24 February 2011

Training with Injuries can lead to Innovation

So I’m starting to get a bit bruised and battered with all the training I’m doing.  My finger is broken and my ribs on one side are very tender and sore.  The ribs are what really worry me.  It’s my Achilles heel of injuries. Previously I’ve been sidelined for 2 stints of 3 months because of the ribs. Having a separated rib is not a pleasant experience – anyone who has felt the pop and tear will attest to this.  The recovery is very slow and the mobility you have is very limited.  The current injury is in the same area as the previous ones, however for now it’s not as serious.

There are certain injuries that are easy to work around, and others that aren’t.  The broken finger for example was remarkable easy.  I’d just tape the thing up to another finger nice and tight and not use too many grips.  I used it as an opportunity to work on alternate methods for controlling such as underhooks and overhooks.

The ribs, well, they are more insidious.  Everything in BJJ is connected to your core body movement.  The ribs are central in that they are affected by anything your core does like twist, hip escape, turn.   Once injured they become the weak link in the chain for your body.

On the flip side I don’t want to go for weeks without training.  This injury probably will take me about 3 weeks to fully recover and if I’m not careful I could be out for another 3 months.  So, with that in mind I once again will have to modify my training.

I haven’t got any concrete ideas yet on what I should be doing but I’ve got some initial thoughts on it.

  • Limit live sparring
  • Turn live sparring into a positional drill
  • Tell my partners “No Knee Rides”, “Knee-In armbars” or rib pressure.
  • Ask to improve my top attack game, to limit the pressure on my ribs.  In the hole training…

I like the last point.  Anything underneath is going to hurt quite a bit and potential lead to a greater injury.  Still I understand that some people don’t like to have it all one way.  Hopefully some people will like the challenge of escaping to a better position and starting again. While I will have the challenge of start in side control and submit or get and control the back for 20 seconds.

I want to have goals that progress my BJJ and give me something to work for each class. The nice thing about being restricted in what I can and can’t do is it gives you an opportunity to innovate and become creative.  You can actually incorporate these restrictions into your goals.  Having restrictions is a good thing for BJJ and life.  

So my opponent can’t knee ride and arm bar.  Okay, so they have to innovate and come up with different attacks and controls.  I can’t be on bottom.  Okay, so I’ll make goals such as taking the back.  I’ll work on submissions and attacks that don’t increase the injury to my ribs.  My finger is broken,  okay so I’ll work on controls that don’t use Gi grips. 

So with these restrictions I’m going to look forward to training. As long as I have supportive partners and I obey the restrictions I’ve imposed I’m sure I can still improve my BJJ in a safe manner.

Time to put on the problem solving hat.


18 February 2011

Rickson Gracie teaching vs Damien Maia and Xande Ribiero


Showing Escapes from Armbar–However the arm bar has a critical basic flaw…

Fast forward to about 1.30 into this clip and watch Xande put on the arm bar.  Notice how he jams his foot directly under the shoulder and his knee’s naturally fall out towards the persons leg.  You often hear people say squeeze your knees.  With that foot jammed in, you can’t do that correctly. You can’t effectively squeeze your knees together because that inside legs angle which is critical for control is wrong.

This is why this sweep looks so easy off of a very poor knee in arm bar attempt.  If Xande instead had his foot embedded closer to the hip and was then squeezing his knees then the escape would have been much more difficult as the angle of his shin would come across the ribs into the armpit.  The inside knee allows you to control the person, but to do that you need the right angle so you control their hip and ribs.  The top leg across their face is actually less important than the one behind.

Don’t believe me?  Well would you believe Rickson Gracie showing it through demonstration?

Go to the 8 minute mark

The audio is poor but the demonstration is clear.  If you get the knee angle wrong they can escape easily.  What I like about this series of video’s is the simplicity in the technique, it’s pure and not fancy.  I tried this particular issue last night in live full resistance wrestles against equal size and level partners.   I was able to easily hold the bigger person down and nullify his escapes.

I’ve used this series as the blue print for rebuilding my game, I might not know all the technical details but most importantly I’m trying to flow.  Rickson makes it very clear numerous times – you always have another option to go to if they try to block something.  It’s working amazingly well.  Some of the senior guys in class have commented on how my Jiu-Jitsu has skyrocketed in the last month.  To me,  I have one person to thank and that is Rickson Gracie – never met the man but this one series has transformed my entire game.

As for Damien Maia and Xande Ribiero concealing fundamental techniques that they know from others that have paid to attend tuition from them.  I don’t have much time for people that hide and deceive critical basic technical details from their students.  To me that’s the same as committing fraud or at the very least lying.  Two traits that are very unbecoming of a Martial Artist.

I don’t want to learn some fancy pass that will only work against a poor quality arm bar.  I’m sure that it works. Personally if I was at that seminar I would have preferred to be shown the correct way to keep people in control with the Knee-In Arm bar or what to do when you are caught in a technically correct Knee-In arm bar. 

When in doubt, ask this question: “What would Rickson do?” 

Happy rolling.

11 February 2011

Fluidity as a Basic Concept

Continuing on my theme from the last couple of posts I wanted to talk more about fluidity. This is another area I’ve studying from all BJJ video’s I could find on Rickson Gracie.  What does fluidity mean in BJJ.  Watch any video’s of most top BJJ practitioners– past and present.  Then watch two white belts or two blue belts at your gym.  Invariable one will have lots of movement…the other very little and lots of stalling.

I’m going to argue that the big difference isn’t in the amount of technique a blue vs high level belt knows but the core difference is in how they roll and create opportunities. A part of that is the use of triggers.  Beginners learn techniques but aren’t wired yet to instinctively know the triggers and what to do.  A beginner is all intent and zero opportunity.

Using this principle I’ve totally gone against  Cross Face from side control.  I can’t stand it any more as it doesn’t create opportunity.  The position anchors the top person onto the bottom person.  Making it hard for either person to move or work.  It’s this type of position that restricts fluidity.  As a person on top what option have I left the bottom person.  None.  So what is he going to do, keep tight and defend.

Everyone quickly learns the lesson of elbows in and protecting the neck.  So you aren’t going to get what you want, unless you give the other person what they want.  The other person wants the opportunity to escape.  To this extent, use less pressure (pressure for pressures sake)  when on side control and mount.  Become more mobile and use your hips to deflect their arms and stop their escapes thus creating opportunities for yourself. 

For myself I’m putting into practise triggers.  Depending what the person on bottom is trying to do, I’m trying to find very simple answers to that.  The end result is many opportunities for submissions arise and now I’m getting many submissions every roll if I get on top.

So I’m happy with my progress in this area.  Each training session I’m becoming more fluid  and more dangerous  with my attacks.  To do this I’ve eased up on the pressure, relaxed and concentrate on breathing and moving in reaction to whatever the opponent gives me.

Here are some tips I’ve been using myself when on top attacking:

  • Never Cross face (shoulder of justice) from side control, it locks you to your opponent.  Good for points, bad for everything else.
  • Never use excessive pressure – it locks your opponent so they can’t move and therefore can’t create opportunities for you.
  • Don’t get into static escape fights– you engage in arm battles instead of redirection with hips and movement to stop your opponent escaping.
  • Don’t try to force a particular submission – only go for it once the setup opportunity has arisen.
  • Switch hips to redirect pressure from escapes.
  • Keep moving at a nice easy RELAXED pace.  Use a 3 second rule so you don’t stall.  Stalling is just another word for a loss of opportunity, trying moving and switching your hips when you feel stalled.

10 February 2011

Rickson Gracie Side Control Analysis

I was watching some Rickson Gracie Seminar’s over the last couple of weeks.  One aspect I’ve been really trying to hone and rethink is my side control all the way to mount or submission.  One thing I’ve noticed when Rickson rolls is just uses whatever the opponent gives him.  He has very fluid hip movement and doesn’t use any strength to hold a person down.

I’ve noticed at my school and many people I train with is they have one thing in common from side control.  They love the cross face (shoulder pushing into face).  While this keeps a person pinned it really doesn’t achieve much else.  It’s difficult to attack and you expend lots of energy.  To top it off the person will naturally want to be tight and not give you much because you haven’t give him much.

Instead what I’ve seen is that Rickson prefers to keep a short base side control with both arms on the other side of the opponent.  The difference is, he isn’t static.  If someone pushes his hip near their head he will switch base towards their head.  Likewise if they push his far hip or leg (the one near their leg) he will switch base and look to quickly take mount.

He will keep going around to the head and back to side control looking for any opening.  Always attacking, always moving.  However it’s the small details that make a big difference.  Switching hips, breathing, not using strength.  Lots of feints, letting the opponent trying to move a bit.  Going around to the head, he will keep his head pushing into the chest. That is, up until he has the reverse underhook locked up.  Then it’s game over with the arm bar.

I’ve been trying a similar strategy of keeping my hips moving, searching for the elbows, going to mount if the opportunity arises.  It’s proving quite effective.  I know a couple of posts ago I was bemoaning the fact that this was suppose to be the gentle art.  I’m starting to notice my top game is becoming that.  So far every time I’ve got top position (side control or mount) I’ll end up getting the arm bar!  Against blues, whites and against massive guys (120KG) full of muscles.

So much to learn. My next step is to take the side control flow and utilise a similar strategy for mount.  All the while looking for this arm bars.

Flow with the go!  Winking smile

07 February 2011

Ginastica Natural

So I’m starting to get more into Ginastica Natural.  In fact, for now I’ve removed all weights training and replaced it with half hour of cardio and half hour of ginastica natural.  I’m hoping that over the long term I’ll start to see improvements in my flexibility and hopefully fluidity in my Jiu-jitsu.

I certainly feel better after committing half hour to these movements.  It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to solo BJJ.  So instead of talking lots about it I will instead update my blog about once a month with my progress.   At the moment I’m just taking the movements and stretching components.  Perhaps in the future I will look at some of the breathing applications.

03 February 2011

The Gentle Art

Doesn’t feel that gentle when I’m against a resisting opponent.

This is the crux of a great deal of issues for a lot of problems.  What’s the point of dominating a live roll if you are exhausted at the end of it.  I completely burned myself out in a roll the other day.  Against someone who is very strong and fairly well versed in not doing anything stupid like exposed arms etc.

So for me,  I feel totally inadequate.  I don’t have sharp technique to take advantage of timing.  I get into strength battles.  I’m currently trying to improve my arm bars.  I’m now finding people see the setups coming and defend like crazy.  I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to fight through it.  Perhaps my setups aren’t correct, or I need to adjust to  essentially make the setups impossible to defend regardless of the action.  Monday and Tuesday I resorted to brute strength – and failed.  The thing is, I see lots of other people do this too…it seems like it is the accepted norm. Especially when you get the big guys walk in wanting to learn MMA.  They progress fast for awhile because of their size.

So I wonder,  how do you train using the gentle art?  Where things look and feel effortless.  It’s doubly hard when someone is technically more proficient than you or at least close to equal.  I don’t know the answer to this question. 

I do however want my game to be based on the gentle art.  I think that requires that I just use whatever it is an opponent gives me. This requires good timing, understanding of small details for leverage.

For my current skill set – that seems like a pipe dream.