Saturday, January 28, 2012

Promotion Standards and Belt Meanings

The catalyst for the enormous wall of text that is going to follow this was this thread on JJ Forums and the conversation about women and BJJ standards that came out of it. This is a long post and contains largely my own personal philosophy created out of my experience with Taekwondo, BJJ, and Judo.

How SHOULD promotions be handled?
Black Belt: My personal view is that not everyone necessarily needs to achieve a blackbelt. Solely putting time in grade should not be enough to eventually land you a blackbelt. If you are getting tooled by blue belts that outweigh you by 50 lbs just because they are super athletic then you aren't black belt material no matter how good you are at teaching or how many years of experience you have. Black Belt is a signal of both ability AND knowledge. For the same reason I don't believe that solely winning the mundials 5 times at brown belt is enough to warrant promotion to black belt. If you can't teach worth crap, then you also aren't black belt material.

Brown Belt: This is where most people belong in my mind. If you are excellent at competition, or excellent at instruction, but aren't at least good at both then you should get stuck on brown belt and stay there. That doesn't mean I expect every black belt to be a world champion, but if you aren't getting on the mats to compete and beating other brown belts then you don't need to make the step up to black. However, if you hate to compete but are a great teacher then there is no reason why you shouldn't be a brown belt. At that point there's not the same expectation of ability to handle blue-purple belts that outweigh you massively, or to have all of the answers. So you can be a competition only brown, or a knowledge only brown and get by.

Purple Belt: This is the belt where the distinction will end up getting made for you. Are you going to be a competitor or a teacher or both? To reach purple belt I think you should be competent at both already. You need to be able to teach a beginner class and you need to have competed. This doesn't mean you should be able to school a whitebelt that is 100lbs bigger than you are, but you SHOULD be schooling white belts who are your size and you should have a technique library to draw from that is much larger than white belts or new blue belts. You should definitely be able to run roughshod over anyone with no experience pretty much regardless of size difference.

Blue Belt: This is the commitment belt. You've shown some dedication to training and grasp the basic concepts and techniques. The only requirement for blue belt is that you be able to perform the basics and roll competitively against other white belts your size with similar training, and roll successfully against new people your size.

Women vs Men: This comes up a LOT. Should a woman be required to roll successfully against a man of equal size in order to progress in jiujitsu? For me I say no for blue belt. Getting your Blue belt isn't about rolling, it's about knowing the basics and being ready to learn how to use them. As a purple belt, it's a different story. You SHOULD be able to splatter a 150lb untrained male. If you can't do that then stay at blue belt until you can. If that means you have to hit the gym to develop the physical attributes necessary, then so be it. My reasoning behind this is that a Purple belt is a sign of competence at self defense as well as everything else. If you have one then you should be able to defend yourself if attacked. I wouldn't want a woman that I promoted to purple belt to be unable to defend herself from at least a moderately sized male attacker. At Brown belt I would expect women to be able to handle 200lb untrained men with assurance, if not with ease.
However, I hold men to the SAME standards. If you are a 135lb male and you want your brown belt you better be able to breakdance all over a 220lb noobs face all day long.

Batsugan Promotions: This is something from Judo that you rarely see in BJJ, but is becoming more popular. It shows up in MMA occasionally when a fighter gets promoted after winning an MMA fight, and it happens sometimes when a blue or purple belt wins the Mundials. It's promotion based specifically on competition victories. Alliance took it one step further this year and held a "fight for your belt" event for white  belts trying to make blue and blue belts trying to make purple. The competition was no weight class, no time limit, and as soon as you and your next opponent in the bracket finished you started your next match. Minimal breaks. One of our guys won 5 or 6 matches in a row to go from white belt to blue. This guy is a GREAT competitor. Extremely athletic, really good at the things he does, but his technique library is very small and his technical understanding is limited. His technical execution of the things he does is great, but he would he can't explain past the basic details. Does he deserve his blue belt? Absolutely. But he will require a lot of development on the his understanding of the technical side before I think he is ready for his purple belt.
I'm interested to see if more of this catches on and what it does to the sport overall. I think Batsugan up to Brown belt would be fine for me, but from brown to black as I mentioned above I believe you have to be more well rounded than can be determined by solely competition prowess.

All of this being said, I really liked the exercise that Julia mentions here about determining how to promote people. Black Belts want the people they promote to represent their lineage, their school, and their instructor well. Not just be able to do the techniques, so every Black Belt is going to have different and equally valid promotion methods. I fully expect to be a black belt four years from now and will be working super hard to make that happen, and if I do then I expect I'll be no different.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nutrition - More Important Than You Realize

For the entire last half of last year I ate really really well. Mostly lean meats, vegetables, and fruits with hardly any sugar or crappy carbs.

I fell off the wagon during my vacation to disney and have been completely derailed for the last 4 weeks essentially. I went from having almost unlimited energy and only really needing 6 hours of sleep a night to feeling like garbage and being tired all of the time. I attribute this almost entirely to the sharp rise in my consumption of crappy fast food cheeseburgers.

My diet has been sporadic, my meals random in time and composition including far too much fast food. My calorie intake has also been sporadic. I'll eat almost nothing one day, then end up snarfing down 4500 calories the next day. My weightlifting has suffered as well. I'm frequently too exhausted and crappy feeling to lift and I then feel stressed  because I've missed an opportunity to improve.

Such a simple thing, how much you eat, what you eat, something we take for granted all the time, but it can change your entire training regimen. When you aren't well fed, and well rested, then you can't train as well, you can't pay attention as well, and you don't absorb knowledge as well.

This is especially important if you have limited training time. If you can only train twice a week then it's incredibly important for you to get the most out of each minute that you are training and part of that is going to come down to your nutrition. Remember, lean meats, vegetables, and fruits. A minimum of sugar and bread, and plenty of post workout protein! Eat well, train well!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Hate Ringworm, But I Love US Grappling!

So in addition to having to struggle with my work schedule I ended up with a spot of ringworm on my arm. That means I spent the last 7 days treating it with myconizal and bleach. It's faded away to almost nothing now, but just in case I'm taking an extra couple of days and won't be back on the mats until friday.

But, it looks like I WILL be heading up to Greensboro, NC for the US Grappling Submission Only event so for anyone else that is going to be there, look for me. I'm easy to find. I'll be in a blue gi with a giant shark on the back.

I'll be competing in 30+ Advanced No-Gi, Adult Advanced No-Gi, 30+ Purple Belt Gi, Adult Purple Belt Gi, and Adult and 30+ Absolute divisions as well. Should be able to hit between 6 and 8 divisions if all goes as planned. So I hope to have a nice long day.

I hope to have a couple of technique videos up next week as well. Just some fun stuff to play with.

Monday, January 16, 2012

BJJ 1/15/2012

Went horseback riding for a couple of hours before class and my arm was already starting to ache a little bit. Got there about 6:15 and got dressed and started rolling with Kris. I'm still working on being smooth and fluid with my transitions and forcing the game into MY game, but since it was no-gi we also throw in leg locks of all kinds.
I actually hit my figure four DLR counter SEVERAL times on him and it worked nicely. Also quite a few other nice transitions into submissions. He landed one extremely smooth transition through to the back and right into a nice choke.
His hip movement is getting very slick and forcing me to continually improve my guard passing. I was also reminded that grip control is just as important in no-gi as it is in gi and started to put together a better offense when I made it a priority to break his grips and establish my own.

At the moment my arm is aching like MAD because I just got done lifting, so typing is hard, but check out my review of the Spiderguard Flex Cup that I just put up and keep an eye out for a new homework assignment coming up friday.

Review: Spider Guard Flex Cup and Compression Shorts

The Spiderguard Web Flex Cup

I started trying to get one of these over a year ago and had zero luck. Amazon was sold out of them, MMAWarehouse was sold out, even the manufacturer couldn't tell me where to get one. But someone my wife managed to magic one up for me for christmas. I've worn it for half a dozen or so classes now so I feel like I can offer a solid review of the strengths and weaknesses of the cup.

My first impression of it was that it was pretty sturdy feeling for a rubber cup with holes all in it. My second impression was that it was a huge pain trying to get the cup into the pocket of the compression shorts. The rubber has a lot of friction and tends to bind up on the compression shorts and not sit in the pocket all the way without considerable fiddling around. It took me a few times to get the hang of how to get it seated properly.

The compression shorts themselves FEEL very fragile. I got a size small because I wanted tight shorts and I have a 29 (This was a typo that had me with a 39 inch waist. Oops! Thanks Georgette!)  inch waist, and when I'm pulling them up I frequently hear strings snapping. That might be normal "settling" but it makes me afraid to pull too hard while I'm getting into them. That being said, they haven't actually ripped or torn or anything, they just give an impression of fragility.

Once you have them on for a few minutes though they are a DREAM. I forget I'm wearing the cup as soon as I start moving around. It never digs into my stomach when I'm playing inverted guard or getting folded in half while working to finish a triangle. The cup is definitely sturdy enough to shrug off the occasional random groin shot without even a wince and it provides a nice barrier between my junk and my opponent when I'm doing things like mounted triangles or bicep slicers.

This really is an excellent cup for jiujitsu. I don't think it would stand up well to a full on kick in the crotch, but then again, it might. And for that matter I've seen guys break plastic cups in half, and even dent metal ones. I've also seen metal cups slide and trap a testicle to nasty effect. The spiderguard flex cup is in no danger of doing anything like that, so I have to see I highly recommend it.

My Rating: 9.5/10. It only missed half a point for the rubber material grabbing the compression shorts and so making it a little fiddly to get inserted. I can not stress enough that this is the MOST comfortable cup I've ever worn in 17 years of martial arts training.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Job vs BJJ: Shootout

So we found out recently that instead of 4 major, enormous, HUGE projects over the next 8 months we have 9 major, enormous, HUGE projects and 3 somewhat smaller projects. Now, while this means that I stand to make truly preposterous amounts of money this year it ALSO means that the amount of time I have to train may have just been drastically reduced. As may have my ability to compete in the US Grappling tournaments I wanted to do, and quite possibly the mundials as well. I won't know for sure for a couple of months on that front.

In the mean time I'm trying to fit as much training as I can in and getting back to 5x5. I also started doing Couch to 5k with my wife, even though I hate to run. It will probably be good for me.

Anyways, got to class a little bit late due to work so I missed a couple of the halfguard techs, but paired up with a new guy and showed him the basic positions, a basic halfguard pass, escapes from mount and side control. Then worked on the halfguard sweep that we were drilling.

Opponent has turned to face your feet and is working to free their leg. Grab their bottom arm near the elbow and then push them them forwards like you're trying to just shove them over. They shove back and when they do you roll with their momentum and end up on top. Very simple.

Drilled with the lightweights, then with a few of the heavier guys because I needed more people to drill with. Worked on sweeping instead of just reguarding because reguarding is too easy.

Rolled with the some of the heavier guys and felt slow, clunky, and not quite as smooth as I want to be. Nullified everyone's offense and worked my escapes and sweeps, but the bigger guys are starting to really develop good base and have caught on to most of my tricks, so it's really difficult to get sweeps on them unless I crank the intensity up and then everything gets crazy. I didn't feel as good about class today as I did last week, but it's all good.

Coming up: Review of the Spider Guard flex cup. I just want to roll in it a couple more times before I write it up.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fight for your Belt Alliance Tournament Results

So this past Saturday one of our white belts (Brian) who is also one of our Ammy MMA fighters was heading up to Atlanta to compete in the Alliance "Fight for your Belt" tournament. It was a submission only, no weight classes tournament for white belts (There is one for blue belts coming up) and the winner gets promoted on the spot.

The night before the tournament he came in with his Gi to train. As far as I know this was the first time he has trained while wearing the full Gi. He wears the jacket frequently, but not the whole getup. I grabbed him for about 10 minutes of pointers for the competition primarily consisting of "Don't let them grab your collar. Posture up is safer than head down when the Gi is involved" and other things like that. I also showed him the baseball bat choke from side control and mount and he repped it maybe twice.

Fast forward to Saturday and I'm checking facebook and see that some videos are up from the tournament:

That right there is my boy Brian winning his blue belt using a choke he learned the day before and practiced for 5 minutes. The guy is a beast and if I can finally lure him away from his obsession with Muay Thai and cracking peoples skulls he's going to be a complete badass.

The rest of the night friday was taken up with more halfguard work. It was a small class, so I ended up rolling mostly with Casey and Ian, so I didn't get to work quite as much of my tournament game since both of them are around 200lbs, but I did work really hard on my passing and whatnot against Casey and was able to block a couple more tricks this time. A lot of good rolls and I did get plenty of grip work in, so that's always good.

Tonight is the No-Gi class, so mostly just going to play around in this one. Focus on movement, mobility, and general flow.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 1 of Mundials Training Prep

Started off with half an hour drilling scissor sweeps and then drilling attacking for the single leg takedown against standing guard passes.
Then rolled light for half an hour and worked on sweeping, passing, and applying baseball bat chokes.

The main class fed nicely into what I was working on with a lesson on halfguard/zguard with the overhook.

The first technique was a basic transition from halfguard, to the z-guard (Also called long range half) then situp and get the overhook, shrimp out on the overhooked side, free the bottom leg and base on the opponents hip, then pull the top leg out and base that on the hip. Push the opponent away and clear the arm to execute a triangle choke. There is a straight armbar available here as well if everything lines up just right, but it's rare.

Second technique was the same initial setup, but finishing with an omoplata. Key detail is to lift and drag your hips away from your opponent to drop them over onto their side before trying to finish.

Third tech was the Mir lock when your opponent tries to free their arm from the overhook. They drive their elbow towards the inside and you lock it up, extend your body and pull up like a guillotine for the finish. If they have super flexible shoulders you can turn it into a sweep by lifting them over with your top knee.

We then did position sparring from halfguard. I stuck with the lightweight side of the room and spent the time sweeping from the bottom mostly. Kris is the only one that can even slow down my guard passing and that's primarily because he has great hip movement on the bottom. Which reminds me I need to make it a point to continue working passing against him to make it more reflexive to establish good controlling grips and block the hips properly while passing. He'll make me pay for mistakes better than pretty much anyone else I could train with in my weight class.

Rolling was a lightweight gauntlet. Again I tried to concentrate on working my scissor sweeps, single collar chokes, and baseball bat chokes. I also worked a couple of back-take  transitions that combo with the single collar. I briefly got distracted playing with the berimbolo, then reminded myself I wasn't supposed to be screwing around and got back on track.

Final roll of the night I rolled with Brian, who wasn't wearing a Gi, and without anything to latch onto to slow him down he mauled the crap out of me. He's REALLY worked on refining his technique and avoiding muscling things and it shows in his progress. He's going up to Atlanta this weekend to compete int he "Fight For Your Belt" tournament as a white belt and I fully expect him to return with a Blue.

I felt like it was a good progressive day. I hit my goal of drilling and using the small group of techniques that I want to refine the majority of my time on the mat. A very successful class.

Also, my cardio felt great even after two and a half hours. I could have gone another hour and still been fine.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Drilling is the Heart of Jiujitsu

OK, so I might get some crap for helping Lloyd Irvin promote something because a lot of people aren't fond of his hype machine, but whether you love the guy or hate the guy he trains world champions. He also has the same philosophy that I do. Drill! DRILL! DRILL!!!!

So if you won't believe me then here is a world class instructor telling you exactly the same thing:

It's 20 minutes long, watch it. Pay attention to it. Make drilling part of your life. Break your techniques down, drill them, put in the reps and you WILL get better.