Monday, October 29, 2012

US Grappling - VA Beach - Full Writeup

The drive up to VA Beach was about nine and a half hours, most of which the Jennosaurus drove for me because she's awesome. We arrived around 7:45 at the venue and I weighed in real quick just to make it official, fully dressed, with my phone and wallet in my pockets I tipped the scales at a whopping 147. My actual weight the morning of the competition was 142. 

We arrived at the venue Saturday morning at about 9:45 am. I had plenty of time to warmup and stretch before the rules meeting, and by 11:30 I was on the mats and grappling.

I only had one no-gi match. He pulled guard on me and had a very tight halfguard, I was able to secure a guillotine with the marcello grip, but couldn't finish it. I let it go to try to work something else and he popped to my back and secured the choke. Afterwards I found out the guillotine was closer than I thought. I should have kept the guillotine, changed to a power guillotine grip and used it to force the guard pass or play for a more patient finish. Once again my impatience betrayed me.

I jumped over to work a table for a couple of hours until the Gi divisions started, as usual the tables were running smooth as silk with matches constantly running on at least 5 rings out of the 6.

This match again my opponent pulled guard on me, which is starting to become a common thing since I rarely pull guard anymore, but still surprises me. I was able to to cut to halfguard and this time he took the bait and stood up, allowing me to land a serviceable tomoe nage for the points. Unfortunately I screwed up and he managed to get my arm isolated and finish me with a nice straight armlock.

This was against the same guy as my No-Gi match and this time I was able to enforce my top game a little better by using the Gi to control him. I was able to get to his back and secure the collar for a Bow and Arrow choke.

Yup, same guy again, this one was our absolute division I think and it ended up being just us for some reason. He was pretty tired by this time. I pulled guard on him this time, just for kicks, and then we messed around a bit. I hit a sloppy berimbolo and got to mount. I beat him on points here. He went on to do like 5 more matches or something like that in other divisions.

I ended up with a Gold, a Silver, and a Bronze for my efforts, which I'm happy with. Mostly I'm happy that I'm solidly competitive as a purple belt. I could have easily ended up winning both of the matches I lost had I been a little bit smarter about them, so I wasn't outclassed completely or anything, I just wasn't the better man that time, in that match.

As usual the tournament itself was run incredibly smoothly and the last match finished up right around 6 pm. We had the entire venue broken down and packed up in time to head back to the hotel, shower, change, and meet for dinner at 8.

Now I have a few new things to work on, specifically my halfguard top game, and guillotines. Both of my opponents were able to just keep me in halfguard even once I had a position where I normally am able to complete the pass. So plenty to work on from this competition. I did meet my goal of not pulling guard except for my last match where I could have stayed up and let him pull guard, but I wanted to work from the bottom, so I pulled guard first. I hit my tomoe nage, which was a goal, and I felt really good in general. I still don't feel like I'm smooth enough though, so there's that to work on. But a good tournament and a good time.

Oh yeah, and we had to outrun a hurricane heading home. The wind and rain were INSANE.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BJJ Shopping List

My small handful of regular readers might notice that over to the right there is now a JiuJitsu Shopping list box. You might be wondering what the heck that stuff is and why you should buy it, so I will explain.
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Soap, 18-in-1 Hemp Tea Tree, 32-Ounce
This is a tea tree oil soap which naturally fights fungal infections like ringworm and athletes foot. I find it to be very easy on my skin, pleasant smelling, and effective. A 16oz bottle is about a months supply.
Olympia Kinesiology Tape
There is nothing better for wrapping an injured finger or toe or ankle or knee than this stuff. It adheres to itself, but it isn't sticky. It breathes well, and it stays in place well. A roll or two a month is usually plenty.
Tinactin Super Absorbent Antifungal Powde
Another antifungal, this one is a powder that I shake into my gym bag before I pack my gear into it. It keeps my bag from becoming a possible infection source. The powder also sticks to my rashguard and my Gi to help fight the proliferation of ringworm on the mats. I go through a small bottle per month, more or less.
Village Naturals Therapy Foaming Bath Oil, Aches & Pains, 16 oz.
This stuff is just heavenly. I mix a couple of capfuls in with a handful of Epson salts and take a hot soak after a particularly heavy class and it will flat out melt the ache out of your muscles. A 16oz bottle is only good for about 2 weeks for me, but that's because I'm a hedonist.
Epsom Salt 2Lb (907g)
To be mixed with the above Foaming Bath Oil for maximum muscle soothing. Cheap and effective. 2lbs is about a month worth.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Watching The Class: Who, How, and What?

As with most of my best content this was inspired by a conversation and a question from Julia over at JiuJiuBJJ regarding who I felt was the best combination of rolling partners to observe out of these options:

Watching sparring question:Here were the sets of people sparring:
-purple and black (my instructor)
-new white + 2 stripe blue
-4 stripe blue + 1 stripe white
-blue and purple

And because of the way my brain works, that spawned a massive wall of text well beyond the scope of the original question, so here is that wall of text and for the more concise article with perspectives from Black and Brown belts as well head over to JiuJiuBJJ and take a look at her article as well.

When I was a white belt I watched other people roll with a sense of wonder and confusion. Mostly my thoughts were dedicated to wondering what the heck was going on midst the sea of tangled limbs on the mat. People would tap for apparently no reason, and other people wouldn't tap to things I was certain were going to disconnect limbs from torsos. I had no idea what I was watching.
As I gained experience the tangle sorted itself out slowly until I could distinguish discrete sequences and individual techniques from the chaos. By the time I was an experienced white belt I was watching the blue belts to try to figure out what they were doing so that I could emulate it. That theme continued when I got my own blue belt and I started watching the purple belts to absorb tips from them. Now as a purple belt I watch brown and black belts and try to figure out what they are doing that is different from what I' m doing. But, I realized no one ever told me HOW to watch other people rolling, or even who to pay attention to.
As a white belt should I be watching white belts rolling against blue belts and examining how the white belts and the blue belts interacted or would I benefit more from watching two black belts rolling? Or a purple belt and a white belt? I had no idea. I just watched the blue belts because that was the next belt. The one I wanted to get to. What was I even watching for? Again I had no idea. I kept track of what techniques the blues used, but they were all the same techniques I already knew performed at a higher level. I wasn't really getting the most out of my observations because I had never really talked to anyone with experience about what I should be looking at.
Now as a purple belt with almost six years of training under my belt (Check that out, 100% appropriate use of that phrase.) I have a much better idea of who to watch, how to watch them, and what to look for.

Who: My preferred observation subjects are brown belts and purple belts my size rolling with each other. Just as I did when I was a white belt (I had the right idea!) I can watch the more experienced person work against someone of my own rank and see how they counter techniques, how they attack, how they defend, and so on. To generalize this I believe you are always best off watching someone of the rank just above yours roll with someone of your rank. You can extract the most knowledge from those rolls because the level of execution behind the techniques will be closer to your own and so more accessible and understandable. Watching a black belt perform a basic scissor sweep as a white belt just doesn't let you extract that much information because the technique is so smooth that you actually can't see many of the steps involved.

How: How do you watch two people rolling in a way that lets you extract information? You can't watch them the way you would watch a competitive match for entertainment. You want to choose a specific area and concentrate on that area. Watch how a blue belt plays guard against another white belt, or how a purple belt uses grips against another blue belt. Stay focused on one area.

What: And of course, WHAT do you watch for? Well, when you're watching a single area you want to look for subtle differences between the higher ranking persons technique and your own. If you see a purple belt scissor sweep a blue belt effortlessly, and it's a blue belt you can never manage to sweep then you watch for the small details. Look for foot placement, hand placement, hip location in relation to the opponent. You don't care about the macro level, what technique was used, you care about the micro level, what minuscule detail separates that higher ranking persons technique from your own.

Whenever possible try to get some video footage of those higher ranking people rolling with you as well. That can really give you insight into the technique in a way that other observations can't. And it lets you direct the roll in ways that you are most interested in. REALLY want to get detail on that scissor sweep? Put yourself in a position to be swept and fight it to see what happens, then you can review it on video later. When you review your own video you have a much better sense of where your weight was, or how you were balanced when something happens. You know what grips you had or didn't have in a much deeper way than when you are watching someone else.
Observation can be a powerful tool in accelerating your jiujitsu progress and you should make use of it whenever possible. Especially when injured or doing times when you can't train, but can review video. You will also come to class more focused and with a better idea of how to guide your training which just makes everything easier mentally.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Finally Feeling Like a Purple Belt

So it's been just over a year since I got my purple belt and last night I finally FELT like a purple belt. My control of my opponents was solid, I was transitioning smoothly between pass attempts, and I was applying so much top pressure that I actually forced one of our blue belts to tap from forearm pressure across his face while I was working to free his arm for a kimura. I wasn't trying to crush his face, I was just well positioned.

I was also able to completely shut down one of my favorite blue belt training partners who usually gives me a serious run for me money. Everything just clicked in my head and a detail that I've known intellectually for a long time finally manifested physically for me. Specifically while I was watching some of the Metamoris matches I noticed how much focus there was on controlling peoples legs in various positions, it's something I've of course known for years and have thought about before, but something about watching it in that format made it click. I was constantly controlling the legs all night and making it impossible for my opponents to stop me from imposing my will.

I think I've finally settled in to being a purple belt now, give me another year and I'll be all antsy for my brown!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Interesting Takedowns

Last was Takedown practice, we worked on breaking grips and moving to the Russian grip and then attacks from there. Some of it felt natural and kind of fit for me, some of it just was awkward. I had the most successful round of takedown practice ever, I managed to score takedowns against every opponent for over half an hour without getting taken down at all myself. The unfortunate part is that they were all counter takedowns, or guard pull/tomoe nage style takedowns. At one point I actually pulled guard to a sickle sweep as a takedown. Most of the rest were just countering other peoples grips or takedowns and ending up on top.I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, I need to be more proactive about seeking takedowns that aren't predicated on pulling guard or some derivation thereof.

I keep meaning to do some more video, but everything is so busy that I just haven't had time. I also have some other ideas kicking around in my head that I probably won't get down on paper until after US Grappling on the 27th. Which I just remembered I need to pre-register for...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Recovering my Flow

Last night felt great.

I was flowing well, executing my passes, defending well, executing submissions, and generally feeling very much back in my groove. I even finished a guillotine after setting it up during a halfguard pass in the exact fashion that Sergio kept doing to me on monday in No-Gi. Had my combinations flowing and just had a great night.

It was takedown night too, Johnny is getting a lot more focused with his teaching style, he doesn't wander off on tangents any more which means instead of showing us like 50 variations of one move we're working like 3-5 variations which is a LOT easier for me to work with. I like a focused, deep approach to a small number of techniques. We worked on takedowns off of the overhook and I found out that my firemans carry from that position is pretty tight. I just have trouble getting to that position.

We did some work from standing and I hit a couple of takedowns, and failed a couple too, but I'm definitely improving steadily from standing.

Berimbolo is improving. I hit it on one of our more experienced white belts.

And that's about that. I'm definitely getting back into things.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rollin' with a Pan Am Champ

So one of the guys that trains with us on no-gi days is a purple belt from the ATT gym in Atlanta, he went up to compete in the No-Gi Pan Ams last week and took gold in his division.

That's him in the middle with the gold medal.

I haven't been to the no-gi class in a couple of months, so it's been a while since the last time I rolled with him. I made it back up to the No-Gi last night and got to roll for probably 30 minutes with him broken up into a few different rounds. The amount of mauling involved was just preposterous. I did manage to force him to use a couple of different guard passes beyond his normal knee-cut, which I consider a victory, but for the most part he was just sliding through my guard and straight into a guillotine from pretty much any angle. I'm looking forward to getting to more of the No-Gi classes in the future and using him to really help sharpen my own game up, but it's great to have guys of this caliber in the gym with us now. It brings the whole gym up.

I had forgotten how slipper no-gi was, and with some rain and humidity the gym was a swimming pool after about the first 20 minutes. I did catch a rather spectacular armbar on one of the newer wrestlers who sometimes is too explosive for his own good. He tried to cartwheel through my guard and I rolled through and snagged his arm as he did it. Definitely one of the smoother catches I've had recently. Unfortunately this guy learns so quickly that I'll probably never hit it on him again.

All in all it was an excellent night of training, and I'm happy to be all set to train three days this week and three days next week leading up to US Grappling on the 27th. I might even be in shape by then... a little...