Thursday, December 30, 2010

Strength and Conditioning for BJJ - Wed. Workout

Here is my Wed. workout with some inserted commentary.

If you have been reading these strength and conditioning posts you know that I am going to tell you that if you want to get fundamentally stronger you need to be doing squats and deadlifts. I know it sucks but that is life. If you want to be able to "posture" out of a triangle, you can't beat deadlifts, if you want to power through takedowns or stand up to pass from your opponent's guard you need some squat muscle. In other posts I will talk about some alternative exercises like lunges and "good mornings" that can also work well but you still have to squat and deadlift every now and then.

The "heavy" portion of the workout consisted of:
  Deadlifts (3 minutes of rest between sets)
      135 x 5
      185 x 5
      225 x 5
      255 x 1
      135 x 10 Acceleration Deadlifts

The "light" portion of the workout consisted of:
  2 rounds with 2 minutes rest between rounds -
     95 x 5 Barbell Snatch
     105 x 3 Power Clean to Push Press
  immediately followed by -
     1 x 40 Seated Russian Twist (25 lbs)
     2 x 10 Single Leg Bridge with suspension trainer

You will get the impression in these posts that I like kettlebells and suspension trainers (like the TRX). I do. They are great for working under a load for both speed and strength at all sorts of odd angles both bilaterally and unilaterally (two arms/two legs and one arm/one leg) - just what we need for jiu jitsu.

And a final note - I'm not posting all my workouts (this blog is not my training log). I've been emphasizing squats and deadlifts a lot I know, mainly because nobody likes to do them and they have some of the highest "bang for your buck" returns. I will try and post some some stuff that has a bigger "fun factor" soon. 

Answers to some questions that have come up:
  1. My current bodyweight is 165 lbs. at 6 ft. tall.
  2. I'll turn 50 on my next birthday this summer.
  3. I try to hit two workouts a week that have a heavier strength component - preferably on non jiu jitsu days.
  4. Skill work is a priority, but life can complicate things - I am on the mat 3-4 times a week for 3 -4 hrs. at a time including an hour of rolling most nights. I would love to break up my skill, strength, and conditioning work over multiple sessions in a day but most of us don't have that luxury.
  5. You can check my results on the earlier assessment posts in the comments section here: Strength and Conditioning for BJJ - Training Plan - Overview (part 4 of ?)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Quote of the Moment - The Dark Side

"Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your jiu jitsu."  ~ Zen Yoda

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Strength and Conditioning for BJJ - Friday Workout (Christmas Eve)

Here is my Christmas Eve workout. I wanted to get something quick in dirty in knowing that I would be taking Christmas day completely off.

Note: Lately I've noticed some serious imbalances, basic problems, and weak points and will be adjusting my workouts accordingly.  Here is Friday's workout and the logic behind some of the specific exercise choices as an example of how to listen to your body and adjust accordingly:

Squat/Plyo Box Jump Complex
    Squat 135 x 8
      Plyo Box Jump bodyweight x 8 (jump down from a  12" box and then up to a 24" box)
    Squat 165 x 5
      Plyo Box Jump bodyweight x 8
    Squat 185 x 5
      Plyo Box Jump bodyweight x 8
    Squat 205 x 5
      Plyo Box Jump bodyweight x 8

This complex was the "heavy" portion of the workout. Approximately 2 minutes of rest between sets and no rest between squats and the box jumps.

For awhile I had been working on stretching and trying to squat as deep as possible - way below parallel butt to ground.   While I was getting the depth under decent, not maximal, load, I was noticing serious rounding of the lower back starting just under parallel (not just bad form but dangerous). Analysis with another trainer indicated that it was not a flexibility issue but rather an anatomical "impossibility" based on my personal body geometry (where the bar properly rests across my traps, length of spine, length of upper and lower leg) and keeping the weight balanced and centered. I could switch to high-bar squats, but that aggravates an old injury - so no more going super-deep, just strict form to parallel.

I am also working on lower body "power" - hence the combination of squats and plyo box jumps as a complex. I often do box jumps with additional weight (20-50 lbs) - I have noticed a lot of knee irritation when I do this, not from the jump up, but from the jump down. In response, I will not be doing "plyo" jumps off a low box up to a high box under additional weight and will be "stepping" off the high box rather than jumping back down. 

The "lighter" conditioning portion of the workout consisted of:
2 Rounds (no rest between exercises 1 minute between rounds)
   45lbs x 20(each arm) One-armed Kettlebell Swings
   bodyweight x 5 "rollouts" on suspension trainer
   45lbs x 20(each arm) One-armed Bent Over Rows
   bodyweight x 20 deep squats (assisted by suspension trainer)
   bodyweight x 5 Gymnastics "skin the cat" on suspension trainer
   30 seconds of "stir the pot" using suspension trainer

Approximately 5 minutes of continuous "wrestler's bridge" neck work

In the lighter portion of the workout I am using deep squats with the suspension trainer because it lets me go deep in an anatomically correct way. Also I will be adding neck work consistently as this is an essential area for grappler's that is currently lagging for me and gets almost no work unless specifically targeted.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Quote of the Moment - Smile

"I like a man who grins when he fights." ~ Winston Churchill

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Strength and Conditioning for BJJ - Training Plan - Overview (part 4 of ?)

Just to refresh your memory on some of our opening assumptions:
  1. We are targeting the "average joe" athlete - jiu jitsu players who have a life and day job off the mats but still want to improve and be competitive. 
  2. If you are at the upper bounds of great on the previously posted assessments you should look into finding a strength and conditioning coach who can work with you 1-on-1 to continue to improve.
  3. The nature of our sport means that we are ALWAYS going to put skill/technique work at the top of the list and work it as much as we can year round and that low intensity flexibility work (such as light yoga) is recommended.
So how did you do? What should you do next? Whether you used my "benchmarks" or prefer to work with some other criteria we want to determine what should be emphasized in your training program based on your personal assessment and the following hierarchy:
Skill/Technique work >
     Basic Aerobic Capacity >
               Anaerobic Capacity >
                         Basic Strength >
                                   Power >       

A good training program will address all of these areas. What should change over time is the balance of work between the areas. Each step should be in the adequate to good range before the emphasis shifts to the next step. Your assessment should give you an indication of where you are (currently) and what type, and how much, of a particular type of training you should be including. Additionally, your training program over time needs to cycle through some sort of periodization (but that is a set of posts for another time).

I've included some (motivational) videos as examples of what training might look like within the different areas. You may be doing a lot of the same "exercises" at each level, but the volume (sets, reps) and intensity (weight, rest) change.

Skill/Technique Work
Skill and Technique work - hitting the mats - is job one. This should always constitute the lion's share of our training time. Find a good school and try to get there as often as you can. You may not be able to live at the gym, but if you want to be competitive you have to put in some mat time.

Basic Aerobic Capacity Emphasis
If you are not currently rating "adequate" on the cardio assessment, the priority of your training time off the mat should be spent on increasing your aerobic base. This is the foundation you need to hang everything else  off of. The emphasis here will be slightly longer, less intense workouts. Running, skipping rope, biking, rowing, and simple bodyweight exercises get the most time.

Anaerobic Capacity Emphasis
Once we have a decent aerobic base we want to maintain that base while increasing our anaerobic conditioning into the good range. We start including shorter more intense workouts. Sprints replace distance running, we use tabatas and other high intensity protocols on our activities, exercises become "heavier" and are put together into sets and rounds with only short rest intervals between. You will develop a love/hate relationship with the phrases "burpee," "kettlebell," "prowler," "next round," and "for time."


Basic Strength Emphasis
While maintaining our aerobic/anaerobic conditioning we start moving heavy things. There will be assistance exercises but an increasing proportion of our time should be spent doing basic multi-joint exercises: deadlifts, squats, presses, pullups, and rows. We are not talking about a bodybuilding routine here. It doesn't matter how you look (although as a byproduct of all the work you are doing you will be looking good). Exercises are targeted at overall functional strength AND sport specific strength with assistance exercises to keep you balanced and injury free. It should also be noted that if you are currently a big "weightlifter," your lift totals might actually go down as you bring up your aerobic and anaerobic conditioning - but you will be a better fighter.

Power Emphasis
Once we have a good strength base we can take moving heavy things and add moving heavy things quickly. Our strength exercises are combined with complimentary power movements in complexes - we might combine sets of squats and box jumps, presses and medicine ball throws, deadlifts and dumbell snatches. Olympic lifts might replace some of the basic strength lifts in our training plan and plyometric exercises increase.

In the next few posts in this series we will use some "case studies" to talk about tailoring a training program for individual needs.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kata Garuma - Shoulder Wheel (Judo)/Fireman's Carry (Wrestling)

In honor of the Kata Garuma throw we worked on tonight, here is a little creamy Judo goodness:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Strength and Conditioning for BJJ - Assessment - Basic Strength (part 3 of ?)

Ok, I know you guys have all been waiting on this post in the series to answer the age old question - "am I strong enough." Now we all know "enough" is a relative term, but there is answer. The answer is - NO, you are never strong enough, but for our assessment we want to know if you have enough Basic Strength where it would be advantageous to include Explosive Power work in your training.

What do we mean by "basic strength" and "explosive power." In a very leave out all the details definition, basic strength is the ability to move heavy things while explosive power is the ability to move heavy things very quickly.

Leo Morton also has a good series on what we are talking about here over on Inside BJJ. Here are the pertinent links: Strength & Conditioning for Jiu-Jitsu Part II, and Strength & Conditioning for Jiu-Jitsu Part III. Go ahead, give them a read. I'll still be here when you get back.

Leo uses a chart which is a subset of a chart presented by Tim Henriques over on T-Nation (Are You Strong). I have no problem with either of these charts for determining if you are "gym strong," but for our assessment in BJJ (and to give us an indication of whether we should add Explosive Power work) they are a little high (and Leo also states this).

Remember, this series is for the Average Joe who has a day job who wants to improve his BJJ game. If you are in the Good/Great range for all these benchmarks, it is time to find a good S and C coach who can work with you one-on-one.

Here is the chart I like to use:

DEADLIFT    1.5 x BW          2 x BW          2.5 x BW

SQUAT         1.25 x BW        1.75 x BW     2.25 x BW

BENCH         1.00 x BW        1.25 x BW     1.75x BW

PRESS           .60 x BW         .80 x BW        1.25 x BW

If you are somewhere between Adequate and Good, it is time to start thinking about adding some Power work into your routine. If you are in the Good to Great range you should definitely be doing Power work.

So now we have a quick and dirty idea of where we stand on our cardio/conditioning and our basic strength. In the next post in this series we will use this information to determine some priorities and next steps.

And if you are just now joining us - the series so far:
Strength and Conditioning in BJJ (intro)
Strength and Conditioning for BJJ - Assessment (part 1 of ?)
Strength and Conditioning for BJJ - Assessment - Cardio (part 2 of ?)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Taking the Back From Halfguard

I have really been working on going for the back as a "first move" from a lot of positions and it has been paying significant dividends in finishing fights. I love this back-take from halfguard. This version also keeps your opponent from going into deep half and is often there after you have tried other passes. Once you get their hips "switched" it should all be over except for the closing credits.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Strength and Conditioning for BJJ - Assessment - Cardio (part 2 of ?)

"Fatigue can defeat us all. Worse even than the loss of technical proficiency is the simple inability to continue..."

I didn't want to use the word cardio because it only captures half of the conditioning equation. In this series of posts cardio = conditioning - I am referring to both cardiovascular/respiratory endurance - The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen and stamina - The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.

Conditioning can be increased by both aerobic and anaerobic activities. Efforts at moderate to high power lasting less than several minutes are anaerobic and efforts at low power and lasting in excess of several minutes are aerobic. (examples: sprints from 100 up to 800 meters are largely anaerobic - longer distances from 1,500 meters up are largely aerobic)

Now on to the cardio assessment. You may be incredibly fit for some activities, such as running a marathon, and be reduced to a mass of quivering jelly when rolling on the mats. The type of cardio training you need most IS sport specific. Basketball, football, wrestling, soccer, volleyball, etc. all benefit the most from anaerobic training. Long distance and ultra endurance running, cross country skiing, and 1500+ meter swimming are sports that benefit from primarily aerobic training. Guess which one you need most for BJJ? That's right anaerobic endurance is the foundation of a great BJJ fighter.

An anaerobic assessment benchmark that matches well with BJJ is somewhat difficult. VO2max testing is expensive - the easy tests of treadmill running and 5-10K race times aren't a good carryover to BJJ. The random "workouts" from sources like Crossfit and other areas of the internet are hard to classify easily. Here are a few of the ones I use when trying to get a general idea of someone's anaerobic foundation (these are quick and dirty for the average Joe and can be done at home and the next time you hit the mats).

Test 1: 6 minute burpee challenge
Since this is a "timed" test form will probably not be perfect, but the chest should almost hit the ground on the pushup phase and the end jump should at least clear a few inches.
Results: 50 (adequate), 75 (good), 100 (you are a beast)

Test 2: 1 mile run
Not a sprint, not a trot - you should push hard enough to not want to do this again anytime soon (i.e. have a strong desire to, but try not to - puke).
Results: 7 minutes (adequate), 6 minutes (good), sub 6 (great)

Test 3: 5 rounds of 6 minutes rolling (30 second rest between rounds)
This is the most subjective, because you can easily stall and sandbag, but the intent is for you to roll 5 hard 6 minute rounds against individuals close to your size/skill level. Taking it too easy will be revealed by you getting tapped multiple times during a round or staying in bad positions. Starting from the feet is preferred.
Results: self evaluation = "I can survive this a couple of times a week" (adequate), "I can easily do this several times a week" (good), "Let's do a couple more rounds right now!" (great)

OK, so what does this tell us? Well I have good news and bad news. The good news is that if you are in the good to great range you can definitely mix your training up to include some serious strength work. The bad news is, just like skill work and flexibility - we should be doing cardio/conditioning all year. If you fall into the adequate range (or are not quite there yet), don't worry - YOU CAN GET THERE - this benchmark simply tells us that your priority should be additional conditioning work before trying to add significant strength work.

A few notes before we close:
1. The results "numbers" are ball park estimates. A 200+ lbs. fighter will not be able to do as many burpees or run as fast as the 145 lbs. fighter.

2. These figures are for the athlete who is serious and wants to be competitive but has a job (and a partial life) outside of BJJ.

3. These numbers are what I would like to see for someone between 25-35 years of age.

4. We can get a little more technical and say that your heart rate after each of these tests should be heading back under 100 bpm at the 2 minute mark and getting close to or under 80 bpm at the 5 minute mark (pretty close to full recovery). How quickly you recover is one of the key indicators of how conditioned you are - if you want to get more serious, buy a heart rate monitor.

5. You may think these benchmarks suck. If you have some other "quick and dirty" tests and results that an average Joe can do without a lot of expense or equipment that are better - post them in the comments section.

(next post in this series - Basic Strength Assessment)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Knees - Love the Ones You Have

I tweaked my knee (yet again) on Saturday during competition team training working takedowns against a much larger training partner - someone I would never willingly try to takedown directly, but sometimes you have to try to defy the laws of physics just to make sure they are still there (they are).

Since knee injuries are common among BJJ players and one of the most feared injuries, I thought I would share this video. I firmly believe that knowledge is power, but I would feel better if I knew the inside of my knee was reinforced with titanium and steel bands (oh well).

Since I can't bionically improve the inside, I will be rolling in a nice steel reinforced brace for a few weeks. Not comfortable but much better than surgery. Be strong - train safe.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Strength and Conditioning for BJJ - Assessment (part 1 of ?)

(alternative series title - "You Can't Do It All or Maybe You Can If You Do It Right.")

Should I just concentrate on skill work? What about cardio? Am I too weak? How strong is strong enough? What about power and explosiveness, when am I supposed to train that? Should I do Yoga or some other form of flexibility work? What should I be doing/not doing for rest and recovery? Where the @#$% am I supposed to find time to do all this?

Most of us are not professional athletes who can dedicate our entire day to training. In order to maximize the benefits of our limited training time we need to train hard but we also need to train smart. Training smart means doing the right things at the right times at the right volume/intensity.

So just how do we determine what all this "right stuff" is. I don't think anyone has figured out ALL the right stuff, but fortunately, there is a wealth of data and research in athletic performance that we can appropriate for BJJ that will let us postulate some general rules of thumb. When we combine these general rules with observation of what is consistently working in the grappling and MMA communities we can map out some suggestions for a training program that may not have ALL the answers but will be a significant leap beyond "Just Do It."

The first step in developing a good training program is to determine where you currently are - only then can you can make logical decisions on what should come next. We do this by performing an Assessment. An assessment helps to determine your individual needs. Some players gas early, other players may get manhandled and pushed around, and others lose matches because their skills are not up to par, alternatively the super-technical guy may be continuously fighting injuries because of strength deficits/imbalances. Even though we are all athletes in the same sport we are not all at the same place on our journey. We need to determine at an individual level what we need most to advance to the next level.

This is where I am going to suggest a few "rules of thumb" for determining where you are. First, the nature of our sport means that we are ALWAYS going to put skill/technique work at the top of the list and work it year round (no true off season). Second, low intensity flexibility work (such as light yoga) is almost always good for recovery and is recommended - that said everyone has varying levels of base flexibility that can be improved with regular stretching but BJJ in general does not require you to be able to do the splits or put your leg behind your head.

This leaves us with the big 3 training variables: Cardio, Basic Strength, and Explosive Power.

(next post in this series - Cardio Assessment)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quote of the Moment - Be Hard My Friends

"Be hard my friends. How do you get hard? You train hard - and if you train hard, you'll not only be hard, you'll be hard to beat."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Wrapup -Takedowns

Finished a "perfect" week of training my backside off with two hours of No Gi Friday night (the culmination of  Wheeee!...Ow! That's Going to Leave a Mark) . The session, after warm-ups, was spent entirely on drilling and then sparring takedowns. Just takedowns. Did I mention that we worked a few takedowns? All worked at a pace that would be pretty grueling for 20 minutes, much less two hours, but I'm not bitter ;-).

The first technique we worked on was a knee tap from neutral over-underhooks. Mechanically it is very simple - you drop your overhook hand to the outside of you opponents knee while at the same time driving up and across with your underhook. Your arms are driving across your body, one high, one low and your bodyweight is driving through your underhook (kind of like an Aikido tenchi nage - heaven and earth throw but with real world grips and pressure). The key to success with this technique is timing. Your opponent has the same initial grips, so you have to set it up by pulling with your overhook to expose the knee you want - works well during a pummel war. 

The next technique drilled was a fast lateral drop starting again from neutral over-underhooks. You step back and pull on your overhook side to get your opponent to step forward and put his weight on that foot. You immediately step with your opposite foot (underhook side) to the outside of his same side foot and as you lift up with your underhook, pull down with your overhook, start to rotate perpendicular to his hips and slide your overhook side leg across his body to block his instep. You continue rotating as you drop your overhook side hip to the mat pulling your opponent over your blocking leg into a shoulder roll. Because of your over /underhooks you follow and control his roll and come up into top side control. This is a "sacrifice throw" - you hit the mat before he does and pull him over your blocking leg - as such, if you don't have good control with your over/underhooks and get his shoulders turning toward the mat before you drop you will be pulling him on top of you. It looks a lot like this with less emphasis on the back arch and more emphasis on the blocking leg to make the technique more effective against a larger opponent you would not be able to lift.

Last drill was a little work from the head tie-up, shrugging off the arm on the neck into a russian 2-on-1, countering with a step back and pull gaining head control and working from there.

The sparring rounds consisted of getting the takedown and then right back on your feet. Concentrated on working the "techniques of the day," so a lot work on controlling the clinch and working for the takedown from neutral over-underhooks (a lot of pummeling going on). Got a good feeling for the new techniques timing and set-up wise against full resistance. Noticed that when you are in the neutral over/underhook clinch if your opponent has his feet back and is "leaning in" to the clinch, the lateral drop works well. When he has his feet and balance more centered it makes it easier to reach his knee with the first technique.

When not working from the clinch, had decent success with a snatch single leg and using an arm drag both for a takedown directly and to set up a side or back clinch to takedown.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wheeee!.........Ow! That's Going to Leave a Mark

It has been a wonderful week of Jiu Jitsu and training. Great heavy workouts, great additional strength and conditioning work, great classes (multiples each day), and did I mention rolling? Lots and lots of rolling. Rolling before class, rolling after class, and being the last person off the mat each night.

The result of all this creamy Jiu Jitsu goodness? I can barely move. I need a massage, a chiropractic adjustment, some ibuprofen, and a cold beverage. I would handle items 3 and 4 myself, but I can't move. Seriously, I sat down and my entire body has frozen. This post would have been up hours ago but I'm having to type with my tongue.

Allright, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit.  There are no major injuries, just lots and lots of deep bruises and other assorted micro-trauma from all the rolling coupled with deep muscle fatigue and serious central nervous system overload.

In my delirium  I'm grinning like an idiot at how much I have to pay attention to keep our great group of upcoming whitebelts off my back (you give them an inch and they are all over you) and how hard the "death matches" are amongst the upper belts (in a good way).

And I still have Friday's no-gi class tomorrow to survive, which is good because I don't think I could put on a gi and tie my belt - I can't wait :-).

My friends and relatives considered putting me in an institution but they knew that within a week I'd be running Jiu Jitsu classes from all the rubber rooms. I'm sure I could stop anytime, but who wants to :-).

Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming ... WOW! What a ride!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wrestling in BJJ

I have been thinking about wrestling and BJJ a good bit since my post on American Jiu Jitsu a couple of weeks ago.

To me wrestling and BJJ aren't two separate things - they are both grappling. Where I train we have a weekly class that is just takedowns (as well as working them in other classes throughout the week). Sometimes the takedown of the day could be classified as more wrestling sometimes more judo oriented, but to deny that there is a ton of overlap between the two is just plain silly.

What also strikes me as silly is to think that these takedowns are not a part of BJJ. In BJJ we like to claim that most fights end up on the ground (true) - but they usually wind up on the ground because somebody A took somebody B down (not because somebody B pulled guard). To think that a BJJ player wants to be the guy on the bottom in this scenario is ridiculous. In a fight you almost always want to be on top and be the aggressor (unless you are disengaging to run away).

So in my mind takedowns and takedown defense are an inherent part of BJJ regardless of how pure or old school somebody's BJJ is.  And thinking that incorporating wrestling is a new idea because of wrestlers currently making a good showing in MMA tells me that a lot of folks out there (students and teachers both) don't know about the history of their art. The "old guard" of BJJ practitioners always thought BJJ was the "best fight" (and they proved it on the mat/in the ring but they never thought it was the "only fight"). If something worked they were all over trying to understand it - both to defend against it and to use it themselves.

I love this quote from Renzo about how Rolls especially liked to color outside the lines - "Rolls (...) was the guy who actually completely changed jiu jitsu in Brazil. He started training a lot of wrestling, a lot of judo, he started training Sambo, and he was able to incorporate all that into jiu jitsu. He was the one responsible for all the evolution we have today. He was the pioneer of all that change."

If there is a test for a "true" BJJ school it should be "are they open to continuously learning and innovating, committed to the idea of understanding what works," OR "are they closed to new ideas - thinking that they must be inferior because they weren't invented here." You guess which answer is correct (you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right :-)).

Hopefully BJJ will continue to evolve based on what gets the job done (rather than devolve into another McDojo martial art).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Forget the Zombie Apocalypse

I've been spending all my time preparing for the zombie apocalypse when what I should have really been training for is how to defeat the ever growing threat from the menace of PIXELS!!!

Who knows, maybe my mispent youth at the arcade will one day save the planet.

Of course I'm still going to continue training jiu jitsu because I have yet to submit someone with this technique from side control:

So all the hoards of pixeloids are safe until I get this down (along with a few hundred other techniques).

Friday, October 29, 2010

Yea, Whitebelts!

We were talking about working new techniques into our games the other night, especially various open guard set-ups, sweeps, and subs. The problem with almost all open guards (spider, De La Riva, etc.) is that until you get really good at them you generally get passed and smashed pretty easily by anyone close to your skill level and above. Jeremy made the observation that one of the things that helped him move from purple to black (and really develop all the inverted bendy twisty stuff he does) was the fact that almost everyone else he had to roll with at that time were white belts.

How does a white belt help a purple belt advance to black belt you may ask? Jeremy explained that he got to "play" with everything, try it in all sorts of permutations, and really get a fairly deep understanding because he was working in a relatively safe environment full of white belts. Side Control and Geogette both wrote great blog posts about this very issue too, so condering this a trifecta of planetary alignment - I have to add my two cents.

As we advance, rolling white belts is one of the those essential things we all need in order to experiment with techniques and set-ups and learn to "trust" our jiu jitsu. Being able to roll in an environment where the "cost of failure" is not high encourages us to experiment, explore, and develop in new directions.

There are so many techniques that made me look like an uncoordinated idiot the first time I tried them. After drilling them enough to understand how they are supposed to work it is always a challenge to integrate them into my game. If every roll was a fight to the death I would always stick to the stuff I know best and never grow. Rolling with less skilled partners let's me "play" with the new stuff without getting my head handed to me.

As upper belts, our responsibility in return is to bring the white belts along for the ride. No game is fun unless everybody gets to play. You don't need to smash a white belt everytime you work your game. You may control and lead (and be relatively frustrating) and this builds the white belt's base and defense,  but they also need to work some offense too. We should be feeding them openings and set-ups, letting them start from advantageous positions, teaching a little bit as we roll, letting them try something again that they almost got. In other words, making sure they get to play too. Saulo Ribeiro says that when an upper belt visits his academy, he places a lot of weight on how he sees them treat his white belts.

All that said, I am thankful for all my training partners. It is great to train someplace that has a good mix of belts. I see a continuum from white to black of what we get to learn from each:

> With complete rookies we get to throw techniques with impunity. This is our "safe sandbox" and we can play freely. (Although we still have to watch for spazzing.)

>> As they get a little better we still get to throw up whatever we want and there is more true resistance and base. If we muck it up we can still "force it," but we don't worry too much (they are still no threat) and we reset and start over.

>>> As they are about to be promoted to our level, we can still work new stuff into our game - but if we are not careful or don't take them seriously they will be all over us - and we might have to revert to our "A game" to survive the moment and regain control.

>>>>When they reach our level it can be like "unstoppable force meets immovable object." Sometimes one comes out on top sometimes the other, but trying new stuff usually gets shut down pretty quickly. But this is where we get to see if our "A game" is up to snuff.

>>>>>When somebody is better than us we can see how a technique is supposed to work, how it feels, and how it is set up effectively. We learn to capitalize on any mistakes they might make and learn to really watch out for the slightest slip - our sensitivity goes way up.

>>>>>>With somebody much better than us we can go back to throwing up anything we want just to see what kind of new pretzel shape they will invent with our bodies and learn from where they effortlessly poke holes in our "A game."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

American Jiu Jitsu?

After Jake Shields appearance and win (not a dominating win but a win nonetheless) in this last weekend's UFC 121 there has been a lot of discussion of his grappling prowess and what he calls his "style" - American Jiu Jitsu.

Although this match was not his best (the drop to 170 took its toll), it was interesting to watch his game - going for the takedown, seemingly not worried by guillotine attempts, easily mounting another fighter with a very good ground game.

Shields calls this American Jiu Jitsu, based on his background as both a collegiate wrestler and a BJJ blackbelt. It has an emphasis on the high pace and pressure of wrestling with the skill and technique of jiu-jitsu. Or another way to put it is an emphasis on takedowns and top-game from wrestling and subs and sweeps from BJJ.

Calling his style American Jiu Jitsu has some people cheering and other people seriously bent. The cheerleading side says it is great that he is bringing more takedowns and top pressure into jiu jitsu, the naysayers claim he isn't really doing anything new and therefore doesn't deserve his own style name it is just BJJ.

My take is that calling what he does American Jiu Jitsu is as legitimate as any other style name in martial arts. Very rarely can a "style" lay claim to inventing something new. What is different between "styles" is where they choose to put an emphasis or use their training time. Such as TKD emphasizing kicks vs. many other styles of karate or Judo emphasizing throws vs. BJJ emphasizing ground work.

A good Judo guy is going to know plenty of ne-waza but his throws are going to be better because that is his emphasis - a good BJJ player is going to know throws but his ground game is going to be better because that is where he puts his time.

AJJ is saying that they spend more of their emphasis/training time on wrestling/takedowns than a typical BJJ school (and I don't think they really do any gi work at all). It is all about where you spend the limited amount of training time you have. A style/name is just a convenient label that let's people categorize things and let's the label's creator/owner differentiate himself and market more effectively.

Visually it might look like this (don't critique the artwork I took like 5 minutes ;-)):

There are only so many hours in the day and you have to divide your time up somehow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Strength and Conditioning in BJJ - Sunday Workout

Tonight's post is brought to you courtesy of Gladiator. I was trying to be lazy and ignore the fact that I needed to have a deadlift day. But as I'm trying to do my best imitation of spudus supinus, remote in hand, Russell Crowe starts taking on the Roman Empire and I'm all "Glaaaadiaaatoooor!" And suddenly I felt the urge to do antisocial things. I quickly channeled these urges into a force for Good instead of Evil and proceeded to eat raw meat and move heavy objects.

I wasn't going to write about this workout as there is not anything particularly interesting or fun about doing deadlifts. But these S and C posts seem to be some of the most popular so I will try to include them a little more often (but this blog is not going to be my training log). Also, as I mentioned in my last post, the basic compound exercises (deadlift, squat, and some type of overhead press) should be the core of the strength part of your workout.

If you are not doing some form of these 3 exercises you may be "working out" but you are not "training" for strength. Learn how to do these lifts with good form and don't let your ego get in the way and you will see the benefits on the mats in just a few months. These exercises suck - they are hard, but the juice is worth the squeeze.

I plan on posting more general info on Strength and Conditioning for BJJ in the coming weeks. Why, because:
  1. as I already mentioned these posts seem to be very popular.
  2. if you go to a bodybuilding forum you'll get some warped info (different "sport" different objectives).
  3. if you go to a powerlifting or other type of strength forum you'll get some warped info (different "sport" different objectives).
  4.  if you go to some of the popular mma sites you can find some good info but the examples are generally for fulltime athletes - I will try and show examples for a motivated "average guy" focused on BJJ/grappling (and a little bit of mma).
  5. if it provides a little inspiration to get you started if you're not doing any S and C (some is better than none) or improves the value of the time you spend on S and C then good karma comes my way.
And on to the workout:
Deadlifts (approximately 2 minutes rest between sets)
   1x5 at 135 lbs.
   1x5 at 185 lbs.
   1x5 at 205 lbs.
   1x5 at 225 lbs.
   1x1 at 255 lbs.
   1x1 at 275 lbs.

Reset the bar for Clean and Press (note press not jerk)
   1x5 at 95 lbs.
   1x5 at 115 lbs.
   1x5 at 135 lbs.
(The first 2 sets I was trying to move the bar as fast as possible and didn't really stop in the clean position, they were almost a snatch with a press to lock out instead of a drop back under the bar.)

   2x10 each leg Wrestler Shot Level Changes then a step back into a full lunge (with 50 lbs vest)
   3x8 TRX Inverted Rows (with 50 lbs vest)
   2x15 TRX "atomic" pushups (pulling knees to elbow on alternating sides)

"Strength and honor." ~ Maximus Decimus Meridius

Friday, October 22, 2010

Strength and Conditioning in BJJ - Wed Workout

This is the second post titled "Strength and Conditioning in BJJ - Wed Workout." I don't just workout on Wednesdays, that's just the day this workout happened this week.

5 minutes medicine ball (15 lbs) throws with a partner
20 Kettlebell swings (16 kg)
20 Kettlebell clean and press (16 kg each hand)
20 Kettlebell bentover rows (16 kg)
20 Air squats

This workout was a light "all rounder" before class. I normally like to end a workout with ballistic or plyometric exercises like the medicine ball throws but I decided to grab a partner before they could run and hide :-).

For the throws start about 6 feet apart and use a two-handed "chest pass" to throw the medicine ball back and forth with your partner. Approximately every 5th pass - back up one step. When you reach the limits of how far you can "chest pass" with control on both the throw and the catch, come back to the 6 ft. mark and start again with a two-handed "overhead pass." Continue swapping between chest and overhead passing until the 5 minutes is up.

If you don't have a partner you can throw the ball "overhand" straight up and alternate it with "underhand" throws catching it yourself.

The rest of the workout is fairly self explanatory. You can do this workout for time, but I prefer to make sure I always keep kettlebell exercises under control and don't try to rush anything. On the air squats you can use the kettlebells in a "clean position" for extra resistance or add a jump at the top of each squat. For me, I was concentrating on getting my rear down as low as possible and making sure I had a good "stretch" through my knees and hips.

This weekend I should have a deadlift day which in and of itself is pretty boring so I probably won't blog anything about it. I'm saying something about it here so that you know it is important. If you can only do one "barbell" exercise it should be deadlifts. Also note if you are rolling a lot (1hr or more 3 or more days a week) or doing a lot of "conditioning" oriented exercises you won't be able to lift as heavy as when you are only training for strength. For example, right now with all the rolling I am doing I would  be lucky to pull a max over 300 lbs. but if I was just strength training I should be able to pull over 400.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shrimpin' Ain't Easy

Last week was a return to basics. For most of the week we spent the majority of the time on hip movement. Explosive shrimping up and down the mats, one-legged shrimping, top leg only shrimping, bottom leg only shrimping, shrimping with hip elevation at the end, etc., etc.

It was eye opening to me to realize how lackadaisical my hip movement had become. Small technical movements are fine but sometimes you need to move your backside from point A to point B with a certain amount of enthusiasm. After regular classes and some extra mat time I think my body is in a permanent curve and weekend barbecues make me strangely nervous :-).

All that shrimping was combined with some frame and grip basics to escape from side control and other "life sucks" positions as well as preventing the pass. The beauty of all this hip movement reeducation was it's immediate and almost universal applicability when rolling.

When I think about how much I got schooled this last week on something as simple as shrimping it makes me wonder if I will ever get a grip on this jiu jitsu thing and then I remember this quote from Roger Gracie ~ "Jiu jitsu is simple, you just gotta do it right." So I guess I'll keep trying to do it a little more "right" everyday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Strength and Conditioning in BJJ - Wed Workout

Had a light week last week getting ready for the Nashville BJJ Open. This week has been a lot of extra mat time so no heavy lifting days. Wednesday's workout was once again very simple but if you try it you will hate like it.

5 rounds for time with NO rest between exercises and NO rest between rounds:
     10 Burpees (full Burpee with a pushup and jump at the end)
     5 Pullups (pullups, not chinups, and each rep should begin from a dead hang)

The only place you can "rest" is at the hang of your pullups. DO NOT let go of the bar. If you can not do 5 pullups each round without having to drop off the bar, do as many as you can and immediately move on to the next set of Burpees. In other words, if you drop off the bar your set is over - keep moving at full speed into the next round.

The first set is relatively easy. But each successive set becomes more "interesting." If you are going as fast and hard as you can (the start of your Burpee will look like a solid sprawl, the pushup will be almost plyometric, and the jump will look like your basketball dunk) you will start breathing deep by the second set and this should give you a new appreciation for the dead hang pullups.

On the other hand, you can loaf your way through this routine and wonder what the big deal is.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Game Plan

I have a love/hate relationships with tournaments. I enjoy seeing old friends, I like making new friends, I love seeing some outstanding jiu jitsu, and if some vendors/sponsors show up it is great to see new gear. Are you feeling the love?

On the other hand I hate hanging around all day on a set of uncomfortable bleachers for what might be a single roll. At 49, I hate that there is never anybody remotely close to my age to roll with (unless I want to travel to the Pan-Ams) so my matches wind up being "aggressive" rather than "technical."

So it is always with some mixed feelings that I decide to compete. I put all that aside this last weekend to compete in the Nashville BJJ Open/BJJ Grand Prix Tournament. The event itself was outstanding - well run and a lot of fun. Great refs, great competitors, great location, Vendor/Sponsor Casca Grossa was there with lots of toys. If you're in the Southeast you should definitely check it out (the next one is already in the planning stages).

My participation however was not as outstanding. In typical "why doesn't anybody over 30 ever compete" fashion I didn't see many older participants and none around my weight (oh well). I'm not sure what bracket I was in - they called my name, I ran over to the mat and never thought to ask where I wound up being placed. In my finals match I was paired against a 24 year old blue belt who had a few pounds on me (maybe I should have actually cut a little weight instead of eating pizza the night before?).

I had a game plan of some things I wanted to try in this competition: I wanted to work for a takedown instead of pulling guard and I wanted to work my open guard. These were things that I wanted to try in competition because they are not my bread and butter - in other words this wasn't my "A Game." When I saw my opponent I had a brief moment to reassess that plan - since it appeared that I was outclassed on youth, speed and strength should I punt the plan and go with my "A Game" (since we all know that old age and treachery beat youth and skill)? Nah, that would be wussing out. A plan is a plan (or is that really "a plan is just a wish in a party dress").

Anyway, we shake hands and start to go for grips. For my takedown I try for the Power Kouchi Gari and got stuffed (actually it felt like running into a brick wall). This failed attempt left me vulnerable to several possibilities and as he tried to power through me I pulled guard. Not just any guard mind you, I'm sticking to a plan, I tried to pull open guard (working into spider guard). I got one sleeve and foot/hook on his bicep, but I couldn't get my grips for the other side. I tried to get my other foot to his hip to make space, but he caught it before I could get to his hip pushed it down to the mat and started to pass. My one spider hook was useless without some corresponding control on the other side so I tried to transition to De La Riva  but it was too little to late.

I spent the rest of the six minutes pinned under a grinding side control. Well not the entire time. He would move to mount and I would work him back into half guard but I could never get deep and wound up getting smashed back into side control several times. He tried a variety of head and arm and breadcutter chokes but they were not truly dangerous (but they did hurt like hell - I think he expected a pain tap).

It takes a pretty big skill gap to make up for advantages in strength and speed. Obviously my skills were not enough to bridge the gap. So much for plans. At least I contributed a silver to the team effort.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quote of the Moment - See First

"See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that." ~ Douglas Adams

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lucas Lepri Seminar Notes

I attended a fantastic 2 day seminar last weekend of Oct. 25th and 26th with Lucas Lepri at Brentwood Brazillian Jiu Jitsu in Nashville. I'm not going to try and breakdown the details of all the different techniques we learned as much as hit some high points and share some of my impressions.

First bit of coolness: After teaching each day, Lucas made it a point to hang out and roll - and not just roll a couple of guys, he rolled everyone there from white belts to black belts both days. I was especially impressed with the time and energy he spent on the white belts, letting them work and feeding them opportunities and gently correcting their position/technique - without a trace of ego or condescension.

Second bit of coolness: While rolling Lucas had a big smile on his face almost the entire time. You can tell he loves Jiu Jitsu and he just can't keep it all inside.

One thing I noticed immediately when rolling with Lucas is that he moves aggressively with pressure but he is light on his feet and can change direction at any moment - his base and balance is exceptional and he is cat quick. There were several times when I was on the bottom I felt like I was being "surfed" (almost like balance ball drills); and that was with him taking it easy on me and probably going about a quarter speed. (If you watched Lucas in the highlight video of my last post, you can see how quickly he can move and capitalize on the slightest mis-step of an opponent.)

On day one we covered a variety of sweeps and submissions.

We worked a basic Butterfly Sweep - one grip on their sleeve the other grip on their belt. Lucas emphasized having both feet/butterfly hooks in before gripping so you don't telegraph which side/hook you are going to use. Then as you grip, pull the arm across, pull in and up on belt, drop one leg back and down so you can roll to your shoulder (going to trapped arm side). Roll to the side on your shoulder - not to your back (head should go to the outside of their knee) and lift with your hook. Keep the arm and secure side control.

We also did a series of back takes from a Flower Sweep setup (p.114 in Saulo's book for reference) covering a range of "what-ifs": Attempt the Flower Sweep and they post with their free arm. Change your grip to the outside sleeve of their posting arm and use it to help you scoot out and up to take the back. Over the series of back takes we worked with a common theme of finishes - setups for Bow and Arrow, Arm and Collar, and Ezequiel Chokes.

Playing "what-if" from the same set up - they trap your leg as you try to come up to the back. Use your trapped foot as a hook on their hip, spin and post your hand on the mat and push across their hips using your hook to break him down onto his side with you in top side mount. Finish with your choke of choice.

Next "what-if" from the same setup - they trap your knee hard with their arm and thigh and you can't free your hips/leg at all. Shoot back down onto your shoulder and reach under his posted arm and around his neck for an Ezequiel. (Ezequiel note - reach deep into your sleeve and make a clenched fist - don't bend your wrist to follow your other arm or let your fingers loosen as your bring your other hand around for the choke.)

Then we worked similar back takes from a De la Riva Rollover Sweep (p.167 in Saulo's book) - they post their free arm, you trade grips to their posting arm and reach up and take the back. Then De la Riva to sit up guard into a Classic Sweep (p.172 in Saulo's book) variation. As you reach your arm through to wrap around their leg, grip their lapel or belt instead of trading grips to their arm, push their arm down and back between their leg, as they post their opposite arm, trade your grip to their posting arm and take the back.

We continued with back takes from an opponents Knee Cross/Cut Through pass. As they attempt to drive the knee across you use your inside leg to hook tightly behind their knee stopping the cut through, grab their opposite sleeve and push it back between their legs while lifting with your hook for a sweep. If they post with their free hand you sit up, change grips to their posting arm and then use it to help you swing your hips out and reach up with your opposite hand for the back and go for a choke.

The second day of the Lucas Lepri seminar was similarly full of jiu jitsu goodness. We worked passing the open guard (Spider, De La Riva, and reverse De La Riva). 

Against Spider Guard Lucas showed a method of clearing one hook from the arm and maintaining control of the leg, then pushing their opposite leg (that still has your bicep hooked) to the mat and stepping over and sitting through to break that hook and take side control.

 He also showed a cool way to clear a "lasso" hook by stepping back and then bringing your knee back in to clear the hook.

Against De la Riva you turn your trapped foot to the inside (eliminating the control of the DLR hook) and use pressure on the hip with one hand and knee with the other hand to cut your hips out and around his legs and then hip switch back into side control. Other passes against De la Riva and reverse De la Riva used similar knee and hip controls.

Another pass had you step with your knees together and cut your opposite knee under their legs while using a lapel grip and controlling their legs (and thus their hips) with your forearm/elbow on top in a variation of a smash pass. Sorry for the poor verbal imagery but I could write a book and still just be scratching the surface of the details.

Some last cool observations from chatting with Lucas before and after the seminar: Lucas is one of the most pleasant people you could ever meet. His competition schedule is grueling with an event almost every month. While he could drop weight into a lighter division he prefers to compete at his (very fit) walking around weight about 170 lbs. (which makes sense considering his schedule). Off the mat training he emphasizes stretching, recommends lifting, and doing additional cardio (he likes spinning). Finally, as much as we tried to convince him that Nashville was a great place to live, he loves being based in New York.

 (you can check out more pics at the Brentwood BJJ Facebook page)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Power Kouchi Gari

After our seminar with Lucas Lepri this weekend, Jeremy spent some extra time going over one of Lucas' favorite takedowns. For lack of a better name I'm calling this the "power kouchi gari."

It differs from the traditional Judo version in a couple of ways. Instead of the traditional setup of getting your opponent to step forward and then "picking" the ankle (requiring perfect timing for the kozushi),
you give a pull on the lapel, step back with the lapel grip leg, change level, and "pick" his lapel grip side ankle with your other foot. Then you drive forward and power through chest to chest. Your non lapel grip hand drops to the outside of his hip thigh.

As he falls step wide with your lapel grip leg and secure a strong half guard top position.

You can see this takedown in action at 12 seconds in, again at 15 seconds in, and no-gi versions with an arm drag at 37 and 40 seconds in.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Roll Baby Roll!

Last night I met some friends early for some rolling before the start of evening classes. It was a great time. Some rolls were strictly "flow" (keep moving, keep advancing position, subs=catch and release), some were more "competitive," some were "learning" (keep looking for specific sweeps/subs with a lot of experimentation), and some were "teaching" (with the couple of the newer guys).

Professor even started regular class a little late since we had sucked several unsuspecting early-birds into our group. But all good things must eventually come to an end and after nearly two hours of continuous rolling without a break I dragged myself off the mat.

I intended to stay for the fundamentals class but I didn't think I had the mental acuity left to even be a decent grappling dummy and headed for home.

Still, all and all, a great night.

"Quanto mais voce suar quando praticar menos sangue perdera em combate".
"The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in combat".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Training Day - Tuesday's S and C and Jiu Jitsu

Strength and Conditioning Work:
   10 minutes warmup
   10 minutes of shoulder rehab work with powerbands
   15 minutes - Rounds (no rest between rounds) consisting of:
      Pullups x10
      Kettle Bell Swings x10 (16kg)
      Dips x10
      TRX Inverted Rows x10
      Wrestler Shot Level Changes x10 each leg
( pullups started taking multiple sets  to get to 10 (7+3, 5+3+2,...) after the second round, same thing for dips after the fourth round - just started round 6 at the buzzer)

Jiu Jitsu
   S and C followed by about 20 minutes of rolling before class

   1 hr Fundamentals Class - drilling favorite takedown, favorite guard pass
   1.5 hrs Advanced Class - open guard transitions
   40 minutes of rolling

I like to do my S and C on  days I'm not hitting the mat or when there are no such days - after class and rolling. Today S and C went first and I could definitely feel it in my gas tank. I had to dig deep to keep rolling.

Status: Tired
Mood: Satisfied
Listening To: Rodrigo Y Gabriella - Buster Voodoo

Monday, September 20, 2010

The "Technique Collector"

I rolled with an interesting training partner last week. At first I didn't really know what to think. We started standing and I pulled guard straight into a tripod sweep and came up to pass. As we started to maneuver and I gained side control he became very "active" throwing up sweep attempt after sweep attempt that were all "somehow off." I don't know how else to describe it.

As we continued to roll it continued to be weird. Arms and posts weren't controlled, leverage points were "in the general vicinity" but weren't really where they needed to be, a lot of strength and explosiveness to try and force something, throwing whole series of sweep attempts and attacks without establishing position first, not staying connected or making space as the technique required, didn't seem to understand how to advance position and make use of control.

I had the opportunity to roll with this guy multiple times over the course of the week. Every roll was the same - he was always very "active," but there wasn't much I had to seriously defend, while I was able to establish mount or take the back and submit at will. Even starting with me under side control or mount his attacks just weren't quite there, although there was a lot of variety - attempts at armbars, kimuras, americanas, ezequiels, cross collars, etc. I'd sweep and we'd start over.

I had a similar feeling when we were partnered to drill techniques during class. It seemed like he wanted to rep the technique just enough to become familiar with it but then became bored. Instead of really working through the details he would start trying to chain the technique we were learning with a bunch of other techniques in his "repertoire." This left him not really getting the technique we were drilling and it certainly didn't help his situation to chain it with other techniques he didn't really understand.

After drilling and rolling then chatting after class I came to the conclusion that he was "aquainted" with a ton of techniques but he didn't "know" any of them well. He was a "Technique Collector." He judged his progress on the quantity of the techniques he thought he knew rather than the quality.

I don't want to sound all self-righteous because I kind of get this mindset. After all, who doesn't want to "know" all the jiu jitsu they can. I would probably be there myself if I hadn't had the importance of fundamentals and details impressed on me early as a white belt. I really feel for this guy, he has been training for a couple of years now but is getting beat by guys with far less experience. If he is going to advance he is going to have to go back to the basics and unlearn/relearn pretty much his entire technique collection. It is hard to go back to relearning the armbar from guard when you think you are the master of the Peruvian necktie.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Strength and Conditioning - Friday's Workout

Friday's workout in my mind!
After my Strength and Conditioning discussion earlier this week it seems only fair that I man-up and give you an example. Here is my Friday workout. This was one of my two "heavy" days of the week (deadlift, squat, or overhead press) - for whichever of those 3 exercises is up I do 5x5 as heavy as I can go immediately dropping some weight and "grease the groove" with the same (or a similar exercise) working on speed. Then a short break (5-10 minutes) and and on to the slightly lighter part of the workout. You can get some good ideas for exercises from the Crossfit and Crossfit Football sites as well as Ross Training.

Warmup (10 minutes)

Deadlifts (approximately 3 minutes rest between sets)
1x5 at 135 lbs.
1x5 at 185 lbs.
1x5 at 215 lbs.
1x5 at 235 lbs.
1x3 at 255 lbs. (missed the last 2 pulls)
1x15 at 135 (for speed/power)

Rest (5 minutes)

3 Rounds (1 minute rest between rounds) consisting of:
5 pullups
10 weighted (50 lbs vest) pushups
20 weighted (50 lbs vest) squat jumps

Misc. "gymnastic" bodyweight (at 165 lbs) work with a suspension trainer/rings (approximately 20 minutes no rest other than set-up between exercises)

Other than the 2 heavy days, I work a light strength session (similar to the second half of the workout) before class 3 to 4 times a week (in addition to the conditioning work we do in class).

Some general observations. I often have to adjust exercises around tweaks and injuries from rolling (dumbells and kettlebells are great for being able to work around a unilateral injury).  Two "heavy" days is all my body can take with 3-4 days of serious rolling. The 3 "heavy" lifts remain fairly consistent (occasional substitutions) the lighter portion of the workout is highly varied. I've noticed I am  significantly stronger "lifting" when I've had to reduce "rolling" for some reason after about 2 weeks ("What," I hear you say, "less rolling?" - yeah, sometimes life happens :-)).

I will continue this "theme" in future posts with some of my favorite exercises and motivational videos.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Strength and Conditioning in BJJ

There are several aspects to why Strength and Conditioning (S/C) is important in BJJ.

First there is the general physical preparedness required for the sport. You have to be able to move your bodyweight (and often a portion of your opponent's bodyweight) effectively (strength) and efficiently over time (conditioning). I see many people coming into the sport who lack this base level of general physical preparedness. For these people basic S/C training is almost required along with their mat time/technique work to progress in BJJ. But fear not, this basic level of physical preparedness is something that "any average Joe" should be able to achieve with some time and effort.

Once this base level of physical preparedness is achieved, many people can advance quite well in BJJ concentrating on technique but strength (and size) and conditioning will almost always have benefits. Given equal skill, a bigger stronger competitor will win most of the time (not all of the time) and given equal skill a better conditioned competitor will be able to win more matches (especially in a tournament) than a less conditioned competitor.

Having a skill advantage allows you to compensate or even dominate against a strength/conditioning advantage. How much skill is needed to compensate against how much strength/conditioning is debateable but why not have both skill and strength/conditioning? (and yes there is a trade-off between carrying muscle mass, speed, and "gassing-out" - but that's a discussion for another post)

BJJ uses leverage as a "force multiplier", but there still must be some force applied. (Mathematically, this is expressed by:
M = Fd 
- where F is the force, d is the distance between the force and the fulcrum, and M is the turning force known as the moment or torque.) The magnitude of torque depends on three quantities: First, the force applied; second, the length of the lever arm connecting the axis to the point of force application; and third, the angle between the two.

In BJJ terms this means I have to be able to manipulate both my body and my opponent's body into the proper positions to gain this mechanical advantage. I have to be able to set up the lever and fulcrum/angle properly (skill) in order to get the maximum output from my applied force (strength).

The stronger I am the more my lever and fulcrum/angle can be less than optimal and still be effective. Most of us know from experience that the perfect technique we just drilled becomes slightly (or significantly) less than perfect when we roll against a fully resisiting opponent. Add in the fatigue factor and we get sloppier still.

As for the argument "isn't rolling enough?" to develop my S/C (especially conditioning). It is a good foundation and should definitely be a large component of your S/C.

BUT - rolling by itself may not be optimal. If I have limited time and energy to be my best at any endeavor, I want to "optimize" my training program. I can get stronger/more explosive by specifically coordinating my resistance training; and get a bigger "gas tank" by specifically coordinating external cardio with my rolling than I can achieve just by rolling alone.

Finally, a strength and conditioning program outside of rolling can play a major role in injury prevention. As a precursor, it prepares my body for the stress of rolling. As a supplement to rolling it allows me to generate a greater volume of work without (if done properly) the resulting wear and tear on my body (bruises, sprains, strains, contusions, and other damage from rolling) that a high volume of rolling alone would accumulate.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Quote of the Moment - Kindle the Fire

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled." ~ Plutarch

Friday, September 10, 2010

Getting the Most Out of Instructionals

Instructionals can be great tool, but just watching and taking notes doesn't do much for you. It is just like somebody showing up for 3 months of classes twice a week and just watching from the side. At the end of those 3 months they hop on the mat and find they can't really do anything. You have to do more than just watch.

For new material, you need to pick just one or two techniques and get one of your buddies to drill them with you (just like you would do in class). Go back and watch the video and continue drilling the technique(s), try it rolling with newer guys until you can add it to your arsenal on guys at your level. Rinse and repeat with a new selection of 1 or 2 techniques. It may take you 6 months or longer to work through all the techniques on a DVD (and there may be techniques on there that are just not right for your game with your body type/attributes or at your current skill level).

You can target certain holes in your game by looking for specific instructionals that address your problem area. But the drilling and adding to your game part stays the same - you have to bring it to the mat for a lot of reps before you really "get it."

Instructionals are also great for reviewing techniques you already know. It's like being able to ask your instructor "can we go over that cool kimura set-up to the half guard sweep?" in the comfort of your living room. And you can ask the question again and again and again without feeling like a complete nitwit.

One caveat concerning the stuff you may find on the internet. The quality of "instruction" can vary greatly and there are even some frequent posters on YouTube with good production values who couldn't grapple their way out of a paper bag. Try to make sure your sources are legit.

So in summary:
Pick only one or two things to work on at a time.
Take it to the mat and drill it.
Introduce it to your rolling
Rinse and repeat

Just like what you have to do with techniques you are learning with your instructor. As a final point, if you find yourself watching instructionals when you could be at class or open mat - You're doing it wrong! :-)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gi Design Contest

Well I've finally succumbed to the dark side and made a couple of entries in the big crazy-ass gi design competition put together by uber-jiujitsu bloggers Seymour Yang of Meerkatsu fame and Liam Wandi of the world renown PartTimeGrappler blog. The entries so far are available for viewing on Facebook. To say that this inventive pair have way too much time on their hands would be an understatement (and the appropriate authorities have been notified).

I like to support the people and companies that work on giving a little bit back to the jui-jitsu community and these guys are going all out. The winner will actually get their gi made courtesy of Tatami Fightwear. Can't get much cooler than that.  (click on the images for larger versions)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lucas Lepri Seminar Countdown - 17 Days

Sweet! If you are anywhere in the Southeast (Brentwood is just 15 minutes South of Nashville) this is a great opportunity to train with one of Jiu Jitsu's top competitors.

Seminar with Lucas Lepri at Brentwood Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (Flyer Here)

Saturday September 25th 12:00-3:00 (Gi Guard)
Sunday September 26th 1:00-3:00 (Gi Guard Passing)
$80 one day $120 both days

2010 Mundial Black Belt Lightweight 3rd Place
2010 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Lightweight 2nd Place
2009 No-Gi World Black Belt Lightweight Champion
2008 Grapplers Quest Pro Division Champion
2008 GQ Copa Atlatica Black Belt Champion
2008 Pan-Am Black Belt Lightweight 2nd place
2008 Mundial Black Belt Lightweight 2nd place
2007 Mundial Black Belt Lightweight 1st place
2007 CBJJE Black Belt Lightweight 1st place
2007 CBJJE Black Belt Absolute 1st place
2007 DEEP X No-Gi Superfight Champion

Flyer Here

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Judo - It's a Beautiful Thing

"Pulling Guard? I'm not pulling guard I'm just botching a Tomoe Nage."

Single and double leg takedowns are so passe. If you want to see how I'm trying to get you to the ground watch this.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lessons Learned - Always Finish the Technique

The other night I rolled with a four stripe white belt that is new to our school. We had done some drills together before but this was the first time we rolled. At the start he shot in for a low single - good technique and fast (so he was beating my sprawl), BUT just as he should have powered on through and taken me to the mat he eased up. I was able to quickly finish sprawling out and turn him into side control. I normally don't like to stop a roll to talk about something until one or the other of us taps (or I'm working with my partner on a "teaching/learning" roll), but I could have easily finished from where I was and this was too much of a "teachable moment" - the dude shoulda had me.

So I tapped from top and told him, "dude you shoulda had me on that single leg, do you know why you didn't?"

He half answered/half questioned, "because I didn't control your sprawl?"

"No," I said, "because you didn't 'finish' the technique. You're kind of driving into me but then you're letting up, like you're being "nice" during drilling. You don't have to hurt me, but you do have to go all the way through and finish the technique. Let's try it again"

I had him shoot on me again and the same thing happened, just as he should have been able to drive me to the mat he loosened up. "Freeze," I told him. "You are exactly where you need to be, nothing wrong with your execution SO FAR, but the technique isn't finished. Push on through and don't let up on your drive until you come out on top."

One more shot and he almost had it. My balance was broken and I went down, but he didn't follow me all the way for control. "Almost, let's try one more time." The next shot was textbook and he came up in side control with a big grin on his face.

"Beautiful," I told him. "Now for the rest of the roll, think about always finishing." And he did, and I should have kept my mouth shut because I had to work way harder for the rest of the roll :-).

Now for the humble pie. Looking back on all my rolls that night, I must have had at least 6 sweeps that I didn't "finish".

Question: When is a sweep not a sweep?
Answer: When you don't finish on top and get your points. He may be sitting on his butt and not trying to pass your guard any more, but you're sitting on your butt too. Fine if you want to run away, but bad if you want to finish a fight.

I noticed this was especially true with my tripod and other open guard sweeps. You often land with a lot of distance or some strange angle out of these sweeps and so you have to really pay attention to maintaining grips and following your opponent up or hustling through the transition before your opponent has an opportunity to turn it into a scramble.

I didn't seem to have this problem with butterfly or closed guard sweeps (where the sweep puts me directly into mount or side control without much thought). So I think it is a combination of being mentally lazy and not paying attention to the "finish" AND being physically lazy and not wanting to hustle through the transition.

So that first slice of "practice what you preach" pie was pretty tasty, but it was nothing compared to the second slice of "lazy" pie with extra whip cream.