Sunday, February 7, 2016

IBJJF 2016 Atlanta Winter Open Tournament Report

It's been a few months since my last competition, Master/Senior Worlds in Vegas, and I've been training quite hard. I decided almost at the last minute that I was going to go ahead and compete at the Atlanta Open. That that end I start working on my DLR passing, and a sequence of attacks off of DRL/Single Leg X/X Guard using straight ankle locks to attack or generate sweeps and guard passes. I also decided I wasn't going to try to cut to 141 even if it was only a few pounds. So I signed up for the 154lb division.

I showed up at the venue at about 12:30 with my division scheduled for 2:20pm. I spent a few minutes walking around the venue saying hello to people and seeing how the tournament was running. Things were running about 30-40 minutes behind, which is not too bad for an IBJJF tournament.

At about 1:30 I got changed then  took a quick 10 minute nap, then started stretching out and warming up a bit. I don't remember exactly what time we got called for our division, but it was about 3:30, so only running about an hour behind. I spent a few minutes running through some breathing exercises to try to get my energy amped up a bit then stepped onto the mats for my first match.

I gripped up and tried to work a trip into Tomoe Nage combo, I didn't quite complete the Tomoe the way I wanted to, went to a sweep attempt that turned into a bit of a scramble, leading to me getting caught in a standing guillotine. I'm used to defending the guillotine, so I was actually much more concerned with avoiding accidentally slamming my opponent when I dropped down than I was with the sub getting finished. I stayed patient and worked my way free, then hit the same pass I've been working the last couple of months. I wasn't quick enough to stop my opponent from turtling out of it,  but I was able to stall him out there and take his back. I started working for the choke and kept partially crossing my feet to get him to try to attack my feet and pay less attention to my hands. I was able to secure the collar and finish the choke.

Spent a minute talking to my coach and getting my forearms massaged, then had about a 15 minute break while other matches ran. Going into my second match I felt good. Everything felt very winnable.

My opponent was very quick to pull guard into DLR and I kept trying to work the backstep pass without much success. He was able to run me out of bounds on the single leg before I could get my hips in to roll him. He was able to sweep me, then we ended up in a small scramble when I tried to re-sweep. On the stand up he pulled guard again and, but this time on his sweep I was able to secure the single leg X-guard placement on the hip and drop right into the ankle lock finish that I've been doing off of the sickle sweep. A few seconds before he tapped here his ankle popped 3 or 4 times, it felt and sounded horrible, but he seemed fine afterwards and said it was no big deal.

With that I won my first IBJJF tournament. I now have a nice shiny gold medal which I am super proud of. This was the culmination of a lot of hard work towards getting more assertive in my game and just being better at implementing my game plan against my opponents.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Upper Belts, Lower Belts, and Earning Submissions

This is sort of spawned by a thread from /r/bjj and sort of spawned by me earning a pair of submissions against my instructor this morning. I use the word "earning" very much intentionally, because I didn't 'submit' my coach. I was able to generate a situation that gave me an opportunity, and because I was doing it correctly and well I was able to get to a position to attempt a submission. Because I was doing that correctly and well I got the tap. At multiple points my coach could have just shut me down and crushed me under side control for as long as he wanted to and then subbed me. He did it multiple times during our rolls today, but it helps both of us grow if he eases of just enough to make me work hard and do everything correctly in order to EARN a submission.

The same thing applies when I'm rolling with white belts or new blues (Even senior blues at this point sometimes). I'm not worried about them tapping me. If they do everything right I'll even defend slightly less vigorously than I might otherwise, just like my instructor does for me, so that they can get to the tap if they do everything right. That doesn't at all mean that I'm GIVING them the submission. If they make a positioning mistake, or give me too much space, or anything like that then I'm going to counter and escape. But I'm not going to just refuse to give them the opportunity to succeed.

And when they get that tap they SHOULD be proud. Not because they 'beat' a purple belt, but because they did everything CORRECTLY and earned that submission. They earned that success and they should be happy about it. By the same token lower belts should understand that they aren't 'beating' people in class. I've talked about this before, but people may be approaching rolls in class in a variety of different ways, some of which may lead to a brown belt getting tapped by a blue belt a dozen times. That doesn't mean the blue belt should be a brown belt, or even that they are anywhere NEAR the same skill level. Take your successes in isolation. You do something right, you succeed, be proud of it, but don't let it fuel your ego.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Get Wristlocked! WHOO!

The last time someone successfully wristlocked me prior to today was 2013. That's despite multiple attempts in multiple tournaments, including Master/Senior Worlds.

Today my homie Chris got me with one. I was quite proud of him. I tried a sweep that he surfed through into a sort of straight armbar position and he got my arm and rotated my wrist all the way around until my pinky was just past my wrist, then brought the pressure down on it. He was still a bit hesitant to put enough downward pressure on it, but finally gave in and was able to actually put enough pressure for me to tap to it.

I love when things like this happen because it's way way better to learn your limits in class and know that there IS a place where things get dangerous, even if most people can't find it, than to learn in the middle of a tournament against some specialist who breaks your shit off because you expect to be able to ignore their attack.

The rest of the rolling was great too, technique work was some stuff off of the basic x-choke from guard that included a nice transition from x-choke to armbar to x-choke/triangle again. The pivotal idea on that last one was that when you go for the armbar, if you get stacked you keep your sleeve grip when they pull their arm out, which gives you access to their collar again, which lets you finish the choke.

Excellent sequence and I was able to put it to good use to up my triangle choke finishes in class. Very happy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Post Christmas sessions

Managed to sneak in a session today between Christmas and New Years. Did some jits-with-hits for the first time in YEARS to help one of the girls we have who is training to fight MMA. She's a former gymnast who is about my same size, and she is a good deal stronger than I am. I've worked with her on her KoB pressure for the last couple of weeks and she's gotten to where my ribs make disturbing noises when she gets there.

Today we worked on moving while defending, never getting yourself bogged down while defending strikes, and then we worked on how to use strikes to set up your guard pass and then your submissions, and how to punish peoples escape attempts with strikes. She's a quick study and by the time she fights her weaknesses aren't going to be on the ground.

We also had the enormously strong purple belt from a couple of weeks ago back. This guy is definitely a love/hate kind of training partner. It's great training with him because I have to be 100% perfect and give NOTHING away, or he can just destroy me. If he gets even CLOSE to a kimura grip, I'm going to get kimuraed. If my weight gets even slightly off base, I'm getting swept. It makes me work hard to be perfect on offense and defense. Which is also why I hate it. It's good training. His weakness so far is that he is obsessed with shooting for toe holds without locking down my knee or hip, I'm determined to get his toe holds sharpened up enough that he can tap me with them, but he's got a long way to go on those.

We rolled for about an hour and a half all told and I got in some good work.

I won't be back in the gym until next week because of the holidays though.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Three in one Week!

For the first time in over a year I managed to make three classes in one week. The official class on Monday, then a couple of open mat sessions Tues and Thurs for a total of 6 hours of training this week. I feel surprisingly good physically. Not at all as beat up as I expected.

My third day everything felt amazing too. I just felt like my mind and body were better connected, more coordinated than in a long time. I felt like I could see a lot further ahead in each roll.

I'm hoping to make this a permanent change going forward, training at 3 days each week to help push myself over the hump towards my next skill plateau.

I might even be able to start filming some reference videos and things again soon.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Got into the gym for early morning class and it's No-Gi December this time around. We worked some posture drills that Chris picked up from the BJJ Globetrotters camp he went to last week and then some solid no-gi pressure passing.

Did some closed guard positional sparring that was fun. We had an enormous dude with some level of training that I think was just checking the place out for today, I hope he decides to stick around. He was a lot of fun.

Working to pass his guard was like tiptoeing through a minefield, because the slightest positional error would be enough for him to bulldoze you over, and he wasn't just 'some big dude' he had clearly trained some wrestling and some submission grappling of some kind, it was just difficult to tell how much because his size and strength assisted his techniques a lot. So he could have been anywhere from a 1 year white belt to a brown belt just taking it easy and it would have been hard to know.

I'm leaning towards bluish belt somewhere though, since when we were rolling he chim passed me like it was his dayjob, but couldn't stop me recomposing guard, and a bit later I caught him in a wristlock that he actually tapped to, which surprised me, I had fully expected to have to use the wristlock attempt to try to get to his back, but I manage to trap his arm just right.

It mostly just felt great to be training.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: The Combat Codes

This will be one of the random non-training related posts that occasionally pop up on the blog here. The reason that this one is popping up is because of a book called The Combat Codes. The author contacted me via /r/BJJ and asked if I would give it a read and offer some feedback on the fight scenes as well as the book over all since in addition to BJJ I'm also a voracious consumer of Sci-Fi/Fantasy literature.

He was kind enough to send me a copy of the book to read and I started it on monday at around 1 in the afternoon. I finished it around 6:30pm. I read the thing cover to cover, nonstop. Now, that's not necessarily a ringing endorsement since I'm a determined reader and I have slogged through some truly horrible trash novels because I refuse to be defeated by some lackwit's barely decipherable prose. Such was not the case on this occasion. The Combat Codes is actually a brilliant story told in a world where MMA style combat has taken the place of war. Each nation maintains a stable of fighters who represent them in territorial disputes with each other, as well as an academy to train up those fighters.

This is the story of a former fighter and his new protege and it has a distinctly Ender's Game vibe to it which should be taken as the compliment it is meant as. The pacing is flawless, the characters evoke rich emotion without being cliched, and the fight scenes are well written and walk that fine line between realistic and entertaining. My only problem was that by the end of the book I found myself annoyed that I couldn't immediately read the sequel.

If you enjoy reading SciFi/Fantasy and are also a fan of MMA/BJJ this is a brilliant read. If you know someone who fits that description then this would be a perfect Christmas present. I'm currently eagerly awaiting the sequel.