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.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leaving Behind Childish Things

I rolled with a blue belt visitor the other night. It was an interesting learning experience. We were about the same height but he had 20-30 pounds on me. I shot at the start and he sprawled but I sucked the leg in and picked him up. We were too close to the wall to finish the takedown so I tapped him to let him know and we started over more in the middle of the mats.

I didn't want to fight for a second takedown so I pulled guard and locked him up. Now this is where things got "interesting." First he tried to open my guard by pressuring back and digging his elbow into my thigh. I'm thinking "okay, he's playing it safe but he surely doesn't expect this to work on another blue belt does he?" Yeah, it was unpleasant but there was no way that it was going to open my guard. So I broke his posture down and threatened a couple of chokes.

I wasn't deep enough into his collar to finish, but he was working A LOT HARDER than I was so I wasn't in any hurry to transition to something else. He got his posture back and I went to work for a triangle. Again he was burning a ton of energy trying to defend and stack me, so since I wasn't too uncomfortable despite the weight disadvantage I let him. With a mighty effort he stopped his stack and stood up, so I released the triangle and pulled him back into guard.

The next time I break his posture, he puts his forearm across my neck and starts to pressure into the classic "bully pass" and once again I'm thinking "surely he doesn't think this is going to work does he?" At this point, I'm curious about what his "game" is so I move him around for a minute or two and he simply moves from digging his elbows into my thighs when his posture is back a bit to the forearm across my neck bully pass. By now I'm thinking, "really? Does anyone really expect these types of pain passes to work on any belt other than white? Are these the only two passes this guy knows?" Apparently they were the only passes he knew so it was time to flower sweep. I consolidated mount and he tapped from exhaustion (did I mention he was working A LOT HARDER than I was).

My point (other than wanting you all to think I'm awesome :-))? Sometimes we need to let go of things that might have served us well at one point in our Jiu Jitsu journey. Bully passes and relying on strength might work at whitebelt but we have to expand our game when we get to blue, and continue making adjustments on our path to black belt.

I'm not saying that we should abandon "old" techniques for "new" techniques, but rather that we need to keep the techniques in our arsenal that work at the black belt level as well as white. We should constantly be evaluating our game and making sure that we continuously refine it. We should examine our rolls against higher ranking students on the mats and constantly look at what is working in black belt matches at the world level. Even though we like our toys, sometimes we need to leave behind childish things...