Blue Belt

How do you get water (or whatever) in your Grappling Class?

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I was reading an old article in the NYTimes about Guy Ritchie training in a Beverly Hill Jiu-Jitsu club. What stood out about the entire article is not the fact that Guy Ritchie has a Black belt in Judo and a Brown belt in Jiujitsu, but that at the end of the training session the writer said that Ritchie and his rolling buddy stood by the water cooler drinking out of a cup.

I had to say that it sounded really refreshing. I would love to sip cold water out a water cooler after a practice. It also made me think about how people get their water where they train. Where I train now its bring your own water (BYOW) or you can buy water out of the machine for ($1 or 1.25/ I don’t know because I always bring my own). I have also trained at a place that had a water fountain. But in the majority of places, I have brought my own water. I absolutely had to.

What about you?

Don’t forget to answer this one too.

Coolest Review Ever!!!

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I just happened to check on my book, Tapmonster, this morning at Barnes and Noble and I saw the coolest review that anyone has ever written for one of my books. It absolutely blew me away! I appreciate every good review that I have ever received, but this one was special.

Here it is:

BUY THIS BOOK!!

I don’t ordinarily write reviews, but I am notorious for reading and using reviews to make purchases. This will be my second review ever. That alone should tell you that this book was able to motivate me to actually write this!

Where ever you are at in your grappling game, BUY THIS BOOK! I am currently preparing for my first BJJ tourney, had a horrible class and could not stop thinking about all I had done wrong earlier on the mats. After about 3 hours of tossing and turning. I thought maybe I’ll find a book of some kind, some nugget of wisdom that will rescue the “whatever” BJJ game I had left. I had purchased one of this author’s other books and this one seemed somewhat new.

While I understand that this review seems contrived in that this book ended up being just what I needed, but it truly was. I don’t know if it will rescue my game, but it assuredly got me motivated to get back to work on it!! What ever level in your grappling journey, this book will help you. It will more specifically tell you things that no one ordinarily talks about, on or off the mats. It’s a quick read, but the true take away is that you’re not alone in the feelings, the blood, sweat and tears and just plain difficulty that is the grappling arts! You will not be disappointed with this purchase! And though I haven’t written reviews yet, I have also purchased 20 ways to improve your Grappling, and Grappling for Newbies, both by this author, both highly, highly recommended! Hope this review helps!

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Check out my grappling books on Amazon: Tapmonster: Ideas about Grappling for BJJ and Submission WrestlersGrappling for Newbies20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills off the MatThe Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and much more.

Times Up – Back to Academia

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Check out my books, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling  and Grappling for Newbies on Amazon.com!

The new semester begins next Monday. All week I have been attending college wide, departmental and discipline related meetings and preparing my curriculum for my students. My BJJ lifestyle of the summer has already been affected.

Yes, I am ready to teach and head back to the classroom but I will miss my Summer of BJJ. This time I really stuck to my statements and attended, on average, three classes per week. (I initially tried going five times a week but hurt my back on the fourth day of the first week and decided maybe three times a week would be best.) I learned many things over the summer but I think the most important thing I learned was to stop holding back.

I don’t mean being a ‘douche’ to my fellow grappling buddies when rolling by being over-aggressive. What I mean is that I learned that I need to use my skills and make my opponents actually work to achieve a position or submission and not just give it to them. I had a tendency to be a back and forth player. After I dominated a position for a while I would let my rolling buddy back into the game and let them work. A lot of this would be to my detriment when I faced equal or higher level players. I realized that most, if not all, did not have the same mindset (and no one told me they should) and I always paid for my approach.

After a particularly bad day this summer where I played this game and ‘got’ crushed I decided to bring it, yeah I said bring it, to every class. I started using my A game and stopped working my B and C games because I wasn’t getting any better at them. I decided to work off of my strengths and become well rounded in my weaknesses when the moments presented themselves (as they always do). After about a week of this I had an eye-opening conversation. A white belt who had a little experience under his belt told me that my game had really changed as of late. He told me he was “unable to stop” me and then he said these words,

“where we had almost been equal before.”

I was flabbergasted. He’s a nice guy and meant no harm by his words but to me it was a shot in the gut. I thought when I was rolling with people and I let them work their games or didn’t always submit them that they knew I was doing it on purpose. I didn’t think they thought I was just not really all that tough (not saying he said that). I thought about all the times I had tried to be fair and ended up fighting for my life in a roll because of it. I realized that a lot of people thought I was really putting my all into it so they put their all in it.

My wife had been saying for a couple of years that people don’t know I am going easy on them, but I figured they had to know. I stood corrected.

As a result I stopped playing that game. If I have the tap I take it. If I have the position I keep it. I am not malicious but I am on a mission.

As my epiphany gained strength I realized that upper belts who doggedly pursue submissions are upper belts because they doggedly go after submissions. They maintain positions and they pursue the taps until they get them. They don’t give up positions to make their partners feel better.

My game has improved as a result and I have improved as a grappler. I still have a lot of balancing to do but I believe I am on the right path.

2nd Stripe Blue and Extra Sensory Perception

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Check out my books, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling  and Grappling for Newbies on Amazon.com!

Class started off as usual today. We were going through drills (from side control) and then our Prof. called for a break and told us, “Get water guys!”

As we headed off in different directions he went up to the front counter and started pulling up tape. Long story short, I received a stripe. He told me that I had been working hard all summer and really improved my game. So now I am a second stripe blue.

Cool!

(I didn’t blog this but I had a dream on Monday that I was getting promoted. The major difference is that he called me into his office and told me he was going to promote me after an event on Saturday. He also gave me a ribbon and a medal instead of a stripe or belt. I woke up that morning and told my wife that I was going to get promoted.)

Luigi also received a stripe on his blue belt (to 4 stripe blue).

Seth and Brian received a stripe on their purple belts (to one stripe purple).

Congrats to all and time to get back to the grind.

Summer of Jiu-Jitsu – (Now that’s what’s up!)

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Check out my other blog: Psychology of Jiu-Jitsu

From mid-January through through April I was able to attend one class per week (plus two extra during spring break). So I racked up 16 visits in four months. I had a very busy schedule this semester (lecturing, meetings, committees, writing, research, etc.,) but my goal was to maintain a presence and I figured once a week would keep me honest and let people at my new school know that I am serious about BJJ.

The past three weeks I have been attending twice a week and hopefully this week I can up attendance to three or more times a week. I have the next 3 1/2 months off so you know what that means.

The SUMMER of JIU-JITSU has officially begun.

I am really enjoying training at my new academy. The majority of guys and gals that I train with are purple and brown belts. There are also a smattering of Blues and a couple of senior level white belts that swing through every now and then. I also get to roll with a couple of Black Belts periodically.

What does this mean for my game? Well, it feels as if I am having a private session every time I grapple with someone. These guys are immediately able to point out an issue in my game and then give me options (not an option) on how I can correct it. It is funny too that day to day it is difficult to see progression, but I had an epiphany the other day. I remembered when as a blue belt I had an extremely hard time passing other blue belt’s guards. Yet now I am able to regularly pass Purple belt’s guards and sometimes Brown belt’s guards and passing Blue belt’s guard is no longer an issue. I could not have done that a year ago.

The guys at my new academy regularly tool me (that didn’t sound right) but at the same time I know I am improving. It is difficult for me to gauge my progress against White belts because I hold back and let them work their game. With the big belts it’s the opposite (even though I know they let me work my game a little as well).

Anyway, I am looking to put a lot of time in this summer.

Peace!

Check out my latest book, A Vampire on the Mat at AmazonBarnes & Nobles or Smashwords 

and

My books, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling  and Grappling for Newbies on Amazon.com!

Time to switch the style up!

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Check out my other blog: Psychology of Jiu-Jitsu

Before I talk about the training session, first let me gush about my new place.

I finally made it to my new BJJ home last Friday and I made it official. I joined JaxBJJ. I really like this place. I started visiting it last month and was able to try it out for a month at a vastly reduced rate. I didn’t want to sign a contract and then be severely disappointed so I wanted to make sure this was the right place.

It is.

Everyone, I mean everyone, speaks to you when you enter the academy. Further, they go beyond that. They actually start conversations with and want to know about you. (It is really important to me that the environment is a friendly one and that I feel comfortable with the people I train with.) Also, there are belts of all types. I have never seen so many blues, purples and brown belts in one place. Every rolling session is like receiving a private session and people have been very eager to share their knowledge as well as ask questions when I do something they haven’t seen.

No egos.

The professor is friendly and won’t hesitate to demonstrate techniques to improve students game, even to the point of pulling students to the side for 20 minutes or so and reviewing technique with them. Also the place is full of people who have been training 2, 3, 4, and 5 years at JaxBJJ and up to 15+ years with Prof. Shealy. It also has a huge kid’s class, which suggests stability to me and not only does it have a lot of guys and gals in their 20s training but also a lot of guys in their 30s, 40s and even 50s. This is cool because it means that it is a safe environment and one that doesn’t burn students out.

Anyway, here’s what happened in class.

Usually the morning class is run like a open-mat but this morning Phil led the warm-ups then Prof. led us through some drills on finishing front chokes from the guard. We then sparred from position, trying to obtain a front choke from guard while the other person tried to pass. After drilling we started doing progressions where the time (rounds) is gradually increased as class goes on and when you switch to a new partner you get in the same position the previous person was in. Sometimes it works out great (you end up in mount), sometimes you end up screwed (your partner has your back.)

For the past month or so I have been working on my butterfly guard and trying to improve my defense to side control. As a consequence my guard has been passed, — a lot. Plus, almost everyone I go up against is a blue belt or higher so there isn’t much wiggle room to play. After being outgunned on the bottom so much I started to feel like a scrub. I think I am going to have to re-think my butterfly training for a bit, because ‘it ain’t working.’

Anyway, I still enjoyed class and look forward to heading back again when my schedule lets up.

Check out my new books, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and Grappling for Newbies on Amazon.com!

Pulling Guard and Guard Passing

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Today it was just three of us in the morning session. I worked with Nathan (Brown belt) and Steven (White belt, 4 stripes).

Since Steven is preparing for a competition we worked on pulling and maintaining guard. Hilarity ensued as Nathan tried to have us jump guard. Both of us are 200+ so neither of us seemed to trust that the other would be able to safely hold the other. Every time we jumped it was more like a light skip. I have Judo experience so I am pretty fearless about being thrown but I am not to keen on having a big guy crash down on top of me.

Eventually, Nathan altered it when he realized that we should modify the technique because it would probably be safer for us.

Then Nathan had us work on maintaining the guard with the major focus on maintaining at least 3 points of control. I picked up a lot of tips on how to shift the hips and shoulders to maintain the guard. I also realized that I could also sit up to grab a leg and press forward for an ankle pick or lock up the leg and press forward for the takedown. Nathan focused on reversing us from being passive once the guard has been almost passed to being active and going on the offensive.

After this we did 5 min rds (rolling) until class was over.

A productive session.

Check out my new books, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and Grappling for Newbies on Amazon.com!

Insights and Catching up with my posts….

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Check out Jiujitsu365′s new book, Grappling for Newbies on Amazon.com!

Friday’s Class (12th March) – I was 10 minutes late to class this day. But it didn’t matter because Carlos (brown belt 1 stripe) was leading everyone through one of his 35 minute warmups. On this day we worked on halfguard.

I rolled with Carlos at the end. I tried to work an uchi mata but he countered and took me to the ground. When I tried a tomoe nage I couldn’t get foot placement and ended up being dominated and tapped. I was able to score two takedowns at the end though. I trapped his left arm, used my left foot to block his right leg and fell backwards while twisting to the left. The first time I landed on top, he scrambled, escaped and submitted me soon after. On the second takedown he rolled over me and sunk in an inverted armbar.

Open Mat (13th March) –  On this day I was joined by Art and Andrew (all of us are blue belts). Art showed us a rolling toe hold that he uses. It is a very sneaky move as I have seen him tap people with this technique a few times and had no idea what he was doing . Soon afterward he and Andrew rolled for about 10 minutes. After Andrew rested for a while we rolled for about 10 minutes as well.

It was a solid open mat.

Friday’s Class (19th March)

Drill: We jogged and shrimped for the warm-up. Drill consisted of a throw which calls for sweeping out the back leg on the far side of your partner or opponent. If the person nails you with it then you are going down quickly and you better know how to fall.

We also worked on establishing a head and arm choke by starting out on top in half guard and we worked on taking the back from half guard from the bottom and securing a submission as well.

Rolling

I rolled with John (Blue Belt) and we stalemated. I constantly tried to secure chokes while he tried to sweep me from butterfly position. I was able to pass his guard for a few seconds but he recovered and repeat step 1.

I also rolled with Tyson, who is a new white belt. I submitted him with a head and arm choke and one that escapes me.

My next roll was with Joe (white belt with heavy blue belt tendencies). We started on our knees. He foot dragged me to my back and I played guard the entire time.  I tried to work my spider guard sweep and DLR guard but Joe wasn’t falling for any of my ploys. We had a scramble where I had the opportunity to get up but I stayed down because I need to practice my guard. After we rolled Joe told me his main goal was not to let me get on top. He succeeded.

*One major thing that I noticed on this day is that the skill level of the entire Academy has increased significantly (At least with the daytime group, but I suspect it is the same with the nightime classes.) The types of guard that we play, the escapes, the combinations being used, etc. I saw Vick (white belt with/stripe(s)) escape a triangle, perform a variation of a pancake pass, establish side control, go to knee on belly and then sink in a north south choke. I am scared of quite a few of our white belts and the skill level of everyone is increasing at an insane pace.

Open Mat (20th March) – I was alone on open mat last Saturday. :(  No problem though. I drilled for about 45 minutes on my own. I practiced throws, guard passes, spider guard sweeps, De la Riva guard, DLR guard sweep,  choke from mount, escape from turtle position, bridges and forward and backward rolls. I did 10 reps (5 to each side) for each technique).  Near the end Carlos (Brown belt Instructor) and some of the other MMA guys (Polar Bear, Cedrick and a guy whose name I should know) came in and passed the time until their MMA class started.

Interesting Guidelines to Purple Belt

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Check out my grappling books on Amazon: Grappling Games: BJJ & Submission WrestlersTapmonster: Ideas about Grappling for BJJ and Submission WrestlersGrappling for Newbies20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills off the MatThe Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and much more.

I know that many people who read this blog are blue belts or are close to becoming one. I happened to bump into the Alliance’s (in Atlanta) requirements for promotion to Purple Belt yesterday. It is pretty interesting. I always like to quantify what it takes to get to the next level and even though we all train under different guidelines I think this is probably a good tool to use.

ALLIANCE BJJ (Atlanta) – Home of Jacare, Cobrinha and Chris Moriarty (Alliance’s Blog)

Purple Belt Requirements (other belts – click here)

On average, 3 years of training with a minimum of 360 classes plus passing the following test. Belt promotions are always at the discretion of the head instructor. Factors such as above-average class attendance, natural ability, or competing could possibly shortened the time to purple belt, while a poor attitude, bad temper, or a lack of common morality outside the school could lengthen it.

Throws and Takedowns
One leg throw
Four hip throws
Two double legs
Two single leg

Self-Defense
Two ways to defend the guillotine standing up
Two ways to defend the headlock standing
One way to defend the headlock on the ground
One way to defend the guillotine on the ground

Passing the Guard
Five different ways to pass the guard and get side control

Half-Guard
Two sweeps from the half-guard
Two half-guard passes

Sweeps from the Guard
Five different ways to sweep your opponent

Escapes
Two ways to escape the mount
One way to escape the side-mount
One way to escape the rear-mount
One way to escape the knee-on-belly

Submissions
Five from the mount
Two double attacks
Three from the side-mount
Two from the back
Two from knee in the belly
Five from the guard

*These requirements are posted on Alliance’s Website – Links are above.*

Promotions, New Gi and New Mental Approach

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First things first:

Congratulations to Professor James Smiley on his promotion to Black Belt! I am a little late, but I finally had a chance to say congratulations on Friday when I went to train. Also, congratulations to Art (promotion to Blue), who is a training fanatic and who I doubt will remain a blue belt for long.

Drilling:

We drilled a takedown and practiced sweeps from a modified butterfly guard position.

Sparring:

I bought a new gi and it’s been a while since I have worn a full Gi to class. It presented a few new training challenges for me as I am used to my old reliable Judo gi with the much shorter sleeves.  But it also taught me a valuable lesson as well. Let me explain.

In my first roll (didn’t catch his name), I rolled with one of the guys who didn’t have a gi. In the past I used to take my top off when rolling with these guys because they have material to grab onto and the person wearing the gi has nothing. I am not that proficient in using the gi as a weapon yet so it offers me no advantages to wear one against a no-gi opponent. When grappling him I was able to counter his attempt at a leg trip and then I obtained side control. I held the position for a while and then decided to transition to another position as I wasn’t able to gain a submission. I eased up and he secured closed guard.

That’s when the fun started.

I spent the next few minutes breaking his grips on my sleeves and collar and attempts at arm-bars while I had nothing to grab onto. I had to make sure I was square with him at all times, posture up as much as I could and make sure he couldn’t obtain any angle. At one point I baited him with an arm in order to snatch out my arm but I forgot I was wearing a gi so I spent the last 2 minutes defending his all out attempt for an arm-bar. I need to continue to learn how to defend and use my gi as a weapon, but I am not going to do it with people who don’t wear a gi.

My next roll was with Cedrick. I rolled with Cedrick probably a month or so ago. He’s about two months in now and he had on his gi. Cedrick attempted a sacrifice throw and ended up on his back with me standing up looking down at him. He attempted to use spider guard but I was able to pass and gain side control and then gain mount. He is a big guy so I couldn’t get a quick Knuckle choke. I also tried an Ezekiel Choke and an Americana. He was defending well and I had the mount for a while so I decided to switch positions. As I decided to spin out to side control he clamped a lockdown on me. Then we spent the next 7 minutes or so with me in his lockdown. I couldn’t break the lock. In no gi, I can usually use a couple of tricks and get out pretty easily. The gi complicated things for me. He had no intention of letting it go either.

Joel told us we had been wrestling (or stalled) for over 10 minutes and after a couple more minutes Cedrick suggested we restart, which was fine with me. (We didn’t re-start though.)

I learned two things from those rolls. First not everyone is interested in exchanging and working from different positions. Many are going for the tap (as in my first roll) as long as it takes or are willing to hold you in one position for the entire time if it keeps you from advancing. Why should I be so willing to exchange positions and put myself in danger of being tapped if others don’t follow the same model? I don’t fault them at all. I also don’t blame it on them being relatively new. It has dawned on me that the higher belts (purples, browns and blues) don’t give up their dominant positions when they have them. They will work for the submission until they get it and that is precisely what makes them higher belts.

I have given up dominant positions many times after I knew that I could hold it for a long time in order to be fair and to be conscientious of my training partner. Also after training with giants who were 6’6 and who outweighed my by 30 to 70 pounds I know that it is not cool to smash your opponents in training to the point where they question if they want to continue. But at the same time, being conscientious has often put me on the defensive when I didn’t need to be and the same generosity is not always extended. I think my new approach will be to not give up position and work for the submission.

I also rolled with Professor Smiley twice. I was able to avoid being tapped the first round. We started halfway through it so I was able to escape being submitted. I was lying flat on my stomach with both arms behind my back when the buzzer sounded though. On our second roll I boarded the Tap Train but I could see that the daily drills that I have been working on at home has helped. After our roll, Prof. Smiley showed me how to escape an omoplata by standing up and another way to pass butterfly guard.

Good class.