Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The BJJ Tree: Why you should stop being interested in Rubber Guard

Based on posts over on /r/bjj I had another discussion with a white belt about Rubber Guard and why he should or should not be playing it. As I normally do I recommended against it and suggested he concentrate on closed guard instead. Now, some people who are fans of the 10th Planet system might at this point start berating me as a closed minded hater, but that's not the case. I loves me some rubber guard and I enjoy playing it, but let's take a look at something real quick:

Take a look at that tree and think about it for a moment. Look at the what you are doing if you start out your journey concentrating on Rubber Guard. You've gone out on a single lone branch of the JiuJitsu tree with very few connecting branches. There is no transition from Rubber Guard to butterfly guard. There is no transition to X-Guard, there's not even an easy standup option from Rubber Guard. What you've done is locked yourself into a single, very small, branch of jiujitsu. The only way for you to transition to anywhere else is to move backwards along your tree back to Closed Guard and then move from there.

If you instead concentrate on the Trunk of the Jiujitsu guard game, Closed Guard, then you have multiple transitions to High Guard, to Open Guard and its variants, even to Half Guard, or the easy Technical Standup. If you choose to transition to Open Guard you have options that combo back and forth. Butterfly to Spider guard to Leg Lasso Guard and so on. You have more options available to react to your opponent.

In Rubber Guard you have a very small library of techniques available from each sub position. If your opponent is unfamiliar with those options then you can destroy them. You will have great success at white and blue belt, and maybe even some success at purple belt because your opponents will not have developed well enough to prevent you from reaching Rubber Guard yet. Then suddenly it will stop working. It will stop working because you have to successfully make two transitions to reach your preferred position. You have to establish high guard, and then convert to Rubber Guard.

If your Closed Guard isn't strong then you will never make the transition to high guard or rubber guard. You will be stuck trying to play in a less familiar setting every single time because you are far more likely to START in Closed Guard or Open Guard. If your opponent has spent their jiujitsu career working in and developing their Closed/Open guard game and passing, and you've spent yours developing your Rubber Guard game then you are going to be starting each match at an immediate disadvantage.

This does NOT mean that Rubber Guard is total crap and you should never use it. The same thing goes for Deep Half Guard, X-Guard, and any other guard position that is option limited. If you START your focus on that option limited position then you are handicapping yourself against people who have trained in a more option rich position which also happens to be a far more common position to be in.

So, begin your training in the most option rich positions and slowly specialize. Work the Closed Guard first, then Open Guard, then Half Guard, then High Guard. Develop your transitions and then once you have that fundamental framework of technique built up you can start working on your Rubber Guard or your X-Guard or your DLR guard.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To Exhaustion, And Beyond!

Seriously, exhaustion. I got about 4.5 hours of sleep Sunday night, woke up at 4:30 am to head into work, then got to the gym at about 6:45. Consequently by the time we were done drilling escapes from turtle I was already about to collapse.

So of course I rolled for an hour. It was the no-gi class too, so we had our wrestling guys in there. One of them just took 6th in some national tournament at 160 or 165. The other is my size, maybe even a hair smaller and also has some good tournament results though I can't recall the details. Even when I'm not tired both of those guys run me ragged, and the 160 guy also won the no-gi pan ams a year or two ago as a purple belt. So his jiujitsu is also amazing.

By the end of the night everything is just a blur. I actually only remember one or two fuzzy details. I remember getting choked once and getting kimuraed once, and maybe armbarring someone somewhere amidst that. But I couldn't tell you who was responsible for any of it. Definitely the most tired I've ever been.

So, training again on Wednesday!

In more good news, the two aforementioned wrestlers are starting an official wrestling class on Saturdays after open mats, so I'm going to try to start making it to a couple of those every month to improve my wrestling.

Also, my buddy Mark leaves to head out to the Pan Ams today, so best of luck to him! I'll probably be buying the Budovideos stream for his day so I can try to watch him compete. If you're interested it's only 10$ per day or I think 40$ for a 5 day pass to watch.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Importance of Productive Gripping (With Bonus Homework!)

For the first time in over two years I got to train three nights in a row. I feel like I was run over by a bus and it's awesome.

Tonight was a very productive and grip heavy night and also saw me employ deep half guard sweeps with great success. During all of my rolls I was paying particular attention to my grips and my opponents grips and I started trying to determine which of my grips was just gripping for the sake of grabbing something, and which ones were actually productive. It was easy to tell which grips that my opponent had were useful and which were just keeping their arm occupied while I worked. It was less simple to figure that out about my own grips. For the most part it seemed that when I established a grip I had a plan, but many times I found myself gripping purely as a pre-emptive defense.

I often established a grip solely for the purpose of denying my opponent an action without any connection to where I wanted to direct the roll. This was most common when I was rolling with bigger guys. I then got to thinking about who provides good examples of consistently productive gripping and both Cobrinha and Rafe Mendes came to mind. Luckily they have run into each other on a dozen or so occasions and one of their best matches is from the 2012 mundials.

This video in just the first MINUTE has some incredible offensive and defensive grip work that is 100% productive. You never see either of these guys just grab something and hang on because they can't think of anything else to do. Each grip they take has a specific purpose.
I think my grip work is still too inconsistent to be overly worried about efficiency yet, but as I continue improving it my goal is to approach this kind of grip efficiency over time.

It's been a while since I posted a homework (or posted in general), but this is a good one. Your homework is to spend at least one roll this week counting the times that you take a grip and then don't use it to attempt a sweep or a submission. It will be difficult to concentrate on counting grips while rolling, but that's why it's only one roll. Think about how much effort and strength you are burning clinging to your opponents Gi without any clear plan in mind and work on reducing your non-productive gripping to the bare minimum.

Remember, Get your grips then move your hips! The first part doesn't work without the second!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pan Am Prep!

No, I'm not going to the Pan Ams. But a friend of mine who trains out of Hardcore Gym IS going, and wanted to get in some extra Gi work so I offered myself up to be his training dummy for an evening. Definitely some of the most fun rolling I've had in a while. We're exactly the same size and he's actually MORE flexible than I am which is a rarity.

We spent over an hour rolling and troubleshooting little Gi specific things that he doesn't get as much exposure to because he trains about 90% no-gi. I was happily able to show him at least a handful of little things that should keep him from falling prey to most pajama grabbing tomfoolery. I was also able to use this time to look for things that I was doing that I needed to tighten up including working on my inside control, grip breaking, grip control, and guard passing.

I'll be watching the Pans on Budovideos trying to catch his match and hoping he medals.

Grip Work and Pain

Coming back to the mats after a few weeks off is always painful, add to that the fact that I get up at 4:30am every morning for work and I am definitely feeling it this morning despite taking it kind of easy last night. But, it was still a great night at class.

Started out with takedowns from the over/under. Warmed up with pummeling, then a nice combo from a single leg attempt into a greco roman style upper body throw. I felt pretty good with this takedown and its probably one I would actually use.

Second one was a different single leg setup involving dropping to one knee that just didn't flow right for me.

Third was a power shrug+duck under to the back.

And finally was an outside trip to hip throw combo that I also really liked and would probably use. I need to put a couple of these together into a 3-4 move sequence and drill it a bunch though.

After that we hit the ground and I continued working on my framing and winning the grip battle. I recently re-read some advice that Jack from gave me about controlling the inside and worked to implement that along with my focus on keeping my frames built and winning the grip fighting battle.

I was very successful in implementing my grips against everyone except Johnny, and even there I am seeing significant improvements with breaking his grips and slowing down his guard passing. Once he DOES manage to get a secure grip though he's still mostly blasting past my guard. I had some small success in slowing him down, but not much. So that's still something to work on.

Today I'm doing some Gi training with a buddy to help him get ready for the Pan Ams, and then I'm training again Friday. This will be the most training I've done in one week in forever.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tournament Footage Review

Greetings my jiujitsu brethren! I've been out of the picture and out of training for a while now due to changing jobs and general personal chaos and I've taken the time to review a lot of my video footage from last year. In addition to my weakness against deep halfguard sweeps I noticed a couple of key weaknesses.

I am guilty of one of the key white belt errors that I talked about two years ago. In competitions I will frequently reach for head control when I should instead be attacking much closer to the hips and legs in order to begin passing guard.

A second thing I've noticed is that my movements around my opponent aren't as fluid as I want them to be. I feel jerky during my movements and I need to flow better from position to position.

And finally, underhooks. I'm REALLY REALLY BAD about giving up underhooks and not fighting to regain them.

So, now that my new job has settled I should be training again starting this wednesday and I plan to address all of these things. I probably won't be back in competition until late this year, or maybe even next year, but I plan to work hard and close al ot of holes in my game before then.