Tag Archives: misc

Monday Night Open Mat — 2012 in Review

We had our first major snow storm of the season this weekend, and the road system still hasn’t recovered. Attendance was a little light. The complete opposite of Saturday I was told, where there were 40+. Too bad I was sick! Darn flu shot. Damian ended up declaring no class and open mat time instead.

Long and I started off together with a nice lazy flow. We’d stop and play with a position here and there, and talk about our “go to” techniques and strategies from various positions. In the 20 minutes or so we were rolling and talking, I probably shared more of my “game” with him than I have with anyone before.

It’s an odd coincidence. Earlier in the day, I was thinking about how that this year some things have really clicked for me, and I think I’ve made some big improvements, especially in my half guard game. It’s actually weird to me to consider that I’ve inadvertently developed a game, or style. Many of the big name jiu jitsu guys are known for having a particular style, be it dynamic, simple, half or deep half guard based, inverted, little vs bigger guys, 50/50, x guard, or favoring a particular submission. I never really set out to have a style, but I’ve found (via trial and error, mostly) some techniques that resonate with me, and I’ve used them enough that they’re becoming very natural to do. The one technique, and it’s almost stupidly simple, that I think has helped me the most this year is from half guard, inserting my outside foot inside, aiming at the crotch. In a perfect world, this gives me leverage to get back to guard, but it can also sweep or merely threaten to sweep or off balance my opponent. It’s almost unconscious to me now. I’m in half guard? Escape my hips a bit and jam those toes in.

And that is where my conversation with Long began. He doesn’t do that from half guard, and it frustrates him when I do it. And he wanted to know exactly what it was that I was doing. So I showed him. And we talked about underhooks and other top half guard stuff too. Competition and mindsets, as he had just returned from the Long Beach Open. Just two blue belts trying to figure things out together.

We switched, and I had Shae. Long and Arya were taking a breather and watching. Shae passed to half guard, and I shoved my toes in, looked up and saw Long watching and grinning at me as I used to to elevate Shae and get back to guard. Ten Ton Arya and I also did a couple of rounds later in the night too. True to her nickname, once she gets head control, it’s trouble. Maybe that should be my next focus, preventing head control. She’s also VERY patient. She’s in no rush after getting control. She’ll wait and consolidate her position rather than start attacking right away. It’s good, but annoying to be under her!

BJJ Musings

Last year I read a book, “The Cauliflower Chronicles” by Marshal Carper. A pretty good book about his experience as a white belt training in Hawaii with BJ Penn. I recently ran across an article he wrote. It discussed the immense amount of time and effort the truly great grapplers (in this case, Marcelo Garcia) dedicate to their art. Train, teaching, and competing full time. It reminded me of a discussion with Damian that I had a while back about Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”. One of Gladwell’s thesis was that it takes 10,000 hours of practice or experience to become great at something.

10,000 hours, at 5 hours per week…is 39 years. It’s pretty likely that I’ll never reach that point. But that isn’t the goal. Which reminds me of a quote by game designer Reiner Knizia: “When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning.” Play to win, but enjoy the playing.

A outsider may look at me, at my rate of progress, at my successes and failures in the gym and in competition, and wonder…what’s the point? I’ll never be great, or a champion…in fact, I’m be happy merely to be competitive against other people of my age, size, and ability. Helping those following me on the jiu jitsu path, and learning via failure with those ahead of me are bonuses.

So wrapping all of these ideas together has lead me to this….do my best, have fun, and enjoy the result.

But not much this week. Crossfit on Tuesday wrecked me. I’ve been hobbling around ever since. I’ve been trying to get into a rhythm, but it’s been one thing after another recently.


This is a picture of my son and I.

It was taken a few months ago by my father. For those of you who can’t read Japanese, the kanji (calligraphy by Eri Takase) reads “balance”. A reminder to keep things in perspective.

With that in mind, and given the large amount of thinking I’ve done over the past month or so, it’s time to reevaluate and refocus. I have neither the time or ability to keep juggling jiu jitsu training, Crossfit, and supplemental strength training in addition to all of the non-athletic facets of my life. Perhaps if I were 25 and single!

So, the strength training is the first to go. I’ve been generally happy with the 531 system, but I don’t have the time to dedicate to it. In addition, I think that jiu jitsu and Crossfit are hampering my recovery. Perhaps I’ll come back to it, Starting Strength, or some other program in the future.

Jiu jitsu will obviously continue. Crossfit will continue. Maybe I’ll get to attend the beginners classes once in a while as well. It couldn’t hurt to review some of that material!

BJJ class tonight was pretty packed. We did a good long warm up, and then reviewed three cross choke variations from knee on belly. We did the traditional one, one where you feed his lapel to your bottom side hand, and one, the “Cowboy” choke, where you get a little sneaky and feed his lapel to your top side hand.

We then started sparring. 9 minute rounds tonight. I kicked things off with Bob the Montster. He got me right off the bat with a pass to knee on belly and then into one of the cross chokes. Our second go was better, with me on top. I really have been working on preventing grips after thinking about my roll with Damian on Saturday. So I broke and broke, and kept him busy and unable to sweep, but I was also unable to pass. He eventually did sweep me, but I had an overwrap and lapel grip that kept him busy enough to run out the clock.

Next up was JP. We had a pretty good roll too. I played open guard for a while before trying to take his back and ending up most of the way there, with back half guard. It took a bit, but I got all the way there and started working a choke. He spun out of it and we started again.

Dave was next. He got me with a sneaky straight armlock super fast. And as is his style lately, he’s focusing on playing on the bottom. He swept me a couple of times, but never took advantage of it for some reason. Last roll of the night was with Ron. We’re pretty evenly matched, so it was a great back and forth for the whole 9 minutes.

I took 5 to catch my breath, and then attempted my 531 squats. I realized during my warmup set that if I actually tried to do the prescribed weight, I’d probably crush myself. I compromised and did 3 sets of 5 at the highest warm up weight instead. Even that was a challenge with a tired core.

Fall Submission Hunt

Ugh, where I do I even begin? The event was a combination of near total failure (the facilities) and success (our team’s performance).

First off, the failures. This was the first Sub Hunt that was held in partnership with the Diamond National Karate tournament. And because of that…a new venue. The old venue was the Champlin High School gym. Big. 8 large rings on a wrestling mat. Plenty of space and bleachers for the spectators. The Sheraton hotel lacked all of the above. We were cut down to 5 rings, on overly firm mats. There was almost no observation area, the mats were crammed into a hotel ballroom. It was hot, stuffy, crowded, and occasionally smelly.

But onto the successes. In general, everyone performed pretty well, and some did extremely well. Purple Belt Matt won the Absolute gi, Short Josh won in Gi, Rod won, plus others. I’d have some pics or video, but my phone wasn’t cooperating.

I even had a chance to coach. Jesse was up for one last gi match for 3rd place in his division, and Damian and others were busy, so it was up to me. Felt a little weird, but I helped him as much as I could. In the end, he ended up getting triangled, and it’s too hard and too long for me to explain how to escape as it’s happening. He wasn’t the only one to get triangled…so perhaps we as a team need to review that escape and defense some more!

What am I?

I’m generally not into labels. However something I’ve been thinking about lately is…what do you call someone who “does” jiu-jitsu? I’ve heard all kinds of things, with no real consensus: bjj player, bjj practitioner, “jitz” guy. “Martial artist” may be the most accurate, if not entirely descriptive. Heck, I’ve been called a “ninja” or asked about “training UFC”. Judo has a special name for their practitioners, judoka, but they have a special name for everything.

In any case…last night we drilled the half guard position we’ve been working on some more. Mongoose was back, so we partnered up. I was having some real trouble with it. I don’t know if it’s because he’s so quick, but when we started, he’d get the topside underhook, and have it so tight to my body that I couldn’t re-weave for anything. With some help from Damian, I figured out that things would be okay if I abandoned the underhook and concentrated on controlling his head, keeping him flat, and then working the passes.

After class, we continued working the same position and techniques, just using them as a starting spot for sparring. Our first one was pretty quick, I started on top, he got the hook, and rolled me, but I triangled him. The others were alot longer, back and forth battles. I’m glad the Mongoose is back, he’s a good training partner.

101, Iron & Crossfit

Tiny class today, only 5 of us. And 2 newbies too. It was a fun group.

I was first done with our warm up, primarily because Joe and Derrick were teaching the other two guys the elbow escape and thread the needle warmup. Damian asked me if I had any requests for lessons. “Defense!” was my answer. Didn’t matter to me what.

We ended up doing “Jiu-Jitsu 101” It’s a set routine that we use to warm up. Start mounted, upa out, break the guard, use the double underhook pass, mount, repeat. Something we’ve done a hundred times. Joe and I got to be the demonstration dummies. Damian broke down each step of the routine, and filled in a couple of details here and there for us. Stuff he hasn’t mentioned before. I asked him about it later, and he said that while I’m still a mostly a “broad stroke” guy, he can add some details, like the mountains in the background. It really is a good analogy he’s used before. Other guys are onto the trees, branches, or leaves. Eventually I’ll be there too.

Upa Mount Escape

After class, I rolled with Joe a bit. Nothing serious, more just fooling around than anything. I did get him in the clamp position, and went for the oomaplata, but he rolled out. Had him mounted at one point, but he upa’d a just the right time when I was applying the cross-collar choke, and then defended it well within my guard.

I switched out and sat chatting with Damian awhile about a bunch of stuff. My membership runs out on Tuesday, so I re-upped. This time for a whole year. Kinda crazy!

He’s mentioned to me a few times about giving Crossfit a try. It’s the other end of his business. Crossfit strives towards general physical fitness through intense, varied workouts. One day you may be doing Olympic style weight lifting and rowing on a machine. The next pull ups and tire flipping. The next, throwing a medicine ball up on a wall and doing burpees. Twice now, he suggested I lookup and read an essay by Henry Rollins (yes, the punk singer) called “Iron”.

So I did. Henry Rollins on Iron It’s short, but interesting. I can see the appeal. I’m thinking about taking Damian up on the suggestion. Two things are holding me back. The first is the potential time commitment. The workouts are short, but I don’t know when I’d do them. The second is my own insecurity. I know that the workouts scale to the participant’s own abilities, but…it just scares me. On the other hand, I felt similarly about starting jiu-jitsu, and that has turned out wonderfully.

Guess we’ll see.

Frustration Manifests Itself

I completed W4D1b of the 100 Pushups routine on Monday. They’re getting hard again! Had a twinge of a headache after this set of sets, but nothing like the pounding ones I had a while back.

Tim taught the class last night, since Damian is off in Cali learning new stuff. Knee on belly was the topic. It was basically the fundamentals class mashed together with the spin around armbar. We wrapped up with a kimura variant from a failed spin as well, which was new to me.

Per a discussion I had a while back, I’ve decided to focus on my game from guard and grip breaking and fighting. Big Mike tooled me because of his grips last week, so for the next couple of weeks, that’s what I’m going to focus on.

Afterwards I rolled a couple of times with Tim. Either he’s taking it easy on me, I’m getting better, or some combination of both. He tapped me, but it took a while these times. I did escape his mount, then him having my back the Saulo way, and ended up on top with him in turtle guard…which he promptly rolled me before I could stabilize into the start of the clock choke. I was mostly happy with the way things went against him. Given that he’s a blue belt, he’s going to tool me if he wants to.

Pete was next. We’ve rolled before I think, but he’s been gone for a couple of months. He’s a two stripe white belt, like me, a little bigger though. I pulled guard and started breaking grips and watching for a sweep opportunity. None came before he passed and squished me flat with head control. And man does that suck. I really need to work on escaping that, but he was heavy and tight enough where I couldn’t move my arms to get them into the right position to try. All I could do was prevent him from mounting me, which he did eventually. Heavy and tight again. I almost got the upa off, but mistimed it and he cross choked me. We went again, and I was on top this time in his open guard. He controlled me so well, I didn’t have the strength, leverage, or apparently technique to break his grips…so I got swept, mounted and choked again.

I don’t know what it was about it, but it put me in a pretty sour mood. So I skipped fundamentals and went home. Later I tried to verbalize the “why” part of my frustration, and really couldn’t. Having literally laid awake last night thinking about it, I still don’t have a good explanation. I (in theory) know the escapes from side control and mount. It’s the practice of actually doing them that’s hard. And it’s supposed to be hard, those are dominate positions. Part of the answer is “you can’t get un-punched”, IE, avoid getting in those spots in the first place.

So, I’m revising my goals for the foreseeable future to: Improve my escapes from mount and side control and maintaining guard via grip fighting.

I predicted that I’d be “frustrated beyond belief at some point” in my very first post. It appears that it’s arrived. Now the question becomes: “How will I deal with this?”

My neck/upper back is still funky, so I went to chiropractor yesterday. Couple of things out of wack, so he adjusted me some and I’m due back on Friday. Doesn’t hurt, but I can tell things aren’t sitting right.

6 Months In

The last couple of weeks have been a perfect storm of work, life, laziness, and other things, all taking priority over going to class.  But now the skies have cleared, and I’m (hopefully!) back to my normal routine.

Six months ago today, I took my first jiu-jitsu class.   Maybe it’s a milestone, maybe not.  But I made it.  I struggled during some classes, but never quit.  I’ve tapped more times than I can count, but I’ve succeeded too.  I know enough now that I realize I’ve forgotten things.  And it’s been a wonderful experience, despite the effort, soreness, and occasional injury.   Who knows what the next six months will bring?  The next year?

I think I’m back on the 100 Pushups bandwagon.  I did W3D1(b) last night with no signs of the pounding headache that I ran into before.   I wasn’t totally lazy last week, I did pound out a few sessions on the treadmill.   I’ve been doing either the 300 calorie/40 minute run, and one the  400 calorie/40 minute run.   Doing either  a year ago would have been probably impossible.  The top 100 UFC fights countdown provided excellent motivational viewing while doing it too!

I’m down about 15 pounds since my back surgery last October.  A noticeable percentage of that has been converted to muscle, I’ve noticed myself leaning out.  I’m close enough to a NAGA/Submission hunt weight class break that I could consider cutting a few pounds to move down a class too.   It’s a nice change, and one that not only I have noticed.  I don’t anticipate loosing much more, though I may continue loosing the fat and building muscle as time passes.

Class tonight was takedowns.  Ironically enough, we were working the same take down I learned on about my third class.  I like doing takedowns, it’s something we don’t do very often and it’s something we don’t usually do in sparring.  There’s just not enough mat to support it.  We also did some hip throws.   Damian’s original instructor, Dave Camarillo, is also a black belt in judo.  He’s well known for his throws and flying submissions.

Judo Hip Throw

After class Damian paired me up with Jeff the giant (who’s about 6′ 7″ or so).  Things were going good, I was working my guard, trying to armlock those long limbs, and going for a triangle here and there.  Then he stacked me, rolling me up on my shoulders, which is uncomfortable, but not horrible.   But he kept going, and I did a backwards somersault with him on top of me, so I heard about 18 vertebra in my neck pop.  I yelped, he stopped.  That’s going to be sore tomorrow!

I took a breather, then paired up with Alex, who I don’t think I’ve rolled with before.  We went a couple of times. He’s a white/blue belt, but I think I did okay. I defended an armbar for a long time, and escaped his back control once. And defended my neck the next time he got my back a LONG time. Afterward he told me he was nervous about switching grips because of the way I escaped the first time.

Tim taught the fundamentals since Luke was gone. Armlock from guard. We reviewed the basic way of doing it, then experimented with different setups, grips, and some combo attacks.

The Kevin Bacon Game of jiu-jitsu

I’m bored, and just ran across this: BJJ Black Belt Lineages. I think that it’s amazing that the art is young enough that this can be recorded.

And for the record, it goes like this for me:

Carlos Gracie Sr. -> Carlos Gracie Jr. -> Ralph Gracie -> Dave Camarillo -> Damian Hirtz -> me

It seems a little weird that it doesn’t run back to Heilo Gracie.

Okay, I’m offically sick of this rib now.  It feels the same as it did last week.  Unless something changes radically, I’m going to atleast the fundimentals class next week.

Stretched and did my 100 Pushup routine tonight, and barely made it through.   It seems to ramp up pretty quickly.  We’ll see if I can make it through Friday’s sets, and then re-test on Sunday.  If I can’t, I’ll probably repeat Week 2’s routine again.

Jiu-Jitsu University arrived today.  What a tome!  380 pages of goodness.  It atleast gave me a little satisfaction reading some of it and flipping through the rest, even if I can’t go to class for the real deal.