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.