27 August 2010

Denial vs Permission

yes_you_can One of the main things I’ve been looking at is the ability to use my grips effectively.  It’s tough to break someone down in the guard.  Naively we start out trying to pull the person down, then pull the person down while disrupting their posts, finally pull the person down while disrupting their posts and using your legs. I was okay at this, generally I was strong than most people, and all those three things made it easy for me.  However it’s a hard fight, and I’m trying to re-assess every part about how I think and perform in Jiu-Jitsu.

So I give them what they want now. I saw a very nice video of Renzo Gracie showing how to get a really deep grip from guard – unfortunately I can’t find it anymore! In essence the technique was to get up on one elbow and straight-arm push the persons shoulder with your other arm.  They react by pushing back, which in turns gives you the nice deep grip from guard. 

The principal behind the technique is more interesting though. He wants the deep grip, he them what they want to actually get what he wants…the deep grip.  So for me I’ve found pushing the person away, and threatening to do a sitting roll over sweep or switch out really forces them to willing come forward breaking their own posture.  Even once I’ve got the grip now, I try threaten their posture in all other directions including back, left and right.  If they aren’t stable, they fall over and I get an easy sweep.  Generally though, they have to react to keep stable, and that reaction is what I’m learning to exploit.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, once you’ve got the grip attack their base with it.  Don’t resist what they are doing, but take it to the extreme end of what they are doing.  If they want to try to break your grip, no problem as they push your hand away, you can release your grip and pull their arm for an arm drag.  If they sit back, no problem go with it and push them backwards.  If they try to hunker down, no problem…pull them in tight and attempt to submit them, above all force a reaction game to occur. 

Don’t fight in the opposite direction, use what they are giving you.  If the person really wants to sit up well you might as well give him what he wants and more – it’s not like you are easily going to be able to break that guys posture down as he will try to deny you that.  Instead don’t deny him the ability to keep posturing up,  give him permission by pushing him away in such a way that he no longer wants to sit up.  Guarantee they won’t expect it, as our natural reaction is one of denial and not permission.

24 August 2010

Get a Grip

ice-cream-flavors Sometimes choice is a bad thing.  Ever gone to an ice-cream store and been inundated by choice,  so many flavours and textures.  The saturation of choice often leaves me confused,  over-whelmed and unable to make a decision.  Needless to say I’ll branch out to include chocolate and occasionally mango or a berry flavours…and that’s it. What you won’t get out of me is choosing the pineapple chunks with Rhubarb choice! So I choose chocolate except there are 5 different types of chocolate which involves even more choices and decisions,  if I take the “World Class” one I’m then left feeling that I might have missed the better “traditional” choice..

As you can see, where I’m from ice-cream selection is serious business.  Jui-Jitsu is similar,  often times I will flounder in guard trying to break the guy down and just not get anywhere.  I was taught this was step 1, but my breaking down had zero focus on grips and so I floundered.  I didn’t think about grips or have a go to grip, and because of that I stalled and never committed to one. I was left with whatever grips fell into my hands so to speak.  This lead me to have a very hard game for me to analyse and improve on.  I had zero consistency and for a long time couldn’t figure out why.

As such, I’ve gone back to basics in this area.  That is I will try to get either the same gi or no-gi grip and that’s it. I only train with Gi btw.  I am slowly finding this is a good way to really delve deeply into the details.  It’s far less confusing as I know what my choice is and I can focus on getting it reliably and what the likely problems are that I will encounter.  The great thing about this is, if a person is really stuffing my grip I’ll ask them to show me what they are doing and can we drill it, then I ask them to help find the counter to the counter!

It’s slow work for me,  I don’t have time to dedicate to BJJ every day but I do want to improve.   Another aspect is that I previously thought of grips as just my hands/arms.  Also, I now realise that my legs/feet are grips too, often equally if not more important than my hands.  I now look at closed guard as a grip with my legs, or mount as a grip with my legs and feet. 

So my basic tip is this.  Pick a grip, a fundamental and basic grip and make it your go to grip. Use it, explore and understand every nuance of it and every counter to the counter-grips people might employ.  Above all else, get a grip!


19 August 2010

Path of Least Resistance

Traffic-Jam_web Hands up those who have experienced peak hour traffic on their drive home.  The annoyance of seeing the other lane travelling way faster and thinking “Damn, I’m in the wrong lane”. Well  I’ve got my drive to and from work down to a fine art.  Through trial and error I know the quickest route home guaranteed.  I’ve got it down to an art that even includes which lane to be in when for which intersection to and from work. This might seem excessive, but different intersections have different blocking points for different lanes – I’m not talking swapping lanes every 300m, just a few times but that makes all the difference.  For one intersection it might be the left lane, for another the right lane.
A person who uses a GPS from my place to work would probably be 5-10 minutes slower than me purely because of poor lane selection.  So “mimicking” someone else's route in the hope of emulating them isn’t going to work without critical thinking and timing.
The same principle applies to BJJ.  Finding those paths of least resistance, and almost anticipating them before they happen takes a lot of time and attention to detail.  I’m slowly learning this,  unfortunately I’m still stuck in the “Oh crap, I should have gone into that lane”.
For me, one aspect is that of using my hips to do the work for me.  From day one I’ve had it spoken to death, but emulating everyone else I fell into similar traps.  While we all knew that, do you think we really did that in an active wrestle?  Take breaking open someone’s closed guard by using your hips and knee to force them open.  It works sometimes, but you get these strong persistent guys that just hold on for dear life. For me it turned into a battle of muscle.  Could I muscle their hips to the ground while pushing that knee down or could they slide up and just keep resisting.
Well a break through occurred last night, and that was try to break their guard using your hips and if that fails transitioning to the other side to repeat the same movement, the effect is cumulative in the space generated between your hips.  There are more subtle details but my partner (massively strong legs) just could not resist as more and more space is generated between our hips.  The advantage was it also took zero effort on my behalf.
As a matter of course now when I do “In-the-Hole” training, as soon as I meet resistance and I can’t progress I stop and ask to drill that exact move to find out how to progress without effort – which then increases both mine and my partners understanding of the mechanics.  In this case the path of least resistance needed good weight balance, hip movement and timing. I consider these nuggets of gold little wins for me that are slowly contributing to me re-building my game from the ground up (no pun intended) one pathway at a time. 
So keep  in mind next time you roll that if you’re using muscle, then you are practicing “Wrestling” and not Jiu-Jitsu.

18 August 2010

Rickson Gracie Seminar Qld

Rickson Gracie Well I’m extremely excited.  Just confirmed that Rickson Gracie is coming to Australia and he will be doing a seminar in QLD.   I’ve already paid and booked but it’s still 6 weeks away and I’m sure I won’t be able to sleep – I’m as excited as a fat kid in a candy store!

I’m really going to focus on improving my own understanding of the basics – Upa, Closed Guard, Scissor Sweeps,  Mount transitions and cross collar choke for the next 6 weeks.  From what I’ve seen and searched for it seems he goes right into depth with concepts and application of these techniques and more.  No flashy tricks or techniques, just good solid basics – exactly the way I like to think about things.

It will be really interesting to see the man himself in action, and hear first hand his philosophy on Jiu-Jitsu.  His core concepts on invisible Jiu-Jitsu and the finer points of the beautiful art.


17 August 2010

Weight Distribution is basic.

strawcamel Something that I’ve used averagely to my advantage in the past is my weight. – unfortunately it’s never been in a focused way.   As part of my going back to basics I have been thinking a lot about what makes up the true basics of BJJ.  Is it a set of 30-40 techniques or is it a smaller set of concepts?

When a person starts out on their BJJ journey they discover a range of techniques ranging from hip escapes (shrimping), to simple arm bars, simple guard sweeps and simple transitions.  I call these simple because they are often taught very simply, and without sufficient detail and practise to work against a seasoned veteran.  So when we get to active rolling we discover all sorts of issues that weren’t covered. For example, the cross choke from mount. Often I see examples such as this for teaching the move.

  1. From mount, open the lapel
  2. Slide your right hand up the lapel (fingers in)  getting a deep grip behind the neck
  3. etc etc

What happens when I can’t get past step two?  Do I need step 1?  It’s hard getting a deep grip against someone that knows what you are trying to achieve.  Try as I might for ages, there were people that were outstanding at defending the neck.  I made a mistake,  I was going for the technique without applying the concepts. I was stuck trying to thrust and out muscle my opponent to get the deep grip, when actually I needed to use some principals of jui-jitsu.

So I spent many weeks experimenting on using my weight to get the grip for me.  Not only can I get the grip quite comfortably now (against an active resisting person who knows the counters to the counters) I also feel like my mount is 10 times more stable against attack. 

How, by using a simple concept of letting my weight do the hard work for me. By locking my grip elbow into their sternum (weight down and to the left) and using my hips (weight forward) to drive my hand forward getting the deeper grip. Let your hip via good weight distribution do the work for you. There are a lot more details and concepts involved, but instead of more details I will say think about where your weight is at all times, and how to apply your weight in a focused way to achieve what you want and spoil what they want ( such as bridge and roll).

I believe the same concept exists when defending, thinking about where their weight is, and how to use it against them.  Now when I train I’m always feeling and thinking about weight distribution and how I can exploit it.  It’s a learning process.

Happy problem solving.


13 August 2010

Basics are far from Simple

atomSmallWhy is it we all get caught up in the latest and greatest technique,  it’s going to change your game, why because no body knows it yet. Inverted Triangles, Brabo-Chokes, Gogoplatas, Mission Control,  X-Guard,  De La Riva, Reverse Arm bars from back control…the list goes on.

In my time leading up to getting my blue belt I noticed a trend with my school, and all other schools around it.  It seemed that every week we were learning something new, 5 new submissions,  4 new De La Riva Sweeps, then 3 new Half-Guard Sweeps.  Crazy names for them all.  In the course of a month I probably learnt 25 “new” submissions and 15 new sweeps along with practicing from 4 different guards.

Each lesson I would think, wow this really works.  Everyone else would think the same thing.  Then, inevitable the counter would be discovered and before we knew it we were moving onto the next “new” technique since that old one no longer worked in rolling against our peers.

So what happened, over the course of my time I amassed quite a few techniques, and yet I was a master at none.  After 2 years training my game was convoluted and often revolved around tricks the opponent didn’t know.  I could get submissions, usually lots of Kimura’s against lower levels, but we never studied the basics again except in beginner classes and that was only at a simplistic level.

Basics techniques work, anyone who doubts this just needs to watch Roger Gracie against other World Champions.  They just don’t work in the simple way they are generally taught. Everyone should have been taught a X-Choke from mount within the first few weeks,  yet how many people can do it even against a person of equal or greater skill and size that knows it’s coming?

I came across this great interview with Ryan Hall and how he is rebuilding his entire game around the basics.


So I wanted this blog for myself, being an older, slower grappler that doesn’t have the time or inclination to spend 10+hrs a week on training.

It’s time for myself to start training smarter and not harder.