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.