Sunday, May 30, 2010

more thoughts...

I re-read my post about the week gone. It all reads a bit like a general whine. Ok, maybe I was whining. Well, there you have it. Ironically, I've been going pretty good lately. Not just the way I feel about my training, but also from the feedback I've been given.

It's made me think though. About the purpose of training and what constitutes good rolling and good training partners.

I'm sure it's all been said before and by people who are much more eloquent than I'll ever be. Still, the point of writing (for me) is not just in stating how I see things, but in doing so, get a better handle on what exactly I am thinking. Ah yeah, and there is the getting feedback business that comes with blogging :-)

Right up front I want to say that I have no real issues. Neither do I have any problems that are specific to being a woman in a male dominated sport. It's really down to size and strength discrepancies, ego and newbie issues, and some general issues about the way we learn. So where to start?

I wish I had more mat time. I currently train 5 times per week and my body is coping pretty well. But I want more, and I wish there were time at the end of every class to go over new stuff. Just to give the new info a bit more time to settle in, a few more reps and a chance to resolve the odd question which tends to arise after I mull it over for a few minutes. But I shouldn't be greedy :-) . We have open mat Friday night after class and there is time set aside for another open mat session on Thursdays.

Recently, a couple of blue belts who have been away have come back to training. That's fantastic, because I get a lot out of all of them. They are nearly always prepared to explain and help, even mid-roll. And as I've stated many times before, we have a great bunch of guys at our school. If they tell me that I need to change the way I do something, then it pays to listen. If they tell me I did something right, I know it wasn't a throw away remark to make me feel good. And they challenge me. Haha, don't they ever….

We have some totally new guys who aren't quite ready for rolling yet. At least I feel I have a solid enough base now that I can help them with basic stuff. And by showing, explaining and helping them, I have a chance to deepen my knowledge. For every time I revisit a simple technique, it seems less simple. The more I think about the simple stuff, the more I realise that my application of the basic principles still leaves a lot to be desired.

Then we have a bunch of white belt guys who vary from fairly green (one stripe or less) to quite advanced, bordering on blue belt. There are a couple of young ones with long limbs, and they are fast, aggressive and they give the blue belts a hard time. Then we have the big, strong, heavy ones who can smother the likes of me. And whenever push comes to shove, I'm getting the shoving! Oh, and did I mention, they have vice grips for hands, too.

Where do I fit in? The four stripes on my white belt mean that I've shown I can do the techniques which are required by our syllabus and I've demonstrated that I can apply many of those in a wrestle. I have competed three times but I certainly didn't set the world on fire. I'm quite tall (5'9") and a lightweight, so thankfully not one of those small, delicate girls :-) . I'm reasonably flexible and reasonably strong (though nowhere near as strong as most of the guys). I'm quite fit, more so than many others. I'm not very fast and sometimes my lower back reminds me that my chassis is over 40 years old. So I have some things going for me and some things against me. Mentally, I'm usually very positive. And when I roll, I love to sink a sub, but I'm equally as happy about some other good move I pull off.

I'll roll with anyone. If they are new, I help them. If they are small (like a girl), I go a bit easier, and I try to challenge them without killing them. If they are big, I try to stay out from under them, which generally fails and then I defend etc. If they go hard, I go hard (unless they are new spazzies, in which case I stop, show them something and call it a roll). I don’t have serious issues with anyone.

The problems are actually relatively minor. In many cases, I found I had a bad case of talking myself into failure ("I can't do this"), so of course it doesn't work.., a lot of this I have addressed and it's not happening very often now. Repeat after me: there are no such things as problems, only opportunities!!! Of course I have little relapses, but I'm working on it :-)

Then there is the size problem. Simply, if I roll with guys who are heavier than I, everything is hard going. And we have several that are like 1.5 times my weight. Even if they are white belts, that spells trouble for me. If they are blue or purple belts, I'm mat pizza with busted arms :-) . Tapdance! But, if they are blue or purple belts they might just decide to NOT use all their crushing weight, and then it can be quite fun. I don't mind if they do it to set me up to try a new technique. I know I'm not making it too easy to work the new technique, so hopefully, they have some fun, too. Meanwhile I have fun because I can work and actually even try an attack myself. And just eeeeevery once in a while, I hit something, and that’s fantabulous.

Whereas a heavy white belt only knows how to use weight and muscle. They might think they are not, but they are. That's when I'm in that totally frustrating zone where I can only defend, keenly feeling like I didn't deserve a single of those four stripes!! They work their butts off getting something, which I can normally defend. They heave and groan and push and pull and pin me down. And so it's just stalling. And we both get nothing out of it.

It's not that my ego can't take it. Sure it pisses me off, and the prospect of a blue belt some day shrinks away into the distance as I flop about like a fish out of water. But really, I can take it. And it's not that I resent the pain or the bruises, for getting sat on by mr.big generally means sore ribs.... It's not a tea party, if I'd wanted an easy hobby, I would have picked lawn bowls or floral decorating. But I do want action.

Our mat time is limited and therefore valuable. Ideally, any roll should be a learning experience, but sometimes of course it feels more like getting schooled :-) But if I get caught, good and well, we shake hands and get on with it. On the other hand, if nothing happens (and that could be my fault, too), then the learning is minimal.

And so if I get a guy who has not yet figured that there is no "winning" if he literally picks me up from turtle to turn me over, or from gripping my hands in a death grip, or from getting mount and just sitting there, then I get a little frustrated. If someone only knows how to open my guard by way of elbows digging into thighs and flexing his biceps, or to pass my open guard by flinging my legs across hard, then he will not advance his own learning by sticking to those limited techniques. Sure, they work on me, because I'm outmuscled and outweighed. But when he tries the same on a guy his size, it probably will not work. Everyone figures that eventually.

But there is little to be gained from me rolling these guys. And I will admit that often, I interrupt to show something they might use to improve their game and then leave it at that. I have also let things go so they get a sub just to finish it, and congratulated them if it was done reasonably correctly.

What I need at the moment is people my size, both more and less experienced than I am. That's why I prefer to roll with the young guys who go balls to the wall, rather than the big guys. I might lose, but at least it was fun. At least stuff happens! And I'll come away thinking: I could have tried so-and-so... And no matter how ferrety and fast they are, I've learned a thing or three, so youth and speed and flexibility is no guarantee they won't be on the receiving end of a sub from me. But at least I can move, there are no boring bits. Stalemates maybe, but lots of changes of position. It's fun, "win" or "lose". But my best be are the blue belts and above about my size.

I want to get better. The more I catch little glimpses of "good" or "better", the more I crave to be there. Of course I realise that "there" doesn't exist, for when I get better I will want to get better again. That's a good thing though. And as I get better, I can be more fun for the people I train with, both the ones better than I and the ones less experienced.

Well, that's my thoughts on the matter. I hope that didn't sound like another whine, because it wasn't meant to be one. And I won't be running away from the big guys or the musclemen, I'm just making my case for spending more time with the others.

Anyway, back to the mat tomorrow, and I promise to be bright and cheerful and positive :-)

take the blues away

After my 100% crap performance on Friday, I was looking forward to a quiet Saturday class to get back on track. That pretty much worked out.

We had another small class. There were two newbies and a blue belt who used to train at our school, but I've never seen him in all the time I've been there. Apparently he had a long time off. The two big boys were paired, and I ended up working with the same guy as last Saturday.

Similar to last week, we worked stuff off the lap drill. But this time we started with a lapel choke from side control, using our own lapel fed around their neck to choke them. Then we worked that in with the lap drill.

After that, we did some guard passing, using the under the leg pass. From there, they were shown the knee through pass as and alternative, if the bottom person makes a heavy leg. And from there, how to deal with the heavy leg by either flipping it over the head or making a gable grib before stacking and then passing around it backwards. From there, back to side control, we had the option to attack with the choke again, from our previous mini drill.

We played with these things for the rest of the class. And same as last week, I talked my partner through a lot of it, explaining bits here and there and making sure he kept on pressure, kept his base, didn't expose elbows etc.

I plainly didn't have time to contemplate my shortcomings of the previous evening, particularly as I also served as the demo dummy. So that was good. The icing on the cake was when my partner thanked me profusely for helping him. I said that's ok, we all help each other. But he insisted that I was very clear in how I showed him things and my explanations were useful, and that he was happy. That made me happy :-)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

nothing to rave about

Hm, not the best week for me. Didn't feel top of the world and had a bunch of assignments due for uni, with Friday deadlines. So I missed Monday night's BJJ as well as Thursday open mat.

I did go on Wednesday. I felt slow and clumsy. We did a long complicated drill involving a lot of rubber guard stuff. At least my brain worked, and I managed to not only remember but also carry out the sequence. But when it came to some wrestling, I just went straight back to defend mode, because I couldn't do anything. I actually nearly gassed for the first time in ages. Not good. I totally deserved the armbar I was caught in by one of the purple belts. Should've seen it coming a mile away, but was too disorganised and tired to defend it. I guess a couple of good things happened. I didn't just defend, I reversed positions a few times, I got out of one armbar (but shouldn't have been there in the first place!!) and I managed to pass a blue belt's open guard which usually gives me endless troubles. So not all bad, but I was pretty down and only saw the bad bits, as I grumbled and bitched on the drive home...

On Friday, we worked on another longer sequence. From guard pass to short base side control on his right side. As he turns into me, I get an underhook on his left arm with my right, cupping his shoulder. I pull up and get posture as I post my left hand on the floor behind his head. Then I step over his head with my left foot and place it behind his back. Next I sit down. If he give me his arm, ok - armbar.

But let's say he defends by clasping his hands together. I want my right foot over his head and my right hand (still holding his left arm) on my left hip. Next job is to get my left leg over his middle. For this, I might need to lean to my right. Once that left leg is across his belly, I need to get closer to his left leg, as I will probably be more angled towards his head a this point. I can use my left arm to post on to get my butt closer to his legs. I can even take the right leg off his head and post on it, because as soon as I get hold of his left leg with my left hand, he cannot shake me off. If he tries to sit up, all I need to do is push down with my left leg against his upper ribs. That also has the effect of stretching his arms apart as far as possible, even if it does not break his grip (which might well happen). Now I have time to sit up again and get my right leg back over his head. I can change my left grip from holding the bottom of his left thigh to the top of his right thigh, swapping and changing if he bucks. I can spiderweb him and use any of the methods I know to break apart his arms.

For the drill, we then let go of the arm, let him roll back into our guard and started again.

We also looked at an armbar from mount. Similar to the armbar where we go to S mount first, it involved a slow transition with no space. I think I like it better than the standard spinning armbar from mount (which I suck at).

So that was all good stuff. Then we did some wrestling. And man, what a poor performance! That wasn't so bad in itself, everyone knows that sometimes you are the nail, sometimes the hammer. Against a guy about my level, I was trashed. He is very tight. I was pissed to begin with because I copped a forearm to the face, but I don't blame him. Served me right for giving up my back. I was just being useless, and I could feel my blood rising.

I was hammered the whole evening, including by a guy who has only been coming a couple of months. Yes, he's heavier than I am (try 50% more..). Yes, he is stronger, he has a karate background so his extra weight is muscles, not flab, and he has good base and knows how to use structure, too. But hey. I couln't even move. I felt such a damn failure. Ok, I did get out once, by getting out the back door and I clawed my way to side control. Of course that didn't last long before I was mat pizza again. Idiotic me had shown him the high mount recently, and that's what I got, and from there I struggled. Didn't have the energy to bridge enough to roll him. And he's wise to the knee elbow escape, slamming my sholder back to the floor. No, he got nothing. He was getting very tired, too. But what's the point of a roll if I end up pinned and just serve as a cushion for him to rest on?

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't mad with him. He did what newbies do. Push, shove, muscle to "win". I was mad with myself for the poor showing. And due to my fragile "state", the anger and disappointment got the better of me and I sort of dissolved. And when I have a sense of humour failure like that, I get more mad again for being such a girl. I mean: what the hell??? What a wet rag am I?? Luckily it was the end of class. I honestly don't know how the last roll finished. I just avoided crying in front of him.

There was open mat after. Basically, I just wanted to get out and hide. But I thought NO, I'm not running away from this, bloody grow up. A couple of others had to go, leaving only two guys rolling. So I watched, as they started to discuss some technical stuff. Not long after, one of them also had to go and it was just one of the blue belts left.

Dickhead me couldn't hide my disappointment, but I said to him not to worry and sorry to be a wet rag. So we had a bit of a discussion about things, including how it's normal to have times you go home after training elated and times you go home all pissed off. We also discussed how I might be better off giving a miss to rolls that serve no purpose, like just getting muscled around. He mentioned how he also used to struggle as lighter guy against some of the heavies in the school. He gave me some ideas for other escape options and we agreed to spend some time in open mat sessions on flow rolls. So that I get a bit of a chance to develop a top game. Thank you, thank you. I know I overreacted and I was being pathetic, and I was so embarrassed to put that on him. But his little pep talk put me back on track.

The silly part of it is that usually, I don't give a toss about being outweighed and outmuscled. I laugh it off and I dole out as much grief as I can ;-) . And I don't mind going hard, hell, if I did, I wouldn't go to competitions... I guess I just had a chink in my emotional armour. I'll get over it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saturday class

Only four of us on the mat today, me being the most senior. I took the warm up. And a warm up we needed, it had been rather a chilly morning...

Two of the three guys there are very new, one of them only having his second class. I worked with him for the whole of the class, except when I was the demo dummy for Sensei.

We did the lap drill (side control to mount to side control, go around the top via north south to side control, etc). A simple drill it is, but it includes some fundamental moves.

Then we looked at how use shoulder pressure to smear the bottom person's forearms away from his chest, with a view of being able to attack it. This also helped the new guys be more aware of how to use their weight while on top. Another alternative is to get under the elbow while going from side control to north south.

We looked at scenario where the bottom person in mount grabs around the middle of the top person. And how we can profit by going to side control to break the grip and trap the arm across their neck. That led onto the head arm choke. We drilled that a few times. I was also shown an alternative to breaking the grip. Say the guy on the bottom is very strong and I can't break his hands apart. In that case, when I'm already in side control, I bring my top leg up and step over his head. That breaks his grip and turns him on his side. From there I can step over to get sidemount. My options are an attack on his top arm, especially if I trapped it around his neck. Otherwise, I can sneak my hand in his top lapel, let go of his arm, and then quickly pass the lapel to my other hand. As his arm comes up, there is a lapel half nelson choke. Neat.

Didn't do any wrestling, but I really didn't mind. Helping a new guy through some techniques is another way to deepen my understanding of them. Not just having to explain how to do a technique, but to explain it from different angles, and to troubleshoot if they have questions or problems. This makes me analyze how I do things and in turn raises questions I need to resolve.

What I find quite difficult is to keep my instructions simple and concise. It's hard to teach something I'm passionate about :-) . I have a tendency to go into too much detail, show them all the ins and outs. The problem is that all that information may be too much, there is only so much most of us can absorb at any time. I'm afraid I'm not a very good teacher. Something else to learn!

Friday evening

Friday evening started with a few rounds of free guard passing.

So far, that's never been one of my most enjoyable pastimes, I always looked at it as a bit of a chore. I suppose mainly because I get swept pretty easily when I try to pass. When I'm on the bottom, I get passed way too often. But here, like in a lot of other areas, I'm experiencing a fundamental shift in thinking. Rather than looking at problems, I see opportunities now. So in a way, I'm putting aside the worry of not succeeding and trying out new things. That allows me to think of what sort of game my partner plays and to challenge him. So far this has been a passive process for me, in that I was merely responding to the problems (see, there is that word again!) I was handed. Now I'm actively seeking means and ways to pass or to sweep, and I'm adjusting to their game. Where one thing doesn't work, I try something else until I find a way. The result: guard passes and sweeps. Not always of course. But the best bit is that I really enjoyed this exploration of techniques. I even experimented with open guard and had some success.

The rest of the class was spent on wrestling. During assorted rolls, I hit a couple of figure fours. I was armbarred and choked a few times. I was swept, but I also pulled off a few sweeps, including the one I worked on the night before. Several rounds lasted for ages, and again, I managed to get good positions and attacked arms and necks. I continue to defend quite well, giving the senior guys a lot of problems. I no longer feel like a grappling dummy, that's for sure.

By the end of the class, I was pretty tired. I was also quite happy about the new things I learned. And that there was no point at any time when I didn't have a goto or a submission I could try. So things must be coming together.

Friday, May 21, 2010

revisiting basics

As has been the case lately, I need to summarise the last few classes and open mats. I'm just not keeping up here.

One evening, we worked on three different headlock escapes. They are the three techniques we need to know for our fourth stripe grading. The only one I still have problems with is the one where I clasp my hands around my opponent's waist, walk my hips close to him and then sweep him. With a decent sized guy, I still struggle. Not because of the size, but because my technique still isn't quite right. I envy the guys, correct technique or not, they all find this easy!

The evening we worked on this I was paired with a relatively new guy. He made an observation of something I did which I wasn't even aware of. Which just goes to show that you can learn something from everyone! It was the headlock escape where I have my top arm across my opponen'ts back, I pull my bottom arm under me, post on my head and then drive into him. Without thinking about it, I was driving in a circular fashion, simply because I found that more efficient and easier. When he first tried it, he tried to sit up and push across. Then he copied what I did (but wasn't even aware of) and used the circular method, and told me how much easier that was. Good. We both learned something :-)

Later on that evening, we did some wrestling and when I was partnered with the same guy, he asked me what he can do to avoid everyone passing his guard and then pinning him immediately in side control. So I showed him how to hip out, how to get a knee in there, how to stiff arm the hip, that type of thing. But mainly how to use the hips to make space to get guard back. That, too, got me thinking. Along the lines of.. hey, _I_ ought to be using my hips a hell of a lot more, too! But more about that later.

Last Wednesday evening, we had a fun session. There were three more senior folks and three relatively new guys. We were split up. Us senior folks revised and drilled three attacks from sidemount, including a choke, and an upper and lower figure four. Meanwhile the newbies learned three attacks from closed guard. Then we were let loose on one another, starting from guard. We were only allowed to use the three techniques. I recall being puzzled by the way my partner was trying to grip my wrists when I tried to pass his guard. He had grips like vice, too :-) Anyway, I avoided subs but couldn't quite get a sub on him before we were swapped around. We only found out later what the instructor's game plan was. And funny, how when I was restricted to using only certain techniques, suddenly I could see all these other opportunities, like armbars, triangles etc.

Open mat on Thursday last week started with a very slow and deliberate roll with my fellow four striper. We both managed to stay slow all the way through which probably is a world record for us. I even commented half way through that I was amazed we hadn't deteriorated into the usual flat out manner, and he agreed. So it was great in that we both went through heaps of positional changes and chain attacks. When you have time to think and there is no pressure, things flow. It really felt good. I have to add, we went back to normal by the next roll, and he flattened me, but not after getting mightily close to tapping out to one of my killer techniques ;-)

Other rolls that night were good, too. I successfully defended a tough triangle from our resident king of triangles. I couldn't quite convert it to a guard pass, but he finally had to abandon. Well, ten seconds later, he choked me.. Also got compliments on how difficult my closed guard is.

Last few rolls were with another big fellow, and this time I remembered to use my hips. I am finally working some things out!! He is fairly new so there is much muscling and smashing through but I got knees and feet in so many times, that he started grumbling in frustration. And even when he got to mount, he never stayed there long :-) We laughed a lot and I took it for a compliment when he said he wished I wouldn't wriggle around so much.

We missed a few classes because the school had a camp on the weekend, so the next class was Monday night. We drilled four techniques from closed guard, including kimura, cross lapel choke, hip bump sweep and guillotine choke. Then we did some situational sparring. Always starting from closed guard and only using one of those four techniques. As there were several fairly new guys, we spent a fair bit of time on the drilling, and didn't have much time for the sparring. But I did get shown another couple of ways of catching my partner's hand when he wants to brace out in the hip bump sweep.

I missed Wednesday's class as I wasn't feeling 100%. So it was back on the mat on Thursday for open mat. Unusually, there was only two of us white belts, but four (!) blue belts and a purple belt. In our small school, that is unusual indeed. Good to see a couple of the senior guys back, after a few months off.

I worked on moving my hips a lot and it's continuing to work. Now there's a surprise..! With the white belt guy, I helped him with how to defend his neck and elbows. And conversely, how to attack the elbows by getting high mount. When we rolled, I just concentrated on staying out from under him, but that didn't work all the time. Still, I'm pretty well protected in turtle. Well, I was.. until he pretty much picked me up and turned me over! I said "Oi!", as it nearly felt like a slam, but he was already apologizing. I called him a big brute :-) . I managed a slick move after another escape that put him neatly back into my guard. Again - the hip thing. Right.

I rolled with three of the blue belts, and all allowed me to work a bit. So I hit sweeps, attacks from the top and attacks from the bottom. Uncharacteristically, I went for several armbars from sidemount. I even pulled one armbar off. I kept those hips going and again had so much more success in preventing people settling on me when trying to pass my guard.

Again, I drilled a specific sweep with one of them. I find it relatively easy to control people in my closed guard, and getting an arm across is often possible, so this sweep will really suit me. It relies on hipping out, trapping that arm across my chest, hipping back under a couple of times to load him up while holding him to me, and then we go: sweep! The nice thing is that I generally have a hold of his arm when we land. If he tries to stand up, I grab the leg, but it works without the leg. And I'm now a lot more savvy about the variations and possibilites. And the proof was, when a bit later, I swept one of the other blue belts with it. Whoohoo!

There were some other intersting things which came out of those rolls. I'm a little more sweep resistant nowadays, but I still get swept a lot. At least, by the time I land, I'm already getting to my side. Not getting caught out flat helps. I notice I'm using me feet more effectively. Coupled with movable hips, I really have a pair of extra tools. All in all, it was a great opportunity to try out my top game. But with lots of opportunity to defend from the bottom, too :-)) . The funny thing was that at one point, I was told that I was "irritating", because I was defending so well. I took that as a compliment. Several minutes later, that turned into "giving him the shits" (he meant that jokingly). Haha, more compliments. We had a good laugh.

Another important issue that came up is with one of the blue belts whose game is to sweep - armbar. He seems to get armbars from all different places. We talked about what would help me for a bit and what it boiled down to were underhooks. Again, this is not news, but its information which my brain hadn't properly digested and so I wasn't applying it. Basically, by the time we started from knees, he was working on getting an underhook, and from there he manipulates and/or waits until he can get into the right position to profit from the underhook he has and converts it to an armbar. Generally, I have no problems keeping my elbows in, but he was setting me up right from the start, and his underhook was sitting there like a loaded gun. He reminded me of the importance of pummelling in to get an underhook, and being aware of the danger when someone else has that underhook.

At the moment, I seem to have a brain open and ready to take in and understand principles rather than specific moves. I suppose that is a good thing.

Anyway, both the guys who hadn't been in for a few months, commented on how much progress I've made since they last rolled with me. That was lovely to hear. The occasional pat on the back works wonders. But I know I have plenty of work in front of me, so it's not likely to go to my head. Chances are I'll get slaughtered on the mat tonight ;-)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

new clothes for ze blog!

After reading a post on The Guild of BJJ Bloggers, I found out about Blogger in Draft.

So I set to experimenting... and more experimenting. . . and . . .

And voila! New set of clothes :-)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

north-south choke

We had a very small class on Saturday. And for the first time in ages, I was the lowest ranking player on the mat.

Of late, I've ended up scarily near the right end of the line-up. That means having to take the warm up. And worse, I will get roped in to teach stuff...

Anyway, Saturday was about working on the north south choke. With only four of us there, we took our time to work on the small details of this choke. How does it work, what makes it work better? And we got a fair few reps in. I had read up on this choke recently, so it was very interesting to have the chance to practise it. We looked at a variation where you set it up while in side control and then go to n/s to finish the choke.

Then we had a crack at an escape from side control where he has an underhook on our far arm and the other arm around our neck. A three step affair. First step, hip out so we are on our side facing the opponent and our free hand on his hip. Second step is whizzer him on the underhook side, then bridge up while shoving up with that arm. This creates a space under him big enough that we can feed our head through towards his far hip. Step three is to put the head in that gap, and holding on to his whizzered arm, we rotate around it until we are face down in front of it. This requires that we swing our leg as we rotate to get some momentum while we pull on his upper arm.

Then we sat around and talked for a while and went over some other small stuff. It was quite a laid back affair.

Oh yeah, aside from a few wrestles we had at some point. I was severely squashed and manhandled by a big purple belt. I was pleased that I fended off several attacks and bought time, but the outcome was inevitable in every roll. Having said that, he did stop a couple of times to encourage or correct something I did. So while painful, it was a good learning session :-)

Friday, May 7, 2010

John Campbell seminar

I've returned home from a seminar. It was the second no-gi seminar held at our school by John Campbell. He's recently come back from another trip to the States where he trained, so we were bound to get some new stuff.

He emphasised that his game and the stuff he teaches is a mix of old and new, and that three people have mainly influenced him recently. Unfortuantely, I can't recall the name of his wrestling coach, but the other two are Eddie Bravo and Marcelo Garcia. Using Bruce Lee'e maxim: use what works, discard what doesn't, he's picked the elements from different schools which suit his game.

Later on, he elaborated on this a little. Among other things he said that while a lot of people have success with the 10th Planet stuff, it suits flexible people more. But that the rubber guard is but one type of guard which can be used offensively, in conjunction with other guard types, giving you a bigger arsenal. No system or guard type is invincible. Therefore, the best grapplers know when and how to go from one to the other.

Personally, I was very glad to hear that. I'm getting tired of the eternal and emotional 10th Planet vs standard BJJ discussions on Sherdog, the Underground forum and some of the Australian lists. If found John's open minded attitude refeshing. Let's see if it works for us, let's see if it integrates with our game. If yes, then use it, otherwise, use something else. Quite simple, free of politics and almost boringly common sense....

Anyway, I digress :-) Back to tonight's seminar!

Firstly an open guard pass. John called it the Marcelo pass. I'm on my feet, good base, on the balls of my feet for mobility. Opponent is on the ground, sitting and facing us. First, I shove his shoulder, pick up his feet if needed, to push his back to the floor. As soon as his back hits the floor, I put my hands on his knees to control them. Then I step in with my right foot and move my right hand from his knee to his belly or hip and lean on it. The weight on it will help control his hip. We want enough weight to stop him fom hip escaping. Then I kick my right leg back and up (he called it a mule kick), to free it. If he uses hooks, I might need to kick more than once. As soon as I feel my right leg coming free, I bring it forward while using my left hand on his right kne to shove it away, so I can bring my right leg forward unimpeded. I go straight to knee ride with my right knee and cup the back of his neck with my left hand. The right hand can grab his left knee or be on his left hip or even clasp my left behind his head. So now we're in good solid knee ride position.

Alternative: (note to self - do this with care, kneeing your partner in the groin is not polite, though it might be useful in a self defence situation...). Say we tried the aforementioned pass and he managed to trap my right leg in half guard. My goal is to get my right knee to the floor on his right side. If I can do it, good. But if I can't, because he's too string, then keeping my right hand on his abdomen, I bring my left foot close to his right thigh, so I've got a foot each side of his right leg, tight. Then I turn my left knee across him and threaten a knee ride with my left knee. As he adjusts, I drive my right knee to the floor. I need to get my left arm around the back of his head and get an underhook with my right. I want to gable grip my hands together behind his neck, near his left shoulder. I stick my left shoulder into him, try to crossface him and in the meantime, I kick at his legs with my free left foot until I can free my right leg, which means I can consolidate to short base side control. All I need now is to post my right hand on the floor, cup the back of his neck and pop up into knee ride.

Next step: I pressure him with my knee. The hoped for response is that he turns into me while pushing my knee with his left arm. This of course could the cue for the vanilla armbar from kneeride. However, instead, I slip my left hand from around his head to under his left arm, so that I end up with an underhook on that side. My right hand pushes off. The idea is to bring my left knee to the left side of his head while my righ leg steps backwards in a big arc, bringing me to a sitting position behind his head and shoulders with good base. Next step is a good tight seat belt grip. As I already have a left underhook, it's relatively eassy to bring my right hand over his right shoulder to get that grip. Once I have it, I consolidated to short base side control, with him still on his right hand side, and me having good control via that grip.

Next step: I step my left foot over his midde and put my heel against his belly. If need be, I can sit up on my right knee for this. From there, I sit back and fall over to my left side, taking him with me by way of pinning him to me tightly with the seat belt grip. As he rolls over with me, I make sure that my right leg goes through under him and comes free behind his back. My left lower leg goes across his middle, and by the time he reaches the floor on my left, I've establised a body triangle. I found that I had a bit of trouble as my partner was heavier and bigger than myself, but I still got the foot locked, though it took some wriggling and adjusting. With someone my size, this would work a treat all in one move. The last part of this was to lock my righ hook under his right leg. This provides additional leverage to the body lock and is hard to shake off.

Next step: as he defends my arms by pulling down, I rotate my left wrist to grab hold of his left wrist and push it towards his hips. With one arm, he can't defend me sliding my right arm around his neck. As soon as the right arm is in position and my fingers hooked on his scapula, I pull out me left arm. From here, I have a couple of choking options. Either I gable grip over his left shoulder and put my left forearm parallel to his spine. Then I flex my bicep, drive down the left elbow and puff my chest out. Or I go for the rear naked choke. On that, John showed us an alternative setup, which will also work in mma (meaning you wear gloves). I sneak my left hand across the top of his shoulders. If need be, I arch my back to make space between him and I. Once I'm across and form a blade with my left hand, I work the fingers of my right hand into the crook of my left elbow. Once I've grabbed my left bicep, it's down to squeezing with my right bicep, if need be, push forward with my left hand. I found it took no strength at all to bring on a nasty choke.

Alternative: I have the position behind my opponent, with established grips and I've stepped over him with my left foot as before. But now I don't want to try to take the back. I swap my left arm with my right by sliding my left hand along my right forearm, until I have his left arm in the crook of my right elbow, with my right hand on my left hip. I grab under his left leg and cup over the top of his right thigh and sit down. From here, I swing my right leg over his head. If his left arm is free, the armbar is there. If he holds on with the other arm, I cross my ankles. With the hold of his legs, this position is very hard to escape. I think it's called the spiderweb.

Final armbar: I lean forward and slide my right arm towards his wrist. This creates space between me and his wrist. Now I let go of his legs wit my left and stick my left elbow into that space and make a gable grip over his wrist. Next, I turn to my right and twist my arms, which puts a lot of pressure on his wrist. As he lets go, I fall over backwards, keeping hold of his forearm with my right arm (I pin it against my chest), and grab hold of his legs again. The whole time, it puts pressure on his elbow and extends his arm in a way that pretty much sets it up so he can't turn it. Armbar done.

I generally don't do a lot of knee ride stuff, because I find it hard to get the position. And I've not had much luck in getting any subs from there. Drilling the transition to knee ride and learning a transition to back control has opened up new possibilities for me. I was actually surprised how easy it was to get to knee ride from the pass.

Anyway, much to think about. I'm looking forward to spending more time on this, which I'm sure we'll do tomorrow and in the next few sessions.

Great seminar, really enjoyed it :-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

just training...

This is another one of those brief posts which sort of summarizes what I've been up to...

General rolling has been good fun. I'm kind of annoyed that I was tossed aside like a rag doll and then squashed by a new big white belt on a couple of occasions. But hey, that's the way it goes. Another time, different guy, I was the one dishing it out :-). I find people more my size, at my skill level and above the most fun to roll with, because I'm getting good positions more and more often. But then, the bigger guys make me work on survival and escape. And the newbies (there have been a few lately) make me work slow and considerate and I do my best to explain when necessary. Oh, and they make me aware that I've learned a little since I started :-)

We've been doing a series of chokes (arm in and out) from north south. This included setups from side control to try and trap an arm across. I've also been reading up a bit more on those lately, so I'll see how much of that I can use in my game.

I picked up some more little details on a variation of the under the leg guard pass and we went over the knee through guard pass. Funny how every time I watch a basic technique, I see something else which I missed before. Sometimes I think my head will explode! Every time I get to a level of understanding (well...), I realise that there are holes which I need to fill in. Those can be in the form of better understanding of the principles behind the technique, or tweaks to the technique itself.

I missed a class because I wasn't well. I had to take some antibiotics and boy, did that knock around my guts. I think I killed every one of those helpful and nice bacteria in my guts, to the point where my digestions was non-existant. Felt weak and lethargic, no appetite, gut grumbles, felt cold, slept badly. Not nice. After just over three days I couldn't take it any more and quit taking the tablets. I ate probiotics and took it easy and things got better fast. Two days later, I tried a BJJ class (but wisely didn't do two hours of grappling before!), and I was OK(ish). By the Thursday, I held up to an hour and a half of open mat. My main concern was being alright for the seminar on Friday.

Aside from the usual bruises and another mat burn, I managed a sprained toe. But it's on the mend.

So all in all, I've been enjoying myself inbetween getting choked and having my arms ripped off :-).