Saturday, February 26, 2011

One of my New Favorite BJJ Videos

Old-School Master Draculino shows jiu jitsu's utility.  Again.  Here, he addresses a basic concern:  why does bjj emphasize the guard when all someone has to do in a self-defense situation is reach down and grab your balls?

The General

Fabio Gurgel, head of Alliance, is holding a seminar at the Edina school this weekend.  And I cannot go.  So instead, today I am making lessong plans for teaching high school children and tomorrow I'm doing more of the same.  Because money is fungible.  And food is more important than training with the General.  Just barely, but it is.

Klint is gone for a month learning Dave's Guerrilla Combatives, getting certified so he can train police and soldiers in it.  While that means we won't have a black belt instructor for a month or so, it also means that we'll have the opportunity to train with a handful of the upper belts.  Chris (purple), Tony (purple), Brady (purple), and Gina (brown) will be covering Klint's classes.  Klint describes Chris as having a great "old school" game, and while I'm not entirely sure what that means, it should be fun.  Tony is a cop, a former wrestler and powerful as hell.  Brady is probably 140 lbs, curly-q mustachioed and lighting quick, and Gina is 110 lbs of kick-ass.  So it should be a fruitful month.

Training has been very good lately.  I've had successes, and I've hit roadblocks that I'm still looking for detours to avoid.  I'll put more down later.  But I've not forgotten this space.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Year In Review

This has been jumping around in my brain for the last month, and I have a snowed-in morning to finally get it down in black and white.

I started training regularly last February.  In the past year, it is safe to say that jiu jitsu has invaded much more of my life than anyone anticipated.  I started out hoping to go three times a week, figuring that school would creep in and take one of those nights every now and then.  The classes were rarely more than 5 people, and usually one colored belt would show.  I went to a Dave Camarillo seminar when he was in town.  I had been training for only 2 months, and it was more than a little intimidating and frightening.  I had never been in a room with so many other jiu jitsu guys, and they were tough, tough jiu jitsu guys.  The first weekend in May, Klint held his first promotion ceremony and I got my second stripe on my white belt.    Dave and Damian were both there, and we got to pick Dave's brain about jiu jitsu when we were done.  Of course, none of us had been training more than six or seven months by that point, so we didn't even know what questions to ask.  We're trying to get a hold of the big picture from one of the best in the game, and we don't even know where to start.

Slowly, jiu jitsu training took precedent in my week.  I convinced a friend to sign up by spending a morning going over techniques with him in his basement.  My "hopefully three-a-week" schedule became "if I don't get to at least four, there better be a good reason."  I got my third stripe in September, and my friend and I built our law school class schedules around jiu jitsu.  I competed in a tournament, despite not having the time to train properly for it.  I finished one fight with a triangle, and lost my other two.  It showed me where my weaknesses were, what my strengths were, and how important diet and technique are.  I went to Denver to have Thanksgiving with some of my wife's family, and I snuck two classes in at Easton Jiu Jitsu in Arvada.  I got my blue belt almost exactly one year after I began training.

I have had the following jiu-jitsu-related injuries:  tweaked left thumb, pains in the rib-cartilage area, strange pains down both shins, gi burns across my face, bit lips (before getting a mouthguard), miniature staph in both knees, nose bleeds, and extremely strained back muscles.  That last one required x-rays to make sure nothing was out of place, and stole two weeks of training from me.

I have trained with people who have received the following injuries:  hyper-extended elbow; partially torn meniscus; sprained knee; severely strained hamstring; torn acl; dislocated index finger; broken hand (and he trained through it with his cast on--because he's a beast); separated rib.

I have made great friends with quality people.

I have apologized to and profusely thanked my wife for jiu jitsu.  Often at the same time.

I have never needed to use my jiu jitsu outside the academy.

I have bested higher belts, and lost to lower belts.

I have almost learned how to move my hips.

I have probably lost fat and added muscle, though it almost looks like I'm wasting away.  My wife tells me I look like Skeletor.  That means that I have not learned how best to manage my diet.

I have cried in the locker room after class.

I have laughed in the middle of a roll.

I have tried to explain to my friends why I keep doing this thing that doesn't seem to make any semblance of sense to them.  But when I tell them the easiest way to figure it out is to come to a sample class, they constantly beg off.  I'm still working on it.

Beginning jiu jitsu is the second smartest thing I've ever done.  (For those counting at home, the first is convincing my wife that I was good enough to marry.)

As for where I now stand, this part is more intimidating than my first class.  I am the first blue belt at our academy.  I'm the big shoulders--at least as far as rank goes.  Sure, some higher belts from across town come in a few nights a week and occasional Saturdays, but Klint has put me up as the one of his students thus far deserving this rank.  I'm more than a little intimidated.  I have to be more aware of what my body is doing, what my opponent is doing in response--what is working and what isn't--and figure out my game.

As far as the rest of my life is concerned, I can say only that jiu jitsu has been a huge benefit.  I watch my diet closer.  I've been a vegetarian for years, but now I try harder to balance protein and carbs and veggies and all that--you know, eat healthy and smart.  I drink less, both quantity and frequency.  My sleep schedule is currently wonky as hell, but that has more to do with the high school teaching than anything else.

I'm stronger, leaner, and (I like to think) smarter than I was a year ago.  And it's not entirely because of jiu jitsu, but a lot of it is.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

That Belt Gets Heavy

That's what Steve told me when he saw that I'd been promoted:  "That belt gets heavy on the hips."  He wasn't joking around.

We focused on combinations--committing to one move, and when our opponent reacts, using that reaction by shifting to the move they don't realize they're diving into.  You know, armbar-to-triangle-to-armbar type stuff, but from different positions.

In rolls at the end of class, Klint was on me to start attacking immediately from guard.  "You know you have the technique now.  So now you have to work on relentless attacks, one after another so fast they don't know what hit them."  He read my reaction pretty well:  "Don't worry about losing the technique in pursuit of the speed; you'll find that out when you keep failing to tap someone or when the taps keep coming.  That'll show you where you have to spend more drill time and what you can consider your go-to's."  So now, my goals in post-class drilling are different from what they were a week ago.  At least, the primary goals are.  I need to build my endurance, my cardio, all those things that it sucks to build.  Learning new techniques is always entertaining and interesting.  You get to see where you can manufacture that new angle on the collar, or pinpoint the precise time to swing the leg over his head---all these things that lead to fabulous transitions and finishes.  Now, I have to learn to get off my back.  In Klint's words, "You should have an unbeatable guard, a guard that no one should be able to pass.  And you should never be there.  Never let them see it.  Because it means you're on bottom, and if you're on bottom that means you're losing."

And I don't particularly like this goal.  I love playing off my back.  Long and spindly legs make playing guard a joy.  But I understand his point.  In real life, if someone put me into a self-defense situation, I would not want to play guard and bide my time until I perfectly broke his grip and upset his balance.  I would want to get on top and stay on top.  And if I get taken down, I have to get up.  I need to become less of a jiu jitsu fighter and more of a grappler.

After class, I worked with Andy for a bit and then Ed.  Andy did a few great things, and ended up putting me in a triangle that I couldn't break.  He wasn't choking me out--it was uncomfortable, but I wasn't losing consciousness.  He kept his composure and dug out the armbar.  It was very good.  With Ed, we started in my guard and I tried to get up and onto his back as quickly as I could.  And I did.  I don't know how long it took me to get there, but I was there for a good 5 minutes.  I couldn't finish him there (because I'm not that bright), and eventually we restarted from our knees.  From there, I snatched the armbar that he'd been defending all night.

New belt, new expectations.  Not just higher, but different entirely.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


We had a belt test last night.  Neal and Jeremy were getting their first stripe on their whites, and I was their grappling dummy for the presentation part.  Both have come a lot farther than it seems to them.  They always have to grapple with people who have been doing this for much longer, and Neal has the added baggage of being small.

And I tested for my blue.  I didn't have a lot of demonstration things to do, and that was fine with me.  Klint had a line of blues and purples waiting in the wings, but he did have me do one thread: double leg takedown to side control, switch base to mount, attack the collar, when they grab for the upa and roll trap their arm with your chest, slide your leg behind their shoulder, s-mount, armbar.  I love that finish, going from the choke to the armbar.  It has a natural flow to it, and if they decide not to stop you from choking them because they like their elbows too much, you still win.  So I did that twice.  I was much more nervous than I expected to be.  Brenna came to watch, as did two of her cousins, Andy and his wife came, and a few of my friends from school were there.  So it might have been the small audience.  It might also have been a building trepidation for what I though was coming next.  Because I was right.

After that one thread, Klint basically had me roll with Tony.  Then Brady.  Then Ed.  Then Tony.  Probably five minutes a piece, no rest in between save to retie the belt.  To be fair, I don't know exactly how long he let us go--time is pretty fluid during a roll, and struggling to survive tends to take precedence over counting the seconds.  I did not perform as well as I would have hoped, but I did not embarrass myself.  I got tapped only once at the end by Tony in a shattering kimura.  Talking with him afterwards, he said he was laying on my face just to tire me out a bit more, and then went for the arm.  I thought he was going for the armbar, and he thought about it, but decided just to end it there.  Merciful, that guy.

So now I'm a blue belt.  I'm the first one at our academy.  And I have to miss this morning's training to keep up with school work.  Good start.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Oh yeah

One year training today.


(See what I did there?  It's the same title as the last post, but it's not.  Because it's different.)

I have a belt test coming up.  As I understand it, it's for my blue.  And I have no idea what to expect.

I've talked before about my feelings towards pre-planned belt ceremonies.  In short, I appreciate the chance to show your family and friends what you do with all your time and energy, and lament the loss of spontaneity.  Still, it places a higher value on the inter-belt stripes.  The curriculum that Dave has developed and Klint has adopted gives the students specific guidelines to follow.  So each test I've had so far, I've known a handful of specific skills at which I needed to be proficient.  For what's coming Friday, though, we have no agenda or checklist.  I'm pretty sure that I'll get wrecked by a handful of upper belts.  I can make it last--but I want to do better than that.  I want to actually put some pressure on my opponents and get them in precarious positions.  You know.  Do some good grappling.

At the same time, I'm not entirely sure that I am a blue-belt quality grappler.  Monday and Tuesday, I went to class and we worked footlocks and kneebars.  This is the most terrifying segment of jiu jitsu and grappling I've yet learned.  Monday night, I absently left my feet crossed when I had Ed's back, and as I was working to get a collar choke, he footlocked me with his legs.  It was a great reminder to stay conscious of what your legs are doing at all times.  It also made me limp for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, Klint had Vance and I roll after class.  Normally, we would just go for a while until one of us tired, but this time Klint said to go for 15 minutes.  So we did.  Vance isn't in the best shape, though.  He's probably 48 years old, not fat but not trim, and his cardio is rough.  He was pretty tired after class before we got to rolling, and I was still pretty fresh.  I think a lot of it has to do with his breathing, but I don't know how to break that to him.  He's been training for a longer period of time than I have, but I think I have more mat time than he.  Regardless, we worked for 15 minutes straight.  I did a few things pretty well, and I did a few things pretty sloppily.  New Jeremy was watching us, and he said he was getting tired just watching us roll.

I'm comfortable with my attack transitions.  I'm less comfortable with takedowns, bottom side control, and very mobile opponents.  But Klint has decided that I'm ready to advance to blue.  And Friday, I'll find out exactly what that means.