Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Self-discovery

We all train for different reasons, and with different methods. All I know, the more I train, the more I find jiu-jitsu is about self-discovery.

My journey as a beginner white belt was all about creating distance between my partner and myself. I saw guard playing as more challenging, so that's what I focused on. In the beginning, it was all about surviving from side control. I had no guard. Then, as the months flew by, my fights were happening in a defensive half-guard. As soon as I discovered how to be offensive, I was hooked on spider guard. Note the increase of distance between my partner and myself. I was unsure of myself and keen on survival. My Bjj was about defense and creating angles for a sweep.

When I got my blue belt, my confidence started building. I discovered spider guard is pretty hard to play against most people since my legs weren't long enough for putting proper pressure, so I focused a lot on de la riva type techniques. As even more time passed, I closed the distance even more, preferring a type of open guard based on a cross sleeve lapel guard from which it evolved into cross lapel straight sleeve. I built a little game around that and called it a day.

Then one day, it struck me. I was in denial this whole time. My body type is perfect for a close type of bjj. Be it x guard, single leg x or butterfly was all I needed. Mainly because my cross lapel straight sleeve grips were still useful. The only modification I had to make is move my outer hook between the person's knees. That's exactly where I am now, and everything seems to connect from there. From knee picks to armdrags to loop and cross chokes, to overhead sweeps to x guard, it was aaaal there. The only missing piece of the puzzle seems to be a good defensive butterfly guard. That's exactly what I'm working on right now, and I can't wait to see how far this will take me. I just need to get passed another few hundred times, and I just might start building a coherent guard.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Purple

I guess that at some point at blue belt, everyone hits a significant plateau, and will ask themselves honestly what are they aiming for, why should they keep walking through that door given that they are not getting better. At that point, everybody has to find a personal, yet very strong reason for training, or they will quit. My personal reason might not be good enough for you. 

For me, there are two reasons that motivate me 1. Jiu-jitsu is worth sharing and 2. I can't think of a more useful and fun form of work-out.

Jiu-jitsu is worth sharing, means that there is always something to be learned, and that brings people together. The art is that good. It puts everyone on the same level : everyone is a student, exchanging techniques ! It just feels right. BJJ doesn't belong to any one individual or group. It's a living thing : it grows and evolves with every sparring match, formal class or informal discussion. 

We all know we have to work out. Our physical bodies demand it. As a species, we are inherently competitive, aggressive people. We're hunters gatherers at heart. I think safe martial arts with a live sparring component, can and should be practiced for long periods of time without any major injuries. I can think of Judo and BJJ as examples. Not only do I get a damn good workout, but I also learn self-defense, know my body, build networks, etc.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last competition... at blue belt

So I had a blast competing at the submission arts United tournament this weekend. I did a little better than I expected. Finished first place in the lightweight division. I didn't spend much effort doing my fights. I have tried to use technique take keep impose my game. I was actually fresh after the second fight. it was also fun to encourage my teamates as well. I cannot say I have learned much by doing this competition. However it was pretty fun.

As training goes I realize technique actually matters more than strength.   however good grips are extremely necessary. I have actually started playing with the butterfly guard.  my guard retention is actually going up. It doesn't come is easy as my typical guard however it is pretty satisfying.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New perspective

I am finally making even more progress linking moves together when attacking. If the opponent goes one way, he exposes something. If he overcompensates on the other side, he gives me something else.

I have also rediscovered the crosschoke once again, getting it from open guard. I've been focusing a lot on breaking posture properly, with a deep grip, and that opens up the choke all the time.

I also am working on a new option for when the person is scared of the scissor sweep : the knee pick. I also work on options for DLR with belt grip. Learned that the proper hand placement is about triangling the person's knee between my forearm and knee. All in all, lots and lots of details to stuff I thought I knew. Even armbars from the back I improved, techniques I rarely use. Some of this stuff I steal from other people, some of it I discover myself. Anyways, whenever I learn a new technique, I really pick it apart and try to understand it properly.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Natural talent


I have never experienced natural talent before these couple of weeks. We
all put the time in, and for the most part, mat time is king. However,
every couple of years, some freak of nature walks in. He doesn't understand
or respect established norms and just blazes past everyone else, just
because he can. It remains to be seen if talent is combined with a healthy
dose of serious work, for otherwise talent is meaningless. I truly hope
that these natural athletes pave the way to better Jiujutsu and better
sports in general: it is their job, their destiny or whatever else you want
to call it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Natural talent

I have never experienced natural talent before these couple of weeks. We all put the time in, and for the most part, mat time is king. However, every couple of years, some freak of nature walks in. He doesn't understand or respect established norms and just blazes past everyone else, just because he can. It remains to be seen if talent is combined with a healthy dose of serious work, for otherwise talent is meaningless. I truly hope that these natural athletes pave the way to better Jiujutsu and better sports in general: it is their job, their destiny or whatever else you want to call it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bit of a down

Hit some sort of psychological low today, most likely due to mental fatigue. Trained only one hour today, to let myself rest up for tomorow. Had some very nice rolls with very technical people, and I learned new stuff again, as usual. I used Fred's side control technique successfully I learned yesterday, and it works.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A great training week

So this marks the second week I train using my new methodology. I am again starting to learn from every class and every Roll. Vas just taught me two things again. I can break a strong half guard with my elbow in between his legs instead of on top or I can sprawl but most importantly free my toes on the side I want to pass.

Last time I practiced my kimura escapes and today my balance. I am starting to get better again.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's not just about myself anymore !

I genuinely think of ways to improve my teaching. Different students have different needs, but the technique needs to be shown once for everybody. Should I use increasing levels of detail, or decreasing? How many times do I need to repeat a specific detail (either verbally or visually) ? Should I try to show the move five times instead of 3, but the last two repetitions without any explanation ? Questions, questions and more questions.

On the other side of the curtains, I realize more and more that I use the same moves (Which incidentally work well for me) over and over again. I know when to use a certain move, and I know what opportunities I create by having a certain move fail. My repertoire is pretty limited, but it's growing, I'm consciously linking more and more moves together. I have favorite grips from certain positions, and I'm dangerous with them. Well, dangerous is a big word... I'm functional.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Enough techniques!

I have come to realize that there are many many variations for each move in brazilian jiu-jitsu. Maybe there are too many for someone to master them all in a competitive environment. At the same time, I believe that one should practice whatever move the professor or instructor shows in a particular day, not because you have to master them all, but because you have to know what is possible with a given set of grips. For example, I didn't know the bottom of the lapel can be used in so many ways up to now : It's truly unbelievable.

So I have come to the conclusion that I should refine what I already know, in order to get better. For example, when doing the knee slide pass, I am now using a different grip than before, and it seem so to help in flattening the guy out for the pass. Progress isn't as obvious as when I was a white belt, but on the flip-side, my jiu-jitsu is getting more focused, more precise, more predictable and more controlled.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

New technique !

I have chosen to develop and integrate a new technique shown to us by Thiago tonight. It's a back take from turtle that I've wanted to learn for the longest time. From the seatbelt, put the back of your neck as close to the far shoulder as you can, to pivot the person's weight over your own body. Very much leverage, and very cool back take. Used it in sparring, and by god it works!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Took a good beating

As childish as it may seem, I sometimes care about getting tapped left and right. This is notthe mentalityI had when I made mybiggest improvements as whiye belt. Instead, I focused on what made the tap possible in the first place. This 200 lbs brown belt who is a good person, does go for the kill every round. Ive realized myguard is not as good as I am made believe by my partners, and I have years of practice before it will be brown belt level.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18th

After a little while of thinking over a problem I'm having, I have come up with a new sweep. I mean it's new to me, as in I've never seen it applied, but someone somewhere may have developed it as well. I probably just do it a little differently. My bread and butter is to switch a lot between the tripod sweep and knee push scissor sweep. I also notice people defend the knee push sweep by basing the leg in a combat base type position. Sometimes it's hard to get a DLR hook in there. I've actually inspired myself from sweeps I've seen elsewhere to make this one up. Grab the same grips as if you were doing a tripod sweep, but the leg on the side of the controlled arm will push on the knee which is supporting the combat base, whereas the other leg is pushing to the right. In all honesty, I have to test it against white belts first, and see if it goes anywhere.

A second thing I've noticed is how some people defend the tripod sweep. They turn their hips perpendicular to my guard, and I have to take advantage of that, probably with a deep DLR hook for a back take.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New focus

I've decided to re-focus my energy to maintaining the top position, instead of just gunning for the submission right away. I find that when in a bad position, people will try their escapes two or three times, then give up. The better players await for the top guy to make a move,then apply for something. This second category is trickier to control, since you might think you've defeated them mentally, but in fact they're just baiting you into trying something.

I will continue sweeping from my guard, though, but I want to get the side/mount position and hold it as much as possible, while making the guy's life hard so he makes mistakes.

When playing guard, I will let people pass or sweep me first, then let them apply for a submission, so I can practice my submission defence and escapes. It's no use beating everyone up all the time if I'm not learning much. The point is to maximize learning, not taps.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Integrated a new technique tonight!

Thanks to my training partners, I've started integrating a new technique into my arsenal. The most exciting one, is the tomoe-nage from DLR. I start off with my regular 2 on 1 grip. If people choose to stand up square to me, I grab the same side lapel and wait for whenever they start pushing into me to sweep them to mount. If they decide to come back on the ground, I've seen people put the same side knee down, opening up the scissor sweep with the knee push. Exciting times!

Secondly, I've started integrating two new passes : the over-under pass, with a deep belt grip, and a near side overhook half guard pass, which prepares an armbar once the pass is complete. Doubly exciting times!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The path to the purple belt.

It's been over a year I've got my blue belt, and so far, I've trained two years and a half, give or take. In the last year, I've trained quite a bit, and very regularly. I've been exposed to quite a bit of styles and moves, and gone through several stages so far. As new people would get their blue belts, I see them going through the same stages, so as a way for me to remember a few years from now how I've evolved, I'm writing it down.

First, I am a four stripe white belt. I submit weaker blues and start learning the bad spots, and how to avoid them. With time and patience, I feel the need to prove myself, so I kick ass as much as I can, with whoever I roll. People start to learn my name, and I'm kind of semi-officially part of the team. As weeks go by, I don't get any sort of promotions, but I know it's coming, Eventually, i stop thinking about it, and just stfu and train (hello ilovebjj.com!). Finally, I get called in front of the class for a speech and a new belt. The belt feels a bit weird, and I'm not even sure I deserve it. My ego was smashed quite a bit in the last few weeks. I seem to get worse and worse. But hey, it's a new belt, that's it.

So I get my fresh new blue belt, the class is over, and it hasn't seen war yet. The next day comes, and everything stops mattering. People start smashing through my guard, putting on evil cross faces, whatever. I don't really care, I am a blue belt after all. I just defend the submissions. I am completely open to new techniques, and my mind is like a sponge (hello prof. Bruno!), learning whatever comes, and practicing everything without questioning. As weeks go by, I accumulate more and more techniques.

At some point, something completely crazy happens. I find out this golden move, and god DAMN it works on everyone! Even higher belts get caught occasionally. For me, it's the basic scissor sweep. People start noticing, and I get a reputation for having a good guard. I sweep people some more, for a few weeks. Eventually, people get fed up, and develop a defence. Suddenly, the sweep gets much harder to do, people defend one move ahead of me. At that point, I kind of fake I forgot about it, and find a new move to complement the first one. I research DVD's and youtube for using my partner's reaction the best I can. I learn from the best these few options, DLR with knee on the ground, for instance, but it requires me to give up my super grip. This move is lower percentage, but it has so many options, it's insane. People get tangled in variations for a while. THey don't know what the fuck is happening, Andrei is getting better again, and again, they find the cure : stand up. Again, I have to adapt, because people just opened up the door to a whole new world : playing open guard with the opponent standing up. I realize that there's another killer move that works wonders for me : tripod sweep, and yet another : DLR to omoplata to tripod. People start noticing again, and they brace for that as well. This time however, I realize people stopped passing my guard a long time ago, and my reputation grows again. Everyone in the gym knows about my guard, because I train all the time.

Finally, I realize I've neglected my passing and my defence. What do I do ? I choose my rolls. If I know the guy, usually because I've humbled him enough in the past, I let him start form turtle/side/ back control and go from there. That's the stage I am at now.

Now, I see other guys going through the same motions as me. They find a move, it works on everybody, then people find defences, then they add a second or third move to it, find a few options, then people shut down their games, then they evolve again.

If a guy has a good move, He'll know how to suck me into it, and I usually find a way to kill it. If the guy is a higher belt, and I don't know him, I play a defensive/stalling guard. If it's a higher belt and I know him, I let him try new stuff, because he does the same for me. If it's a lower belt or the same belt, or I don't know the guy, A-game smashing time. After a few humblings (whatever the direction), he either gets put in the good training partners bin, potential good training partners bin, the kill list, or the avoidance list.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12th

Felt rather out of my element for training. Chose to not play guard, but let my training partners advance positionally on me, and let them transition to whatever. The more I let them move, the more I caught them doing some sort of mistake which allowed me to reverse or take their backs. In a dominant position, I didn't let them escape easily. I actually got someone in an armbar as he was trying to upa out of it, for example. I feel as I take more pleasure out of a  beautiful transition than a pure submission. I know it's weird, but that's what it is.

Another cool thing I've discovered, is the power of the kimura, even when someone is passing my guard, I can hold it to force a backtake. Awesome stuff.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 28th

Very good training session today. For the past few weeks, I felt as if I was getting a bit cocky, just by my choice of training partners. I wasn't choosing enough people who either give me a hard time, or kick my ass. As a result, I wanted to reinforce that image of myself, and I kept choosing the same people I could beat easily. I was doing it half-consciously, but then I realized I actually need to get some really hard rounds to evolve.

I've realized that people keep getting insanely better, and I might start losing my "edge", whatever that means. To break out of the vicious cycle, which I could very well call a slump or whatever, I've decided to use way less strength than usual, and learn to flow more, most of the rounds, keeping my energy for those partners with extremely superior cardio, such as Olivier.

So I've tapped a few times today, mainly to either being out-manouvered by sheer skill or by speed, and I definitely don't think that was a bad choice of mindset. I feel I had a much better training session in this mindset than before, since guys actually get a chance to try their moves quite a bit more (I'm not forcing them into my game/guard whatever anymore with strength, etc), and I'm starting to learn once again.

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 20

I feel as if I use way too much effort into huting for one technique and not flowing enough. I work in combination. Just as my friend Valentin keeps sayng over and over, I should develop the ability to flow from 1 2 3 back to 1 again. That would be a concrete breakthrough. For the moment, I do have a few positions for which I have sequences, but what I really need to do is to develop those second and third moves right. Give them the importance they deserve and put it through my thick head that I can get them as well as my first option.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 15 314th class

Coached a rather large class today, in fundamentals. Taught the second side control escape, when the opponent is blocking the hip with his hand. The escape honestly works wonders for me, and I definitely like teaching it. 

I've discovered two things that work for myself quite well. From closed guard, try to bring one arm across. When they pull their arm back, use that momentum for a sweet hip bump sweep. Don't fight the movement :-) Secondly, I see a little shift back to the mount as my favourite position, both the technical and the S-Mount. The armlocks and transitions to the back are quite plentiful from there.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February 7th

As far as choosing rolling partners goes, I think higher belts should take precedence over lower belts, simply because they have trained much longer. For example, a white belt should never ask a brown belt to roll. The brown belt should have the choice between training partners, as a privilege he gained over the years. He knows what kind of rolling partner he needs next, in order to progress. The argument goes like this.

There are fewer higher belts than lower.
Higher belts need specific training partners for specific drills, depending on whatever they're working on.
Higher belts, as opposed to lower belts, know which partner to choose, through experience : i.e. such and such has a good guard, I need to try this guard pass on someone with a good guard.
Higher belts need to improve as much as lower belts.
Thus, to give higher belts the chance to improve the most, we must allow them to choose their partners first.

Here, higher belt probably means purple and up.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 12th 290th class

Excellent class today! Had the chance to roll with prof. Rodolphe, and he quite amazed me with the smoothness of his game. He really DOES know enough technique to actually sweep the living jeezus out of you any time he feels like it, or more like when you put any sort of resistance, he HELPS you get there, in a very weird way. Got swept with the same sweep three times. He got the Smount out of which I muscled to a triangle, omoplata, then his setup, then back to square one.

Asked a white belt which whom I was sparring to hit me a bit when I go for the hip throw,as well as I'm on the bottom of the closed guard. Turns out he was a wrestler as well. Cool stuff, hope I didn't piss off the instructor.

Monday, January 9, 2012

January 9th 289 class

Coached a Huge class of probably something like 50 people. Blue belts with stripes and up took a line all by themselves, and the white belts and lower blues another whole lane. Crazy insane. David had a nice idea of having everyone break fall in one direction only, so people don't fall on each other's heads : a good idea indeed.

Showed the break fall, technical standup, flower/pendulum sweep and the arm bar from there. For next time, I have to insist even more on breaking the person's posture with the free leg (under the armpit), and insist on bringing the person's weight on top for the sweep to work.

Had a few very slow rolls in the advanced class, but we only rolled every second round, due to too many people being on the mats. 

In black belt class, we worked on  Z guard passes : the key is a level change pass with opens up a knee slide. If the hook stays in, go around in either direction, but keep pressure on the person with your hips.