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 ;-)