Mar 012010

As things start to ramp up for the March 13th Revolution grappling tournament, our guys are pushing harder and harder in sparring. This is a fun time at class, where the mood is both lighter and more intense at the same time… if that makes sense. Warmups tend to be lighter, and technical instruction seems to move back to more basic moves, the fundamentals upon which everything else is balanced. So, the initial part of each class tends to be a little more relaxed, while sparring is amped up from I’d say about 75% to upwards around 90% intensity.

We worked on an escape from back control, concentrating on protecting the neck and blocking our opponent from getting the harness/seat belt position. Scootch down low, then driving first one elbow to the mat, straightening that side leg to free the hook, and then over to the other side. At this point, it’s really going to depend upon how my opponent reacts. I’ll either come out the back if he tries to swing over, or block his hip while scissoring my legs to come up and pass.

Some keys on this are to watch out for the triangle as I scissor up. I either need to make sure I come up over his leg to prevent the triangle, or really block his hip to prevent him from getting that leg up and over.

Sparring was broken up into three weight groups. Big guys, anywhere about 200 lbs and up, were in one section, then 180 lbs or so up to 200 lbs, and then the lighter guys below 180, where guys in the middle would float up and down as mats opened up. The guys who are competing stayed out in the middle to get as much mat time as possible.

I’ve been working a lot on a basic bullfighter pass agasint open guard and it’s really becoming one of my favorites. Some things I’m really focusing on are getting good grips on the inside of my opponent’s knees. My opponent will often widen his knees out to block the pass. I’ll then drive up with my hips looking for a stack pass, keeping my grips and thinking about bringing his knees up into his chest. As he pushes back against that, I’ll move around for the pass. I’ll often feint one way or the other, to see if I can get my opponent to commit. If he’s up on one side more than the other, the pass is relatively easy.

At this point, to prevent my opponent from getting back to guard, I try to focus on straightening out the bottom arm and keeping that grip firm. This blocks his bottom knee from getting in, and also keeps him from rolling over into turtle. I’m also trying to keep a lot of pressure on his sternum with my shoulder and stay low to prevent him from rolling me (one of my favorite reversals). From here, get the knee in or my top hand to block the hip so that I can switch my grips to whatever side control I’m looking for.

I got a chance to roll with Coach Foster, which is always fun. I almost got around his guard, but ultimately ended up trying to keep moving from the bottom. My back is at about 80% and I’m feeling like my hips are moving well.

After class, James gave us all a timely reminder that we all learn by being pushed. He said that you get tapped out about a million times on your way to earning a black belt. While I think I’ve ALREADY tapped about a million times, the sentiment is very true. We train to make each other better. When we’re drilling, the goal isn’t to keep my partner from learning the technique. There’s a counter for every move. As a good partner, my job is to react in a way that makes sense.

In sparring, if I have a hole in my game, it’s your job to exploit it. Not to say that you beat me, but so that I can improve. And as I improve, I help you improve.

Personally, a real break through for me in my training after getting my blue belt was when I could say and truly mean that I don’t mind tapping to a white belt. I get caught sometimes. But whether I get caught because I was zoning out or due to an injury or just get completely pwned, I try never to make excuses. I always smile and thank whoever it was and then get back into it.

I’ve seen a blue belt tap to a white belt and then immediately make an excuse. “I wasn’t paying attention.” “I was rolling light.” Whatever… that’s lame. It minimizes your training partner’s success. I mean, if I’ve been working on setting up my triangle, and after working on it for months, I am beginning to catch upper belts with it, I’m going to be pretty stoked. It sucks when I catch the triangle and then am immediately told that it wasn’t good technique… I just basically got lucky or my partner was zoning out. Lame.

Don’t be lame. Even if you weren’t paying attention.

Feb 242010

Maybe I’ll be dying Orange Crush for Bingo this weekend. I’m also going to dye Ryan’s Teko gi, too. I think gray for him, although he’s given me carte blanche to dye it whatever color I want. Maybe I’ll surprise him with a Gene Lebell special.

I’m planning to take pictures of the process. I’ve been getting a lot (well… some) emails on the dying process. It’s not rocket science, but does take some time. I’ll post them up.

I’m also interested in getting the process online so that I can get some feedback from the rest of you guys who are dying gis (Ahem… Georgette?). I’m making it up as I go, so tips and tricks would be welcome.

Can’t wait. It will also be good to get to class again tonight.

 Posted by at 3:18 pm

Wednesday Class

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Feb 112010

Good class last night, Bing.  Scott, our newest brown belt, ran warmups, and then we split up for technique.  Trevin worked with the newer white belts on side control escapes, and I’m not sure what Rick was doing over with the 3 and 4 stripe white belts.

We did some sparring drills, starting with guard pass/sweeps only.  After a while we went to sparring to submission and then swapping out, king of the hill style.  Initially, this was blue belt and up.  After about 15 minutes, everyone started doing this, separated by belt.  So, white belts on one half of the school swapping out only after a submission and the blue belts and up on the other.

The last 20 minutes or so mixed everyone back up together, sparring in the same style.  Pushing for a submission with no time limit really changes the dynamics of sparring.  On one hand, it’s fun, but on the other, it’s very tiring.  I was wiped out after class.  Of course, that’s not saying much.  I was gassed after warmups.

Got some sweeps to work from deep half guard.  My entry to the position is completely without finesse right now, but once I’ve hooked my opponent’s leg from sitting up, I can usually roll into it.  I’m going to try and pick up Jeff Glover’s DVDs.  Great reviews online for that one, and I guess he’s pretty funny, too.

Going to DisneyWorld on Saturday with the family.  Not sure about a plane ride with a 14 year old, a 12 year old and a 1 year old.   Lily is a wild card at this point.  She’s generally happy and travels in the car very well.  But she is also very busy and has… opinions.  We’ll pack lots of graham crackers, and I’ll have a couple episodes of Yo Gaba Gaba on the netbook… just in case.

 Posted by at 3:54 pm
Jan 312010

A few weeks ago, I got Stephan Kesting’s newsletter in my inbox. Reading it was surreal. It was like he’d interviewed me and my issues with claustrophobia. I highly recommend it. Hell, if you don’t subscribe to Stephan’s Grappling Tips, you should. Seriously. Do that now, then come back and finish reading this. Stephan is a thoughtful guy and his insight’s have helped me out a ton over the years.

I have issues with not being able to see. I’m sure that this mania stems from some childhood trauma that I can blame on my older brothers. It’s got to be their fault. But wherever this issue came from, I don’t like it. Just putting on a blindfold causes my adrenaline to kick in and my fight or flight instinct goes nuts. Add a little claustrophobia and I’m pretty unfit for BJJ.

I actually laughed out loud when I read about the MRI in the article. I was okay with the MRI in theory. As I showed up at the hospital, they asked, “Are you claustrophic?”

“A little, but I’ll be okay,” I replied. Seconds into the MRI, I was mashing the panic button. I made it through that MRI only because they turned me around, got me in feet first and they only needed pictures of my L5 vertebrae. So, as a result, I was able to crane my head back and see the opening. Seeing daylight got me through it… that and a lot of happy thoughts.

So, when I started training in BJJ, one of the first people I rolled with was Brick (or Big Rick). Rick is a cool guy. He’s been around forever, weighs about 280 lbs, and is a very good guy to roll with if you’re claustrophobic. Or a very bad guy to roll with, depending on your point of view. I’ll never remember that first roll with Rick. At the time, I didn’t really know what to do in sparring, so we locked up and wrassled around for a bit from our knees, then of course I got pushed to my back, he passed my guard and was so heavy that I tapped because I couldn’t breathe. Then, after getting knocked over again, he moved to North/South. Now, here’s where I immediately began to panic. Rick said, “This isn’t a submission. This is just pressure. Relax and breathe.” I tapped instead and began to seriously question whether BJJ was right for me.

Instead, I figured out ways to cope with it for myself, and while your mileage may vary, I’m happy to share what worked for me.

As a sort of preventative measure, try not to get smashed. That’s a good start, but of course, it doesn’t help with the problem… just helps you get better at avoiding it. I have learned over the last couple years that the key to sparring with a really big dude is to focus on hip movement and never give them a chance to settle in. Easier said than done, but when it works it feels pretty good.

That said, if I’m getting crushed, I look for daylight. If I’m in a position where things are tight, I’ll make sure I can see daylight just like I did in my MRI. I have found that sometimes, just turning my head a little so I can see the wide open spaces is enough to quell the panic. Even if I’m really getting smashed.

Second, relax. My tendency is to begin breathing faster when I’m in a tight spot. I want as much air as I can get, and it never seems like I’m getting enough. If I relax, focus on my breathing and slow things down, I can think about what to do next.

Third, keep my elbows in and remember my basics. The single most important thing I learned early on was to keep my elbows in. While that helped my defense, that was only a side benefit. The real value of keeping your elbows in on the bottom is that it helps you control the space, at best giving you an opportunity to hip out or upa and escape. At worst, it still provides a few inches of room. Your forearms might be all that stands between your face and a some hairy dude’s sweaty chest. Now, if that’s not motivation to focus on basics, I don’t know what is, cause I’m on the verge of panicking just writing that.

Finally, and this is nothing new, start from a bad position. I decided very early that if I was going to make it in BJJ, I’d need to learn to cope with tight spaces. I will almost always pull guard in sparring. I started doing this because I felt that getting on top was a copout and was avoiding the issue. In much the same way that I start from turtle now, it wasn’t that I felt comfortable from guard. Just the opposite.

I hope you’ve read the article I linked to over at Stephan’s article goes into some detail about how you can overcome phobias in general, and some specific ways to tackle Claustrophobia on the mats. As always, though, if I can do it, anyone can. It’s not a matter of skill or talent. It’s a matter of just deciding it’s important and doing it. Jiu Jitsu isn’t always comfortable, but even at its worst, I can’t think of too many things that I’d rather do.

Jan 052010

Christmas was awesome, but… there were a few snags. For some reason, someone gets sick in our house for Christmas. Every year. Sometimes it’s only one person, and sometimes, such as this year, it makes a run through the entire house.

Christmas morning we awoke to the sounds of my oldest puking loudly in the bathroom. It was 4 am and at the time my wife and I weren’t sure if he was REALLY sick or if it was just nerves and lack of sleep. I know he was excited about the presents and so we largely wrote it off. He looked like he was feeling better, so we took it easy for a few hours. The kids opened their presents and everything seemed okay. But by 8 o’clock, Ken was back in bed, where he stayed pretty much all day long. He came out for dinner, but ate very little and then went back to bed.

Fortunately, he was doing much better the next day because I was the next to fall. I ended up losing about 6 or 7 lbs in 12 hours and was beginning to become concerned about dehydration. On the plus side, I broke 180 lbs by the new year, a goal I had set many months ago. I went to bed on Sunday night at 183 lbs and by Monday morning I weighed under 177 lbs. While, of course, this was just water and within a day or so I was back up over 180, I have managed to legitimately keep whittling away at my weight and am now right around 180 and dropping. I was 179 this morning and hope to stay on track.

Monday my wife and older daughter caught the bug. Ken really picked up the slack for us, taking care of the baby and keeping the house under control.

In other health news, my back feels really, really good. Better, in fact, than in a very long time. I’ve been seeing a chiro pretty regularly and have seen some real benefit from it. I’ll keep it up and hope that in addition to everything else I’m doing, adding an adjustment at least every couple of weeks for a while will improve the strength and stability in my lower back.

On the presents front, I was given a Dollamur Flex-Roll mat for my garage. I have one already, a green tatami style that I was given by my brother last year. It’s terrific, but at 5×10, it’s a little small for anything but static drills. To do any real rolling, I need a little more mat space and wanted to get another one to make a 10×10 area. Well, it’s on the way and I can’t wait. Should be a place where I can throwdown with anyone willing to come by. Maybe if my HOA gives me any trouble I’ll issue a challenge and we can settle it using the old Catch Wrestling rules.

Hold on. My wife is telling me that’s a bad idea.

… my attorney is also telling me that’s a bad idea. Okay. So… maybe no challenges to the HOA, but hopefully I can supplement my class time with some work at home.

My goals for the new year are to really hit another leap forward in technical understanding of Jiu Jitsu. I’m looking forward to being healthy and strong, building my cardio and either coming to terms with or overcoming my chronic back issues. I believe that if I can train regularly, this will be a very good year for me. I intend to compete for good or ill as often as I can in 2010, just to get the experience. I would love to go to the Pan Ams in April. That’s a big goal of mine, and one I hope to meet.

I hope you all have a great 2010 whatever your own personal goals might be.

 Posted by at 12:04 pm
Dec 272009

Giva is one of my instructor’s instructors (if that makes sense) and I one of the highest ranked Lotus Club black belts who lives in the USA. He runs a school down in California, and is one of the nicest guys around.

I was so excited to run across these videos. He’s attacking the entire time. There’s a great take down and some really cool transitions as he moves from guard to back control to mount to armbar.

Dec 152009

I’m sure that everyone who reads this blog knows how relatively safe BJJ is, but accidents are a possibility.  Please take a few moments to read John Will’s blog post and consider donating a few bucks to help one of our own out in a time of real need.  We are all careful.  We all take necessary precautions, but the truth is, it could have been any one of us.  I’d like to think that you guys would help me out if I needed it, as I would help you.   

My heart goes out to Haydn Clasby and his family. 

Haydn’s Support page on Facebook
Make a Donation via PayPal

 Posted by at 10:07 pm