Friday, October 29, 2010

front chokes revisited

Last Wednesday's lunchtime class was half blue belts and half white belts. Some of the guys had missed last week's sessions on front chokes, so we did another session on those. It gave me the chance to get in a fair few more reps and I picked up a couple more small but important details.

In addition, I managed to get the technique right on a variation where we lift our elbow to defend him coming over our legs to escape. Last time, I struggled with this, because I fell back to the mat. This made it near impossible to get the elbow into play. This time, I sat up and lifted the elbow. And found that the choke comes on almost immediately, with next to no effort on my part.

This youtube video shows Matt Arroyo using the choke. There are several variations, and the setup I'm talking about is seen after about 4 minutes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


That was Monday's theme: omoplatas.

First we drilled the movement, the change of direction our body needs to make to align correctly. Then we drilled the setup to get to the right position on our partner. And finally, the whole submission to where we switch the legs and apply the lock.

In addition we looked at how to flatten our partner in case he ends up with his knees under him. Sometimes, we end up next to him all flattened out and he is on his knees. In that case, it is really hard to sit up, and the same technique will flatten him and allow us to sit up. Say he is on our right side (I have his left arm trapped). I reach across his calves with my right arm and grab is far (right) leg/pants. With a stiff arm I hold his leg in place while I shuffle my feet and butt to my left and away from his foot. This stretches him out and with a few wriggles, it brings at least one, but probably both his hips to the mat. Now it's easy to sit up and reach across his back to finish the submission.

After that, we had a few rolls. I saw no chance for an omoplata, so I played with my new toy (open guard, esp.spider guard). Failed in a couple of sweep attempts, but finally got one. Mucho happy! Someone else tried to armbar me and then transitioned to omoplata. But somewhere in that, I got my lower arm free and when he rolled to omoplata, my arm was gone :-). And I managed a cool transition to mount, set up ready for a triangle, no less! Alas, we had to reset.. Can't remember the rest, other than that I talked one of of the new guys through NOT allowing me to pull his arms across while in my guard. Because I'm just going straight to his back...

I had a really great evening. I'm finding that since I've abandoned trying to get and hold closed guard at all cost, I'm actually much more free in how and when I move. I'm also much more proactive when I think my oppononet might succeed in opening my guard, I go to open guard and stuff him around :-) Obviously, something has clicked in my brain. Again :-)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

the obligatory "what I did last week" post

Yes, it's overdue again. Was hoping to write something on the weekend. But I was away all day Sunday due to a trip to the far west of Victoria to pick up some horses. Nine hours in the car, one and a half catching, loading and looking at some other horses. A long day. No motivation to sit in front of computers afterwards...

So, back to last week, which was another marathon event with seven training sessions over six days.

Monday night's focus was on transitions. Part of the time I worked with blue belts, part of the time with brand new guys. So that included some time teaching a couple of them one of the basic drills.

Tuesday night I went to Geelong with one of the guys for another advanced class at John Will's Blackbelt Studios. We started with an interesting new (to me) warmup with partners consisting of 30 second intervals of activity broken up by a few seconds to change position. The activities were figure four (kimura) from guard, armbars from mount, armbar from guard, a sqat to lunge position with one hand on the floor, then jump up to both feet and straighten before coming down on the other knee and hand. The last activity was an awkward stand up in guard, sprawl, back to knees, stand again routine. Then it was the other partner's turn. We sure were warm at the end of it...

During the class we worked on guillotine chokes and the arm in variety. We drilled that from sprawl when the bottom person is turtled. First the no arm version, then the arm in version and finally how to change grips from one to the other. We also went over the guillotine defence (go to side opposite where the head is trapped, reach over the shoulder and behind the neck and drive shoulder into the throat), so that it was obvious why it's necessary to get one leg over our partner's back when we do the choke. It clarified the whole issue of which way the choked person should go and therefore which the choking person should prevent him from going. Cleared up a bunch of vague ideas in my head, and I found I could pull these chokes off well during drills. Definitily will add to my toolbox!

Rest of the class was rolling. Aside from a kick to my head from a petite blond lady (who profusely apologised), it went quite well. I managed to move around and go for subs, even if I didn't finish many. Some rolls were timed, and for some of the time we would go fast and hunt for new positions and then have a thirty second period to stall and hold position. That in itself was interesting and changed the way we rolled. I was pretty much manhandled by a purple belt during one of these rolls, but it was all good :-)

I stayed for the intermediate class after. Which means the 3-4 stripe white belts warmed up with any coloured belts who chose to stay. So I got a few more rolls in. As before, I felt good. Some of theses guys are very good and they are fun to roll with. I also had a roll with the brown belt instructor, who used to teach at our school. He destroyed me first roll and toyed while he set me up for a knee bar. But second roll didn't use all of his 100+kg weight and I managed some good escapes, attempted to theaten his limbs and had a ball.

The class concentrated on triangles. I was paired up with a sizeable white belt who was excellent to work with. We drilled a fair bit, concentrating on details, such as turning out the leg that's hooked over our ankle. Then we did some more rolling and then a movement/sensitivity drill working around triangles. We triangled our partner who would defend by coming around and trying to stack. With an arm on his hip and an arm on his shoulder, we hip out to escape, but then slide a knee under his armpit and the other shin under his neck. The knee squeeze traps his arm. To defend, he will straighten up, which allows us to swing the bottom leg over his back and set up a triangle on the other side. All we need to do is change our angle to him. And then we go round again.

One last lot of rolls saw me paired up with a 140kg bloke. Oh boy... I would have liked to have gone to his back, but his wingspan and his vice grips prevented that. Made the mistake of attempting closed guard but with all of his weight coming over, I soon saw the folly of that. So feet on hips, and get distance. For the first time ever, I saw the need and a value in spiderguard :-) So that's where I went, and back to feet on hips for a few times, until I saw a chance to go for a triangle. But yeah, it was an attempt only, no way did I look better than a necklace on him, when he postured up :-)) But it was fun. AND I didn't get squashed before time was up. I view that as a victory :-))

Wednesday's midday class was mainly about knee ride. I now know that I have to pour the pressure on. I can't hope to hold a semblance of a knee ride unless I pull up and stick that knee in. Doesn't stop me from feeling like an AH while I do it though. I worked with one of the big blue belts, who made me feel for his sternum and lower ribs and wouldn't let me rest until it was ugly for him.. Thank you :-)  We also played with... wait for it... spider guard. Yeah! I'm really starting to see the value of open guard types with the bigger guys. And I'm starting to get the hang of going from one to the other and back to closed. It's liberating and it's expanding my game.

Wednesday evening was mostly rolling for all but the really new guys. Didn't do anything fantastic, mainly defended. Mind, I did wear one of the guys out ;-) But aside from getting someone's back once, and sinking one guillotine choke on someone else, I was mostly on the bottom. Hey ho, more chance to practice escapes!!

Thursdays's open mat was not huge. I really only rolled with white belts, including some fairly new ones. My goal was solely to get them to relax and roll. My constant: slow down! breathe! relax! stop, think! probably got on their nerves. But lo and behold, I managed to not only get them to slow down, but use less muscle. There were several rolls where we really just flowed through positions, they didn't go rigid when I swept them, and they didn't go rigid when they swept me. And in every case, little lights went on, they admitted they "saw" sweeps and submissions. And they felt they could keep going without gassing. So I hope that they will remember some of it and use it :-)

Friday's session saw three purple belts on the mat, a couple of blues and only a few whites. For our small school, that's unusual. It was great. We worked on guillotines and a variation of the grip which allows it to work even if we do it from guard bottom and our opponent passes our legs (to the correct escape side). The rest of the class was rolling which was totally enjoyable. I was accused of being aggressive (in a positive sense) and on the hunt for stuff. I thought that was a bit of an overstatement. But I really had fun!

Saturday was armbars and triangles. And the variation of armbar I've named "armbar from hell" because it's slow and methodical and really hard to escape (except if I do it, because I STILL can't get it 100% right).

two years up!

So, we're already into the last October week.

Which means....


I forgot all about my two year anniversary of my start in BJJ. That was in fact yesterday. I was so busy having fun in class, I clean forgot. Oh well. But I guess I'm up for a post where I can reflect on the last two years. I did promise! (but not right now..)

And as I'm in a hurry and have nothing really witty to say, go to Georgette's Blog and read all about why girls don't fart :-)

Friday, October 22, 2010

last week

I'm through most of my uni assignments now. Another one to go, but I have 9 days left, so I'm having a couple of days off :-) Which means I finally have time to do some updates, and I'll start with the round up from last week.

On Monday, I had a two hour no-gi session. We worked on a tight armbar which is set up from lockdown. The other move was called the Carney which is a neat submission if our opponent has managed to get over our leg and is on his way to pass. Only he gets caught with his shoulder pinned and in a figure four armlock... The rest of the session was some conditioning (lots of plyometric pushups, situps, squats, sprawls etc) and lots of rounds of rolling AFTER the conditioning. I had mixed success there. Or rather, not very much... But at least I seem to be making inroads in some areas, and I was attacking more often. I surprised myself with being able to keep up with the rolling although I felt shot after the conditioning. I must be fitter than what I think..

Wednesday's midday session was a surprise. Three blue belts only. We worked on the deep half guard game which we had worked on with John Will last week. How to get there and how to sweep to a low single. Wednesday evening was a big class with lots of new white belts, so it was basic drills with an emphasis on transitions. I think we drilled an escape from north/south. It's one I'm really useless at, and I'm sad to say that I'm still not much better... Right at the end, we did a few minutes worth of rolling and was fed a shiny, brand new guy. Smash, grab, push, strain! So I went into selfprotect mode and he wore himself out in my closed guard. So much so, he had to retire. Wow.

Thursday night's open mat was small, with just myself and about 5 white belts. I got together with my nemesis (oh, if he ever reads this blog, he'll kill me ;-) ), and we set to do do slow/flow rolling. Looking for positions and keeping moving. That worked really well. We warmed up that way but kept going along those same lines, stopping here and there to see where we could move on to or what subs were possible. Nothing against going hard some of the time, but we both got a lot out of that. We sniggered in a superior manner about the grunting and straining of the rest of the wrestlers on the mat. Well, the previous week one of the guys overdid it and made himself sick. But I noted he was going a bit easier. Good.

I had one good roll with a guy who only comes to class occasionally, but he moves very well. So as usual, we moved all over the place and after a while it ended when I caught him in an upside down armbar. Not sure exactly where that came from... But it was a fun roll. Then back to some more technique with my first partner. All in all, an excellent evening.

Friday night we basically rolled, except for the newer white belt guys who were taken aside by one of the blue belts and worked on some stuff. Don't really remember all that much. Tried for the evil armbar, but as before, I get to a certain point and then lose it. Still, must keep trying. Instead, I have more luck with armdrags and taking the back. Plodding along, having fun....

And that was it, as there was no class on Saturday. Which was probably not such a bad thing, as I think my body really could do with an extra day off.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Psssst !! Oh no - I've been discovered!

Today, in class someone told me he's found this blog.

Oh-oh! So now I have to be careful who I bitch and moan about ;-)

They will probably tease me about my ramblings here, like they do about my many gis. Anyway, I'm sure I'll survive. If you are one of them: be careful or I'll write about you!! Haha.

Anyway, sorry about the lack of updates. I realised it's been ten days since my last updates. Blame it on uni assignments. And of course, I haven't sat on my butt when it comes to training.There is not contest when it comes to deciding if I'll go and train or write this blog. That's a no-brainer.

As I have another couple of assigment deadlines in the next two days, I'm settling in for an all-nighter right now and I will need to defer my BJJ reports yet again.

Soon, soon!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

that was....

... an amazing week! Phew.

I trained every day except today (Sunday), racking up some 10 hours on the mat. It was a busy week anyway, as I'm back to uni after the break. And I still managed to sneak in a few horse rides when the weather was good. At least with spring on the way now, it is nice enough to go outside. I am soooo glad the winter is over!

So, on Monday, I trained no-gi for nearly three hours with a few guys. It was mainly 10th Planet stuff. A bit of a change for me, althougth we've gone over a some of that stuff in the past. So it was some review and some totally new stuff. We drilled various combinations for a bit over a couple of hours and then rolled for several rounds. Didn't do anything spectacular. Hadn't done no gi in ages and felt a bit overwhelmed. About the only positive thing I can say about the rolling was that I succeeded in breaking someone down in my guard who is twice my size. Not that I escaped the inevitable outcome of getting owned... :-)

Tuesday evening I met with one of the guys and we went down to Geelong to John Will's Blackbelt Studios. John had recently returned from overseas, followed by a quick trip to WA. But he was back on the mat on Tuesday and taught the advanced class. We drilled three sweeps from open guard if our partner stands up, and then one sweep from open guard, where we go to deep half guard and then roll over and finish with a single leg.

I had a few interesting rolls with different blue belts. Nice to be challenged without getting mauled by the big guys. I was the most junior of the blue belts on the floor. To be honest I thought I'd get a hiding, but I actually fared reasonably well. There was in fact a blue belt woman. We had an entertaining couple of rounds and I did well. Not so well against the guys, but at least I moved and things happened and I didn't feel like a dimwit. Actually, I really had fun.

At the end of the class, they let in the white belts whose intermediate class was on next. They had the chance to roll to warm up, we had the chance to roll to warm down :-) I chose to stay, although I was somewhat buggered at that point. Didn't do too bad. That is, until one of the black belts who had stayed behind waved me over. That's when I was back to feeling like a little mouse who is being toyed with by a big cat ;-)

Ah, it was awesome. Of course I was destroyed. But he let me work and I actually managed some half decent moves, including some useful hip movements which led to escapes. He commented later that he thought I did well and that I made it difficult for him to get some positions and subs. What more could I ask :-)) And then he asked me aside to show me some of the open hooks in guard stuff he was working on and gave me some tips how to make that type of guard work for me. As I said: awesome.

I attended two classes (lunchtime and evening) on Wednesday. And I'll say that I was beginning to be a little bit on the tired side. I also had a full day at uni. We worked on knee ride both classes which is good, as it's something I am not good at. At all... But I think I have a fair idea now why it's not been working for me. I was being too nice. Not enough pressure down, and not enough pull up on the arm and leg. By Wednesday evening, I was making half decent entries and I got groans out of my partner when the knee went on. Also, I din't fall off after .01 of a second when he wriggled. In the lunchtime class, I got my lip caught between my partner's gi collar and my teeth and actually lost some skin. Bled like crazy at first, but with some vaseline, I could carry on after a bit.

Thursday night was open mat. I was tired before I started. And that was after a good nine hours of sleep for the previous two nights :-) I'd had the whole day at uni, which is all sitting down, but of course I had to pay attention. Rolling went ok, did some good stuff, got flattened by a couple of the bigger guys and all in all had a pretty good time.

One of the guys managed to accidentally kick me with his knee. And where did he connect? My bottom lip. Next to the cut bit. So I ended up with a huge blood blister. He was so apologetic :-) My answer: if it's not bleeding, who cares? And kept going. He promptly caught me with a leg bar twice. Must watch them legs...

We were pretty much done and sitting there stretching when one of the guys came in late. He'd been training at another place earlier but was looking all hopeful to get in a roll or two. Some had already packed up and gone, and I nearly declined. But then thought why not. He usually armbars me. Or whatever. But I was that tired I didn't care, and it it was another opportunity to do some no-gi. And then something weird happened. I armdragged him, got his back and got him in a rear choke. He tapped. Second round, I went for the armdrag again and pulled him to turtle. Went for an anaconda, rolled over but somehow couldn't finish it. I know it was tight (which he later confirmed), but my brain went numb and I forgot to walk into him. So I let it go and went after him. Shortly after, secured an armwrap from mount and a choke from there. By now he was laughing and saying that I'm doing good considering I'd already cooled down.

He wanted to go again, so we did. I deliberately did not go for the armdrag this time. He pulled guard and tried for a triangle/armbar. Didn't let him have it, passed his guard. Was busy attacking his arms, got mount and then he rolled me. Then it was my world: get arm across, take back, latch on and choke! Third tap for the night. He seemed to think it was awesome, I was more like speechless.. But it was rather a good finish for the evening all the same :-)

Friday night's class was essentially rolling. My bloody lip (pun intended) tore open again and I had to sit out the first few minutes to wait for it to stop bleeding. The rolls started from various positions. And to my great disgust, I got the killer whale, and our starting point was bloody side control. Sheesh. So when he started on top, I was history immediately. I can't escape by way of any technique, an experienced guy who is twice my weight!! So he cheerfully ripped my arms out. When it came to me on top I didn't fare too much better. The man can just bench press me off. Aside from that, I find it diffucult to keep any sort of control, let alone try for a sub on a huge barrel chested person. Luckily, after that I scored the small guy. He's getting good, very quick and he'll try stuff. He got me fair and square with a Peruvian Necktie. The rest of the time I beat his arse, mostly with chokes, although I let him start in mount or side control top most of the time.

Saturday we had a small class of newish guys and a surprise visit from a purple belt guy from some school in Sydney. I scored him as partner and found him great to work with. On the menu was torenanda pass to knee ride, armbars and spinning choke from knee ride and then a bit of rolling. We didn't got real hard, it was mostly positional and then some playful sort of seeing where we'd end up. Good stuff. Hope he comes to visit again.

I lasted the whole week though I will say I was ready for a break today. What was interesting about the experience is that I felt I was better technically than usual. Several times during the week, I actually started class feeling a bit tired. That feeling always vanished during warm up and I was never gassed. But I think it made a difference to how I rolled. I know it didn't help me keeping the big fellows at bay, but I felt more smooth in my transitions with the others. Maybe more economy of movement?? And in several cases, I know I started a submision during a transition, so that by the time we "arrived", the sub (usually a choke) was already locked in. I hadn't been able to do that before.

Next week will be a bit more sedate :-) No trip to Geelong and apparently no class on Saturday. Oh well, might use the free Saturday to finally go for a long drive and pick up some horses I bought and give the body a slightly longer rest to recover from wrestling.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

so much to think about

We haven't covered a lot of new stuff (=techniques) in class lately. Which is good, because my head is quite full enough as it is.

Lately, I see so many more details in the so called basics, details which I've been missing. Which is probably why some of my basic techniques have been somewhat ineffective. Especially since I don't get away with crappy technique as they are mostly bigger than I. So that's good, it forces me to get the basics right.

I'm beginning to understand that I should not give up on something simply because it seems difficult. Giving up is easy. Blaming the technique is easy. But what I need to do is buckle down and try and try again and troubleshoot what is the part or parts of the technique that I do incorrectly. I'm lucky to have an instructor with a great eye for small things and who can dissect things down. So he can pinpoint where I make mistakes and find a way to show me how to do it successfully. He has been quite inventive in thinking up ways to not only explain but to give me little drills that allow me to feel and understand what I need to do.

I know now, more than ever, that my hip movement has been woefully inadeqate. That explains why my escapes aren't that great and why sweeps aren't happening too well. Awareness is the first step to improvement. Then comes a plan. For example, during open mat on Thursday I had a couple of plans. One was to go for arm drags. The other was to use my hips. Basically, I tried to remember to make a bigger effort to hip out or bridge up. As a result, I had better success in regaining full guard. And I finally pulled off the escape from side mount, where I get both arms on the far side, bridge and then rotate around his forearm until I'm head to head. I had never been able to make that work before. So I think I'm on the right track there. Incidentally, I've lately found it much easier to do laps of hip escapes (during warm-ups), and I've been getting much bigger and freer movment. They feel powerful and fast now. On the one hand I'm amazed that it's taken the best part of two years to get decent hip escapes happening. On the other hand, I'm glad that they are happening!

Other stuff I've been working on some more are hooking sweeps. We did some work on setting up an arm drag from sitting (hooks in ) guard and then transitioning to a double hooking sweep if they resist the arm drag. Vice versa, if the sweep fails, I move my weight to the other butt cheek, hip out a bit and can either try for arm drag or for a sweep to the other side. It all involves such fundamental stuff that I desperately need to work on, mainly the hip movement and effective hooks.

We also did some work on arm drags from standing and from closed guard. That, coupled with the guard transitions we practiced a fair bit after the Rigan seminar, is yet another set of related basic stuff. Basic, but fits right into what I've recently been working on, if only from closed guard.

So, without covering much new stuff at all, my head is buzzing :-)

I have a bunch of instructional dvds and books. But at the moment, I refuse to look at anything that doesn't tie in with the stuff I'm working on. I think I finally am starting to have some sort of game plan. Which is nothing like what I anticipated it to be. It's growing in an organic sort of a fashion out from where I feel powerful and have the most success. Guard.

BJJ was always fun, but I'm astonished to see it's more and more fun all the time.

BJJ is a bit like a fractal. Any part of it you happen to investigate is intricate and interesting. You try and get an overview and see the whole thing and make the areas you know fit together. Then you realise that every branch has lots more intricate details. Many of them fit in with other branches. And the more you zoom in and look, the more you see yet more intriguing and interesting details.

I've had an offer to tag along and go to classes down in Geelong, maybe as often as once a week. That means classes with John Will or one of his black belts. I'm sure it will be fun as well as tough going, especially since I now have to attend the advanced classes. I shudder at the thought of a room full of experienced coloured belts. They'll have me for breakfast ;-) Maybe I should have a "fragile - handle with care" sticker on my gi?? Naw, it'll be good and the learning will be well worth it.