Monday, January 6, 2020

2019 - Year End Review

I hadn't realized it's been over 2 years since I posted anything here. The blog has always been more for me than for anyone else, so it doesn't really surprise me since I haven't had many major developments since I got my brown belt.

Except that this past year I built my own gym and we just opened officially Jan 1 of 2020. Yup, Apex MMA is now a real thing and I'm incredibly excited about it. I've already got a really good small crew of people training with me and we hope to start bringing in some noobs soon.

I competed a few times this past year as well, won some, lost some, realized I have absolutely terrible competition IQ and need to really do some focused training on that.

And I had my first brush with BJJ related drama this year. I won't go into detail on that here, but you can read about it on the reddit post I made over here and see what you think about the situation.

For how momentous the year really was, and all of the ups and downs of opening the gym it seems like this post should be so much longer, but there's not much more to say about it.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Productive Mind Mapping for BJJ

How To Use A Mind Map To Shape Your BJJ

First it's necessary to understand what a Mind Map should consist of. A mindmap is not a web of every single technique and position you have ever seen, drilled, or even pulled off while rolling live. A mindmap is a distillation of your most common actions from your most common positions.

When most people first create a map of their game it's an unreadable mess with dozens of techniques for each position and sub position that obfuscates more than it enlightens, to avoid having your mindmap end up as an impenetrable wall of text there are some guidelines you must follow when making it.

Any technique that is in your mindmap should be one that you attempt at least once in the majority of your rolls. It doesn't have to be successful, but it should be something that you are actively pursuing. For most people this will result in two, perhaps three, techniques in a given position. Sometimes as few as a single technique.

When you build the map you should build it in a way that generally mimics the flow of a roll. Begin with 'standing' as your base position and proceed with a method for transitioning to the ground, then your sweeps, passes, and submissions, as they derive from that position. If you normally attempt a single leg and your single leg lands you in side control half the time, and in half guard half the time, then you will branch from Standing to those two positions via Single Leg Takedown as the transition.

The rest of the map can be constructed in a similar manner following the flow of the roll using the techniques you are most commonly attempting and assuming success or failure.

Once you have the visual map created you will have something which vaguely resembles the picture below:

This is a simple map of what a beginners game might look like. So how can this be helpful? Well, We can see that they favor the single leg and usually land in side control or half guard, the most common path for them is to reach side control and then attack from there or Knee on Belly.

Looking at the map makes it immediately obvious that our test subject doesn't really know what to do when they get caught in closed guard. That's an easy and obvious place to address. Our subject will need to learn a guard break and then how to incorporate their existing knee-cut pass into that guard break.

We can also immediately see that the focus is on the top game with no consideration for work from guard. Let's fill this out a bit and see what it looks like when we address those two most obvious gaps.

Now our subject has filled in their most common response to ending up on the bottom of guard and halfguard. Other bad positions like bottom side control and bottom mount can be largely ignored for this particular exercise because the game plan from those positions is almost exclusively going to be to escape to guard or halfguard, top or bottom. In an actual students mindmap we would fill those in as a matter of course, but  they aren't required for this example.

So, again, how can this be used in some kind of meaningful and productive way to guide your training in jiujitsu? The first way is to help maintain your focus leading up to competition. It's easy to get bored with doing the same old thing and decide you want to branch out and play with something you saw in a highlight video or at a seminar or that one of your teammates is working on. Referencing your map before training serves as a mental guidepost to the game that you are working on refining.
The second way to use the map is to locate gaps in your skills which may not be visible to you in the moment while you are rolling, and can be difficult to pinpoint after the roll when you're exhausted. If you put  together your map and get to a point where you don't have a good answer to add to a position then you know that you need to explore that position more mindfully.

The third useful activity you can engage in with your mindmap is to looking for links between related techniques which, again, may not be visible in the heat of the moment when rolling. An example would be someone who favors Single Leg X guard and the standard twisting sweep to to take top, and who also favors leg drags for passing vs open guard. It is entirely possible for someone to have been doing both of those things successfully without ever realizing that the sweep they are doing feeds directly into their preferred open guard pass, and instead be attacking the ankle lock even in less than optimal conditions, or transitioning to a less successful pass. Some people will draw those connections in the moment based on the feel of the technique, but for others it takes a conscious thought process of examining the techniques and looking for ways to connect them.

The fourth, and for the me the most common, use of the mindmap is to look for ways to most effectively insert a new technique into your game to shore up a weakness. A good example would be if my preferred finishing position is the back, and until now I have been primarily attacking with armdrags to reach that position I might decide that it would be a good option to add in the berimbolo to provide me an additional path to my preferred position. Adding that technique to the map will keep it fresh on my mind when I consult it before training and remind me to drill it and practice incorporating it into my game.

While these four uses are all valuable tools the overall most valuable part of the mind map is the process of creating it and the continual reference to it which forces you to consciously think through your techniques, spend time considering them, and honestly assessing what you do well and often, and what you do not. Over time your map will change as you learn more techniques, replace old ones, add new ones, and expand and refine your game.

For me the mindmap is one aspect of an attitude of mindful training which helps me get the most out of each training session and helps me keep a productive focus on the mats without becoming distracted or going too far down the rabbit hole of a new technique that doesn't fit in with the rest of my game.

Not everyone will find value in this exercise. Some people will create this once and never look at it again. But for those who do find value in it a well maintained mind map can be a powerful tool for guiding your training and focusing your game.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

If They Can't Stop You, It's Not Wrong

Something that I've often heard from mid level blue belts directed towards some enthusiastic whitebelt is, "You're not supposed to do that" or "That's not a good idea" or "Don't do that from inside the guard" usually directed at someone trying a choke from inside the guard, or holding a guillotine attempt after their guard has been passed, or driving a forearm into the throat from inside guard. These are things that we know are 'wrong', but WHY are they wrong?

Well, they are wrong because they get you submitted or swept, right? But what if you, the blue belt telling this white belt that they are 'doing it wrong' can't actually get that sweep? What if you can't make the transition to the armbar? Is it really wrong for them to be choking you inside your guard if you can't do anything to stop them?

The answer is NO. It's 100% correct for them to do it to you if you can't prevent it. There are no wrong techniques in jiujitsu, only things that work and things that don't, If it works then it's not wrong. When it stops working, then it's wrong.

Just something for all of the blue belts to keep in mind next time they think about telling some enthusiastic noob that what they are doing is 'wrong'.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Knee Shield Halfguard Project

As I mentioned in my previous update I've moved from my leglock project into a project centered around the Knee Shield Halfguard position. That project has been going extremely well and I've been finding success with position even against my coach (To one degree or another).

I expect to have some instructional videos for the position put together later this year.

Another development is that progress is moving forward towards opening my own gym. It looks as if there is a possibility that my current gyms kids MMA instructor may be looking to open an MMA gym in the same area that I was looking to open a BJJ gym, and since the two of us get along fairly well our coach suggested we go in on the venture together. That may make it significantly easier for me to launch the gym which is obviously great.

I'm still planning on that being about 18 months out though. No need to rush things.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 State of the Journey

It's been six months since I last updated here because shit has been BUSY. Extremely busy. So here's a run down of the last few months.

NAGA - December 2016

This tournament marked the final integration step for my leglock game with the rest of my game. I had some trouble implementing in the gi against the 200lb guys, but I overall felt very good about my performance here. Which led directly to the next update:

Almost ten years to the day since I first stepped into The Hardcore Gym I was awarded my Brown Belt by my current coach Chris Ruiz and Professor Roberto Traven.

Since then I've embarked on a new project, Knee Shield halfguard. I've been dabbling with knee shield for about a year, but over the last few months I've really pushed the position and started building a full game around it as a means to prevent pressure passing when my DLR/Spider combo gets compromised.

To that end I'm actually working on filming my first ever actual instructional videos based around the position. At some point this year I'll likely put them up here to get feedback once they've gone through a couple of iterations of revision.

And finally, I'm not competing at all this year. Instead I'm embarking on a south-east USA gym tour. I'll be visiting NOLA in a couple of weeks, then Dan O'brien's gym in Alabama, then hitting up gyms in Tenn, SC,NC, and Fl, before finishing the year out visiting gyms around Ga that I haven't been able to visit in a while.

Hopefully I'll be updating more here with pictures and whatnot from my gym visits.

And that's where I am right now.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Masters 2016 - Video and Results

Well, things could have gone better, and they could have gone worse.

I lost in the first round again. However this time I didn't feel like I got caught by surprise or anything. The first couple of minutes went perfectly to plan before I made a mistake. Here's the video, then below it the breakdown as I see it.

My game plan was to go for an immediate single, essentially as a fake just in case my opponent pulled guard immediately. That's good for 2 points and frequently happens in my division. I shot, he didn't pull, so I backed out and went to the next step which was my drop sweep ankle lock attack. 

I was able to secure the ankle and start attacking, but he was very good at keeping my legs pushed down and preventing me from getting proper extension for a real finish. I had it stretched out good a couple of times, but not enough to force the tap. So I went to the next part of the plan and used the ankle lock to transition to the top.

Then thinks went south. I had not really worked on what I was going to be doing AFTER that transition, so I came up, got points, and then sat there and let my opponent get his game started. He was able to get ahead of me and eventually take my back for the win.

I'm actually very happy with that initial implementation. Everything when perfectly. I just need to work on some more finishing details on the ankle lock, and work on smoothing out my transition into the guard pass. That's what I've been doing since I got back. A lot of transitioning from the ankle directly to the pass with no hesitation.

I should be able to fit in one more event this year, so we'll see if I can improve on this performance.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Masters Worlds 2016 in T-Minus 13 days...

I haven't updated in a while because I've been extremely busy training for Masters Worlds in Vegas, and with general work and life.

Project Ankle lock has been a rousing success. I have successful transitions to the top off of it. I have redundant sweeps. I have resiliency against pressure and escape attempts. I've started comboing it with an immediate drop sweep from standing which has been highly successful as well. I feel great, but there are going to be 27+ people in my division at the end of the month so it's going to be a tough battle to make it to the podium.

We shall see...