


Sunday, April 3, 2011

More Direct Ways of Treading Water

Wedding this past weekend for an old friend.  I stood up front in a tuxedo with suspenders and a bow tie, strictly black and white, armed to the teeth with smooth scotch and a sharp wit.  It was a great weekend, even if it meant that I didn't get to train.

Last week was a good amount of training with a decent amount of reflection and philosophy thrown in for good measure.  Klint and I stayed and talked for about an hour after class on Tuesday, going over what his expectations of me are as his blue belt and what changes that should bring out in my game.  I didn't realize until that night that he had never promoted anyone before.  He's been instructing for years, but he's always been helping other people.  We are his first class.

We talked about competition and how much I should start to build into my schedule when I'm out of school and (dear god let's all hope) working a normal job.  It will entail training for a few weeks and adding training and cross training and diet and all that, not to mention traveling (because Minnesota just doesn't have enough well-run tournaments--and by enough I mean any).  He went through all the positions and talked about where I need to focus on improving, and we went through our academy man by man (we're pretty small, after all) and talked about how I match up and what that says about not only the state of my skills, but how about my mental approach.  For instance, I can absolutely wreck guy A but have certain troubles with guy B (say, he has an easier time sweeping me than he should) even though guy A destroys guy B.  So we talked about that, dissected my mental approach, tried to come up with reasons for it and ways around my mental blocks.  He also told me not to worry about the evolution of the other guys at the academy--basically, I'm taking the role of the guy in class they have to fight who they're more than likely going to lose to.  Except for JD.  Because not only is he big and strong, but his technique is precise, and he knows how to use his size and strength intelligently.  He and I are going to have some serious fights in the academy, and we'll both limp home bleeding from the mouth and nursing our egos.

Other than that, I don't have much to report.  School work is starting to get in the way of my voluntary life.  But that will end, and I have merely to pay its due attention for the next month or so.  Then, I can roll around all I want.  Because I'll have no job to stop me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Over the Horizon

Training this week was sort of light.  I made class Monday and Tuesday, but I couldn't train after class that much.  Monday JD and I worked for a bit, but not long.  And this was after Klint checked our progress by rolling with us for a few minutes each, seeing how we progressed while he was away.  I couldn't make practice Thursday because of a school thing, and I lost open mat Friday because a friend was in town and we had a poker game scheduled.  Gina was nice enough to invite me to participate in the women's class Saturday morning, though, and a few training partners were being tested for promotion after class Saturday afternoon.

Women's class was completely different from our regular class.  First off, it was at 8am on Saturday.  Usually, that's prime sleepin' time.  But on top of that, they set their soundtrack accordingly.  We warmed up to some Salt n Pepa, some Jay-Z "Can I Get A," some N'Sync....Nothing that the Woodbury class would ever listen to.  It was a small class--four women, myself, and Gina instructing.  We drilled armbars and cross chokes and switches, drilling ten-a-side with partners.  After class, we had the mat for some rolling, and I got to work with four of Gina's students.  (Gina told her students, "Make sure you take advantage of Chris while he's here."  That got a good laugh.)  When I was rolling with the women, I realized how far I've developed as a martial artist since I began.  All of them are white belts, and they're tough girls.  I was able to move smoothly, to keep myself from muscling into and out of everything, and to pay attention to my technique.  At the end, T tweaked something in her side and I thought I'd absolutely wrecked her arm.  Thankfully, I hadn't and I had (apparently) done nothing wrong.  She had killed herself on a kettlebell circuit the day before and her body was starting to revolt, so when she tried to roll out of a kimura, something screamed at her and she kind of flipped.  Scary few minutes, but she's all good.

The other thing that happened at women's class is that I almost certainly broke my big toe.  It caught on the mat at some point---the toe itself, not just the nail.  I taped it up with its neighbor and just moved on.  As of right now, it's not really a big deal; I checked with my doctor/former-roommate, and it's not off-center, it isn't cold or purple, and it isn't debilitatingly swollen.  But I'll meet with him next weekend for something else, and we'll chat about it then.

Class in Woodbury was good.  We worked on peek-outs again and what the correct technique is (which is different from the traditional peek-out that everyone imagines when they think of the technique).  So we're working on building new muscle memory for that.  At the end, Klint had the four upper belts roll with the four guys he was promoting.  So Chris, Tony, Colin and I stood on one side of the room while JD, Andy, John and Kyle lined the other.  They went for three or four minutes with each of us, just restarting if anyone tapped.  Afterwards, he put them through some technical drills and then presented them with their half-white-half-blue belts (equivalent to 3 or 4 stripes; technically it's their third stripe, but their next promotion is to blue).  He told them all that he would be confident putting them all into a blue belt division at a tournament, but he's keeping the standard for promotion high and he wants them to work a little more.  I took that as a subtle compliment, even if he didn't mean it that way.  Compliment to me, I mean.  (This blog is, after all, about me.  And even though I'm trying as hard as I can to cut my ego and be a better training partner, I would be lying if I said I was always successful.)  I heard it as a compliment because a) that means that he had his standard of promotion pretty high when he gave me my belt, and 2) that I met that standard.  Good work, me.

I'm also thinking about how much competition I should think about incorporating into my schedule after the bar exam, what sort of things I can do to be a better partner, whether to start thinking about teaching (even though I'm pretty sure I don't know that much well enough to teach it)---you know, the standards.  So now I will study law with the Pan Ams broadcast in the background.