Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Homework New Years!

Ok people! Enough holiday slacking! Time to get back to work.

Everyone who has been following my homework assignments now gets to start fresh with me in the new year and return to lesson number one! Let's play "What's Your Game?!"

So again, your homework assignment is to go back and look at the LAST time you wrote out your game, see what parts of it you've actually be using and what you haven't. Look for places where you've been using a technique frequently that's NOT listed in your game and add it in.

NOW, move on to the next assignment and craft three sequences using techniques from your game which result in you achieving a submission. These should consist of a takedown, a guard pass, and a submission each. Ideally three different ones. These are "Ideal Competition Sequences" and you should drill each of these as often as you can until they are second nature and flow naturally together.

Third is the new component to this assignment. C-C-C-Combo Time!

Figure out how two submissions and a sweep or two sweeps and a submission can be combined together. For me I use Scissor Sweep, Triangle Choke, and  and Armbar. Go for the scissor, if my opponent manages to post to block I transition to the Triangle Choke. If my opponent postures up to escape I switch to the armbar.
There are thousands of ways to combine various sweeps and submissions together so that they flow smoothly, you'll want to get one really solid sequence that you are comfortable with.
You will drill this sequence EVERY SINGLE DAY in January. If you don't have a partner to drill it with then go through the motions solo in slow motion as best you can while thinking your way through it. The goal is 100 reps of this sequence every day. The first 10 reps should be with no resistance. Go through the technique with perfect form nice and slowly. Over the next 90 reps increase the resistance by about 10% every 10 reps. By the time you get to reps 90 through 100 your partner should be fully resisting. Your goal is to get ahead of them and land the third move in your sequence. The first two MUST be convincing enough that if they don't bother to defend them the technique will work, but the moment the technique is failing and you have the opportunity to transfer to the next technique you should do so.

So, DRILL! DRILL! DRILL! and make it your own.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Year in Review: 2011

So here were my resolutions for 2011
1. Purple Belt: I want it. I think I'm close enough that a really dedicated 6-8 months will put me in position to get it by October/November.
2. X-Guard: I want to make this a more central part of my game.
3. Get my weightlifting back on track and push my PL total up to 900lbs.
Let's take a look at where I ended up!

Purple Belt? CHECK! Ran into some scheduling difficulties, but the test itself went smoothly.
X-Guard? NOPE! Worked it some, then decided it was not yet time and circled back to some more basic stuff including X-guard setups.
PL Total 900? Progress! Hit 710lbs. Still work to do, but things are going well.

New goals for 2012

1. GOLD MEDALS: I want to win some damnit! I've got a ton of 2nd/3rd place medals but no 1st place. I want some!
2. Compete at the Mundials: If I pick up a medal here it will be FUCKING EPIC, but I'm going for the experience more than anything else.
3. Push my PL total up another 100lbs.
4. Push two or three techniques up to blackbelt level.

Good luck to everyone else with their goals for the year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Theme/Layout Changes

Be Warned, I'm mucking around with the theme and the layout for the next couple of weeks, so it might change randomly at any moment. I'm trying to settle on something that looks a little nicer than what I had before without being obnoxious. Bear with me while I screw around with it all and hopefully at the beginning of the year things will look more awesomerer.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tournament Organization Review: 2006-2011

I promised that I would write up a review of all of the organizations that I've competed under in the last 5 years, and this is going to be it. I will be rating them on several factors, Scheduling, Organization, Communication, Cleanliness, Value, Spectator Experience, and Turnout. Each item will receive a score from 1 to 10 and will be totaled for a final ranking. Fair warning, this will be a LOOOONG post as it took me almost a week to put together going over my notes from all of my previous tournaments.

Casca Grossa (Note: I'm not sure these guys even run events any more. The last one I know of for sure was in 2009, but still)
Scheduling: My division was scheduled to begin at 1pm. We arrived at 11:30. My division did not start until 6pm.
Score: 3/10 (I gave them a 3 only because I only attended ONE event, so it could have been an anomaly)

Organization: The registration and weigh-ins went smoothly, I was able to find my ring assignment easily, and the officials all seemed to know what was going on. Everything was well organized except the scheduling.
Score: 8/10

Communication: We were never told why our division was delayed, or ever given any information on when it might start. It was just "any minute now". The announcements were difficult to hear over the PA system and the announcer was difficult to understand.
Score: 4/10

Cleanliness: Didn't see anyone with ringworm or anything like that allowed to compete, competitors were not allowed on the mats with shoes, competitors were not allowed into the bathrooms WITHOUT shoes. When there were fluid spills (Blood or whatever) on the mats it was cleaned up immediately with what appeared to be clorox wipes. We did see some people walking around in their socks who then walked onto the mats in those same socks.
Score: 8/10

Value: I paid 60$ to compete in one division. I ended up getting two matches. The spectator fee was 10$, so I paid 70$ for the day. I could have done 2 divisions for 70$. So, not bad.
Score: 7/10

Spectator Experience: My wifes experience at this event almost resulted in me not getting to compete anymore. Ever. The air conditioning was non-existent, the venue was incredibly loud, and there was absolutely no effort made to make sure that spectators could actually see what was going on. Additionally the scheduling problems contributed to issues for her as well. This tournament did NOT earn the Jennosaurus Seal of Approval. Of course, it could have been worse. Somehow.
Score: 3/10

Turnout: There were around 15 people in my division, which is on the upper end for most of the competitions I've been to since then, so it was a decent turnout. I would have had to win 4 matches to take first place, so that's pretty solid.
Score: 7/10

Overall: This was a pretty bad tournament. I drive like an hour and a half, then had to wait around for almost 7 hours before I got to compete. The venue was miserable, and the staff did NOT communicate well with the competitors. There were no brackets available to check either, so we had no idea what was going on. I would not recommend competing at these events for any reason.
Final Score: 38/70

Scheduling: Again there has consistently been a 4-5 hour delay between the time my division is listed to start, and the time the division actually starts. This has been consistent across every single NAGA event I've attended.
Score: 1/10 

Organization: Ring assignments frequently change from moment to moment. The organizers rarely seem to know what ring you belong to and have no idea when your division will start. The brackets appear to be hand draw at the table that day. These events have ALWAYS been complete Chaos. I've never been told completely wrong information, but I have gotten a lot of, "I don't know, check back later" answers.
Score: 5/10

Communication: Announcers are usually easy to hear and intelligible at these events. They are good about calling people to the rings if they can't find them and rules and policies are clearly and consistently communicated to people. Once the organizers do know when something is going to happen, they are very good about letting everyone else know.
Score: 9/10

Cleanliness: This is one of the dirtier tournament environments I've ever been to. The bathrooms are usually filthy with overflowing toilets within an hour of the event start time. I regularly see people walking around barefoot and then stepping onto the mats. I've seen a few people walking in and out of the bathroom/locker room areas barefoot and then getting on the mats. And despite hosing myself down with alcohol wipes after every event I almost always end up with ringworm a day or two later and end up missing 8-10 days of training to get rid of it. Blood spills are cleaned up promptly, but I've had to grapple in a huge puddle of someone elses sweat because no one bothered to clean it up after their match. Definitely not cool.
Score: 2/10

Value: I paid 100$ plus a 15$ spectator fee to do 2 divisions pretty much every time I've competed for NAGA. I feel like it's kind of the average value. If you are cheaper than NAGA you're a good value, if you're more expensive then you're doing something wrong. The spectator fee is a bit steep though.
Score: 5/10

Spectator Experience: The venues are frequently hot, and noisy, but there is reasonable effort taken to keep people from obstructing the view of the spectators. They have been a little on the strict side about preventing outside food/drink into some of the events. But I think that might be related more to the venue than NAGA itself. That being said, my wife views these with dread every time. So they are not Jennosaurus approved.
Score: 5/10

Turnout: These are always huge. 1200+ competitors. My division almost  always has 12-16 people in it and requires four wins or more to take first. Because of that there is decent prestige in winning a gold medal at NAGA, so that definitely bumps the score up here.
Score: 9/10

Overall: Almost all of these tournaments are bad experiences for me. I arrive at the venue around 11am in a panic thinking that THIS TIME they will start my division on time at 12 and I'll miss it or something, only to get there and wait around for HOURS. Continually trying to stay warmed up, not wanting to eat anything in case my division starts 10 minutes later, etc... They are stressful and I always end up feeling drained and exhausted by the time I get on the mats from the repeated adrenaline surges of "Your division is about to start. Oh wait, no it isn't. Oh yes it is! Over there! in the other ring! Oh wait, no, we meant an hour from now it will start." The only redeeming feature for NAGA is the size of their attendance and the frequency of their events.
Score: 37/60

Lutador Grappling:
Scheduling: Going in to Lutador I had heard  good things about their scheduling at tournaments, so I was optimistic about my chances of getting on the mats in decent time. Unfortunately that proved overly hopeful. Once again my arrival was approximately 5 hours before the actual start of my division. I don't know what's so hard about starting and completing things on time, especially for a tournament that was pre-registration only, but no one seems to be able to pull it off.

Organization: This was probably the worst organized tournament I've been to. Despite being pre-register only the brackets for my division weren't up until around two hours after I arrived. THEN my ring assignment got moved twice. THEN I was  told I would be competing in the Gi division first. I got my gi on, was standing at the ring for my Gi match, and was then told my NO-GI match was starting, which required that I strip down and change RIGHT THERE at ringside, which wasn't THAT bad, but damn! Then after my no-gi match it was another hour before my  gi match started. Terribly organized and no one seemed to know what was going on. I considered giving them a 3 instead of a 2 because they apparently had a larger kids turnout than expected, but then I realized that they are PRE-REGISTRATION ONLY. So they HAD to know at least two days in advance of the tournament what their kids turnout was going to look like.
Score: 2/10 

Communication: Terrible. Frequently told to go one place, then another, updates for ring assignments were late, and several times wrong. I was, in fact, ASSURED that my Gi division would start before my No-Gi division on two occasions. This turned out to be completely wrong. Not cool guys, not cool.
Score: 3/10

Cleanliness: The mats were well policed, I didn't see anyone walking around barefoot anywhere. I didn't see any sock go from the floor to the mats. Everything seemed pretty clean and well taken care of. The bathrooms were nice, everything seemed well taken care of.

Value: I paid 85$ to compete in Gi, No-Gi, and Gi Absolute, and the spectator fee was 5$. Total cost was 90$ for three divisions. Definitely a good value. I felt like I got my moneys worth out of it for sure. Also, the absolute winners get a cash prize, so you have the chance of going home with more money than you came in with.

Spectator Experience: The venue was airconditioned and reasonably comfortable. Effort was taken to clear the areas in front of the bleachers, and they had no problems  with us bringing in outside food/drinks. The scheduling issues had a negative impact on the Jennosaurus though, so this event also failed to earn the Jennosaurus seal of approval despite their relatively positive experience.
Score: 7/10

Turnout: My divisions were relatively small, 8-10 people in the No-gi and 3 people in the Gi, but the absolute division was huge, with around 20 people. There is also some decent prestige to the Lutador tournaments because of the heavy Alliance turnouts so guys like Cobrinha and Ian McPherson compete at them. Definitely a strong average turnout.
Score: 8/10

Overall: Despite the long wait I did enjoy this tournament. The atmosphere was good even though they had no idea what was going on and the competition is pretty high level. It's also a good value for the available divisions. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and will probably do one more of these some time in 2012 to give them a chance at redemption. I definitely recommend them over NAGA or Casca Grossa though.
Score: 40/60

US Grappling
Scheduling: After I mentioned my experience with Lutador over on JiuJitsu Forums I got multiple assurance from Clinzy that the USG tournaments were a million times better organized and scheduled. Admittedly I went in with some skepticism since I had heard the same thing about Lutador, but this turned out to be the absolute truth. We arrived at 9:30 so I would have time to eat some breakfast and stuff and the rules meeting started sharply at 10:30. By 11am I was on the mats and grappling. By 12 no-gi division was done. My gi division started at about 12:30 and we were done by 1:30. We were frankly, astonished. At first I assumed it was because the turnout at ATL was relatively small, but I spoke with folks who attended their Richmond events which have much larger turnouts and got the same kind of reports. These guys know how to schedule a tournament and stick to it.
Score: 10/10

Organization: Even though they allowed registration at the door the brackets were ready before the rules meeting ended. We even had a late addition to our division and the change took about 30 seconds to enact. The brackets were generated and printed via computer and everything was incredibly smooth. This is by far the most organized event I've ever been to. I'm only avoiding a perfect score on this because the turnout was small and I want to see how they handle a larger crowd before I give them full marks.

Communication: Again, I was skeptical going into this, but 10 minutes after I arrived I knew which ring I would be in and the name of my opponent. At every turn communication was swift and accurate. I couldn't really ask for anything more here.
Score: 10/10

Cleanliness: Signs on the bathroom doors reminding people not to go barefoot in them. Didn't see anyone walking around barefoot, but I did notice that one of the tables made a small group of people wipe their feet down with alcohol/clorox wipes so presumably they were walking around the gym barefoot. Did see a few sockfeet to mat transitions though. All fluid spills were handled quickly with clorox wipes and excessive sweat was handled quickly.
Score: 9/10

Value: I paid 90$ to do 4 divisions, which ended up only being 3 divisions due to lack of purple belts in my weightclass. Spectator fee was FREE. So that ended up with 3 divisions for 90$. you can do up to 8 divisions for 115$ which breaks down to almost nothing on a per division basis.The only thing missing to make this a perfect score is some kind of cash prize somewhere.
Score: 9/10

Spectator Experience: The venue was comfortable, it was easy to see the mats, they had no problem with outside food and drinks, everyone was friendly. It was a great time. The Jennosaurus actually ENJOYED the tournament! This is the ONLY tournament I've been to that received the Jennosaurus Seal of Approval and as a result it is likely to be my primary tournament venue going forward despite them being mostly held in the Carolina and Virginia area.
Score: 9/10

Turnout: This was the biggest downside issue for USG. My no-gi division had 3 guys in it. My gi division had no one but me in it, so it was  turned into a purple belt absolute division with 3 guys in it. TINY turnout. Part of that can be blamed on the Miami Open being held the same day, and a large Alliance belt promotion happening as well, so a lot of people were at those events instead, but I still expected a larger turnout. Hopefully in the future when USG returns to Atlanta more people will know what a great event they run and we'll have more people there. That being said, I DID get to have 6 matches. So I can't complain too much.
Score: 3/10

Overall: I enjoyed this tournament the most of any I've been to. It was pure FUN. There was no stressing about my ring assignment or when my division would start. I was able to eat breakfast and have a snack between divisions because I KNEW when my matches would be happening. I was able to stay warmed up and relaxed without getting tired or adrenaline dumping multiple times. It was a great experience in every way. I wish there had been more people, but I'm sure future events will get a stronger showing as the organization gains exposure.

I definitely welcome input from people who have been to tournaments from any of these organizations presenting their own ratings. These are ALL from tournaments around the Atlanta area, so if you have experience with one of these organizations from a different region please feel free to chime in. If you think any of my ratings are ludicrously low or high then feel free to let me know that as well.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Innovation, Jiujitsu, and You

This post has been forming itself in my head for a few days, ever since I saw this video from the ADCC Pro Trials:

In it the guy catches a very slick collar choke variation off of a scramble. He posted it over at JiuJitsuForums in this thread and we had a discussion about what it was called, and exactly how it was executed. This lead me to thinking about innovation, especially at the lower belts, and jiujitsu.

One of our white belts who has been training for a long time did something that as far as I can tell is completely unique to him. He made up the technique. I've never seen anyone else do it, or even indicated it might be possible. He hit an ezekiel choke on a guy that HAD HIS BACK. In the process he discovered a really solid way to block attacks from the back while threatening his opponent with a choke. Is this a brand new move? Who knows, but it's definitely new to our gym. More importantly, should he, as a white belt, be trying to make up new stuff on the fly instead of working on his established defenses? I don't have an answer to that and that isn't what this post is about.

This is about the creative process of JiuJitsu and how it forces innovation, as well as how that innovation is embrace by the community. Some blackbelts have been extremely innovative and everyone knows about it. Marcelo Garcia's X-Guard is widely studied and used, Eddie Bravo's Rubber Guard system is something that almost every white belt has dabbled with, Spider Guard, De La Riva guard, etc... are all relatively recent innovations as well, and Upside Down/Inverted/Tornado guard has been exploding across the BJJ world for the last few years.

This post is about where this stuff comes from. Again this is not about the specifics of how Marcelo developed the X-Guard, but you can read about that in his book if you're interested, this is about how innovation in general occurs.

Ok, so enough teasers. Innovation in BJJ happens when someone hits an obstacle that they can't overcome with traditional methods. BJJ itself is a testament to this process as Helio developed it largely because he wasn't able to use the traditional Judo style effectively because of his particular body type. When the white belt from our gym kept getting his back taken and getting stuck he was getting outmuscled by guys when he tried to escape, so his solution was to try to use something he's already really good at (His Ezekiel choke is pimp) to solve a problem he was having somewhere else.

My game has partially shaped itself around issues like that because I'm small, weak, and lazy. Sweeps not working on bigger guys? Well, what if I collar choke them at the same time? Oh hey! That works! And not only does it work, but I can't find video or reference to it anywhere. Did I just invent something? Nope. Someone, somewhere, is using exactly the same stuff I'm using. Doesn't matter though. I discovered it within the context of my jiujitsu so for all practical purposes I "invented" it.

This will happen more and more as your game develops because your instructor can only teach you so much and most of it will be out of solid, universal, fundamentally successful techniques. Much of what you discover or invent  will be techniques that fit uniquely into your attributes or your game. Your instructor will have some of these things which he may or may not teach because they may or may not be universally applicable, but rest assured he does HAVE them. Everyone past blue belt will have at least 2-3 techniques that they "invented" that work well for them, but may not work well for anyone else.

Frankly I approve of this process. The sport develops because people try new things. Most of the new things you try will fail, but some will work, and some will work incredibly well. Don't listen to anyone that tells you everything in BJJ has been discovered already. That MIGHT be true, but one guy, in one gym, in Brazil using something doesn't do you any good if you don't know about it. That means we should all be trying to innovate, all the time. Don't try to innovate to the exclusion of your fundamentals, but don't be afraid to set some time aside every week to explore your jiujitsu.

I guarantee that all of the guys who have pushed the sport forward started exploring with their Jiujitsu WELL BEFORE they got their blackbelts.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Interview with Carlos Lemos Jr.

I doubt there is anyone that follows my blog that doesn't already follow Slideyfoot's, but just in case I'm going to give a shoutout for this.

Carlos Lemos Jr was visiting Slidey's school recently and our intrepid Englishman scored an awesome interview with the man which he has posted up over on his blog. So, check out Slideyfoot's interview with Carlos Lemos Jr. and enjoy.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What To Do With Downtime

As my regular readers will know I am smack in the middle of a 6 week hiatus from BJJ to heal up and get ready for Mundials training stretch, but I'm not the only one with some downtime. JiuJiu and Meg are both rehabbing injuries as well, and both of theirs are more serious than mine. So what the heck do you do with injury downtime? It's a common question that pops up at Jiujitsu Forums on a regular basis along with the more generic "I Can't train for a week/month/decade how do I keep improving?" questions. So here are a few things you can do to help you avoid backsliding too much during your downtime.

First of all don't neglect your fitness! Just because you can't do jiujitsu doesn't mean you have to turn into a couch potato. I picked up Yoga For Fighters and I've loved it. I also have free weights at home so I'm able to lift weights in ways that don't aggravate my injuries. JiuJiu has a pretty horrible sounding back injury and is still kicking ass and taking names on our Fitocracy (Invite code DACEU) leaderboard by doing an array of bodyweight exercises that aid in her recovery.

Secondly, READ. Pick up some books, Saulo Ribiero's Jiujitsu University is one of the most highly recommended books around and I throw my two cents in on that as well. Buy it, read it, re-read it, put it into practice. Another great book I recommend is Drill to Win by Kevin Howell which will lead you right into my third point.

Third on the list is solo and partner drilling. There are hundreds of great solo drills you can do to build agility and flow even if you can't do anything really strenuous, and even if you can't roll actively in class attending and drilling with a partner can be highly beneficial. Many people find their greatest improvements after periods where they couldn't roll for a while and spent more time drilling. Drilling is a fundamental plank of BJJ that is often overlooked because it's not as much fun as rolling. Forced down time is a good chance to work on that aspect of your training.

Fourth is to clean up your diet! You can always work on improving your diet. I picked up the Samurai Diet on the recommendation of a friend and it's a great book. Switching to Paleo or Primal is always a good idea, but even just reducing your sugar intake and resolving to shop the perimeter of the grocery store (Vegetables, Fruits Meats, and Dairy) instead of the inner aisles (Processed garbage!) will help you in the long run.

Fifth and final is to watch videos. Watch your old competition footage and wince at how awful you were and figure out where and how to fix your mistakes. Watch training DVDs. Watch competition footage from some of the best in the world over at BJJFights.

Staying mentally active with your jiujitsu and physically active any way you can will help you avoid backsliding and losing progress during your downtime. You're still going to lose some progress, but it won't be anywhere near like what would happen if you just sat around eating poptarts and drinking cherry coke for six weeks.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Recovery Update

Injury Recovery progress is going great!

Elbows: Feeling great! No problems deadlifting 250 for multiple sets. No pain at all.

Right foot: 99% pain free, occasional ache if weight hits it JUST wrong.

Right shoulder: Great progress! The shoulder has been fine for awhile except for some tingling and weakness in it. I was actually unable to press more than 50lbs a few days ago because of it. Today I popped my neck while stretching it and suddenly the tingling and weakness was gone. So I hopped over to my weights and put 80lbs up with barely any trouble. So I believe that's completely fixed now. Going to give it a couple of days to complete its recovery.

Lower Back: Is feeling great! More flexibility than I've had in a long time thanks to Yoga for Fighters

Left Knee: Aches randomly, but no real pain. Seems to be improving with the Yoga and it always aches less when I'm doing regular lifting.

Left Thumb: Still hurts randomly if I bump it wrong on things, but no stiffness and seems good.

So I think all of my injuries are healing very nicely, I'm re-acquiring my flexibility via Y4F which I am very fond of, and I'm getting stronger. When I return to the gym in January I should be ready to kick ass and take names.