Month: December 2008

Jiu-Jitsu University – ‘The Book of Tweaks’

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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 have had the book Jiu-Jitsu University by Saulo Ribeiro, and let’s not forget Kevin Howell, for a few weeks now. It has created quite a buzz for some of my fellow bloggers.

I have been silently implementing the advice in the book each class since I had the book, with great success. Here is why I think the book is so fascinating. The book doesn’t necessarily teach you anything new about BJJ. But it will DEFINITELY help you fill in any gaps and holes in your game. Further, the advice offered has been tested in the highest levels of competition so it is also trustworthy. I don’t know if this was intentional or it is just the way that Saulo Ribeiro instructs.

Reading this book is like taking the equivalent of a private session each time I go through a technique. Ribeiro and Howell emphasize the importance of an extra tight defense until you are able to counter, knowing that your defense is working if your opponent starts to muscle you and/or the higher belts have to dig deeper in their quest to submit you through your defensive efforts.

From the first day I started to integrate the advice from the book into my game I received compliments from rolling partners and the inner satisfaction from knowing that I thwarted someone’s plans. I’ve been told that I have good neck defense, I’ve seen my rolling partners have no options available to them from a dominant position and they had to totally change direction. It has also prevented me from being tapped out by a person who usually taps me every time we grapple (not my instructor).

I have a feeling that this is going to be a book that is going to raise the grappling skills of the entire BJJ community and implement a sea change similar to Eddie Bravo’s approach to grappling. However, it won’t be with flashy moves, but through the promotion of air-tight basics on which all Jiu-jitsu is based. The philosophical underpinnings which form the basis of this book also will give the reader tremendous insight. This book has demonstrated to me that you can know many or even all of the moves, but knowing how to do them correctly is the ultimate goal.

Breaking through Plateaus

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Yesterday was an all star day for my development. It was one of those days when you break through the plateaus you have been experiencing. During the drilling portion of class we worked on a technique from guard that  can lead to a number of submissions; armbar, omoplata, triangle choke, etc. 

However, it was the rolling session of class where I noticed my growth. For some reason, I was able to implement a number of counters to techniques almost as soon as they were happening. Further, even if I wasn’t able to pull off a counter, the fact that the ideas were coming so quickly gave me a boost in confidence.  I first rolled with my instructor, Smiley, who tapped me out as usual, but I was able to use a new approach that Carl (formerly Big K) taught me. He had to follow a different road map to tap me out, which is encouraging.

I also rolled with Charlie (blue belt) and Ryan (purple belt). I was able to roll with them without being tapped and I was surprised at some of the techniques I tried to carryout as well. I have been adding some defensive tweaks to my game that have been paying off and it is from one of my new favorite books. I will talk about it in the next post.

Nominated for BJJ Blog of the Year (2008) by The Fightworks Podcast

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Wow! It is truly an honor to be considered for this award. The Fightworks Podcast has added such value to my BJJ experience and I am humbled by their consideration. Thanks to all of the bloggers and readers who nominated me. Also thanks to the judges who considered this blog for inclusion (Alicia Anthony, Luca Atalla and the one and only Kid Peligro (Whoa!).

If you feel inclined, please vote for me at The FightWorks Podcast.

Newbie Osmosis Knowledge and Differentiating Oneself in BJJ

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When I first started taking no-gi BJJ in 2004 there was a good amount of interest in BJJ among the general population. And it seems in each year that passes the interest among the Gen Pop continues to grow. I noticed in each academy that I have trained the numbers continue to grow. Where I train, Combat Athletix, the numbers are ridiculous (in a good way), as no gi classes at night can regularly have 20 attendees and gi about 15 to 20. In the morning classes, for BJJ, it usually ranges from 6 to 10 people.  These numbers don’t include the Boxing, MMA, Kickboxing, Karate or Kid’s BJJ classes.

So what does this mean for those who are trying to get better at BJJ, especially if they are trying to improve quickly? More people means better athletes. People are stronger, faster, more flexible and know more of the rudiments due to visual osmosis. Further, they train a little harder to gain an advantage due to the attributes I just mentioned above.  

I remember when I first started to take no-gi BJJ, I trained three times a week for seven months straight with no breaks. I was able to tap newer guys ‘left and right’ after about four months. Each time I took a break and came back I noticed that it became more and more difficult to be a tapping superhero.

Now when I grapple with new or newer guys, I have to watch out for foot locks, some weird move they’ve learned from the internet and have to deal with a new level of physicality I’ve never experienced before. Their defense game, coming in, seems to be higher. I can usually maintain positional dominance but my tap average is down from the past.

I have been thinking about a way of mentioning this on this blog until last night. I read, listen and write a lot of self-improvement material and I was listening to Brian Tracey talk about the idea of gaining economic success by being in the top 10% of your field.  It made me think about BJJ.  He discussed how in the beginning of any endeavor you have to work harder, longer and smarter than most because your competition is doing the same. But at some point, if you keep the faith, you will surpass the competition. Why? Most people don’t mind being average and some settle for mediocrity.  A lot of people settle for ‘good enough.” If you keep striving to improve in the same strong fashion as you begin you will begin to break ranks with the average crowd.

Two things I didn’t mention in my analysis of my own experience is that BJJ also has a high attrition rate. Anyone who has trained for at least four months knows that new people enter the art or sport all of the time. Some train for one day, a week, or a month and then you never see them again. Even in my own experience I have had to take periods of time off. But the difference for me is that it is in my blood. So I know I will always be involved and that I will last (and have lasted) through the initial periods of having to deal with extra athleticism, newbie osmosis knowledge and higher levels of talent in general until I am good enough to overcome all of these things pretty easily (in the grappling sense).

Going  a little deeper, I don’t think I have ambitions to be a Masters Champion, but I wouldn’t mind being in the top 10% for my belt rank in my academy.  I think if I break down my ambitions into small chunks I could hit my goals quicker and more effectively.  What are my fellow trainees doing, better yet, what are they not doing? If I am willing to do more than they do and what they refuse to do I’ll hit my mark. I will have to ask myself what does it take to surpass my peer group. Then commit to making it happen.

Once I achieve it, then I can set a new goal and repeat.


[No disrespect was intended with this post.]


Sitting on the Sidelines: BJJ and Injuries

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On Wednesday my back was still hurting so I decided to watch. I am glad I did. I had an opportunity to talk to a lot of the guys that work out in the boxing class before BJJ (Some of them come to Jiu-jitsu class too).Usually I just come to class, say a few hellos and then class starts, so I was able to get a different perspective on where I train.

The last time I went to class injured and just to watch I was in my first year of training. I ended up grappling in my street clothes. This time I made sure I stayed seated. I still felt that familiar pull and excitement that I felt in 2004 while watching the rolling portion of class. I just told the guy I was talking to as opposed to acting on it though.

I guess it is just like any other activity or sport that you love to do. When it’s in you, it’s in you.

Boston Crabbin’ – Monday’s Session

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Yesterday we worked on a number of sweeps and submissions from the spider guard and x-guard. I’m going to be honest, I’m having a hard time trying to remember the exact sequences. I was having trouble doing a couple of the techniques that required us to go through my training partners legs by curling up. Charlie, a blue belt who was promoted the same time I received my stripes, suggested I work on my core flexibility. I never really thought about gaining flexibility in my core so I am going to have to investigate what specific exercises I will have to do.

When it came time to roll, I started off rolling with Mariah, a blue belt in class, who is also married to Ryan the purple belt. I spent half of the time defending and the other half trying to pass her guard. Both her and Ryan have this technique where they pull your gi jacket out in the front from the belt, pull you into guard and then try to choke you with it. Everytime she would pull out my gi I would tuck it back in with my free hand, which caused some people watching to laugh. (But I learned early, never let anyone do what they want to in BJJ.) When I tried to do a knee guard pass by the time my knee hit the ground she had my back. After I defended the choke, I spent the remaining time fighting off her grips and trying to pass her guard.

I rolled three more times, one with Justin and Carl (blue belt) and with Charlie. I think Charlie is the reason why my back is hurting this morning. I noticed while we were grappling both times that he seemed to pause  when I was in side control to let me gain the mount. Since I am pretty good at getting the mount, I never imagined that he was baiting me. He bridged like a stallion both times and before I could recover and reposture he used his legs to go under my armpits and escape the mount. The first time he transitioned to an ankle lock, which I tapped to. The second time, I escaped his ankle lock but he tapped me to something else which escapes me. He told me that Smiley taught him the move and he especially likes using it on bigger guys. He said he even put someone in a Boston Crab with it before.

I have had someone remove me from mount before by placing their feet into my armpits and pushing out, but not with such a strong upa. My back felt it about an hour after class. Needless to say, I won’t try to get the mount on Charlie until I learn how to defend against that.

He refused to tap! – Friday’s Class

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“Don’t go to sleep!” is what I heard someone shout.

I had my partner locked tight in a head and arm choke. We were on our knees and I went for a hip throw and he resisted. I realized that I was in the perfect position for a head and arm from where we were and had it almost locked down as we fell onto the mat. When we landed I put my right hand on my head and began to squeeze. I heard his breathing become labored and he had no defense for it, but he wouldn’t tap. I thought maybe I didn’t have it right and slighty repositioned and I heard him begin to gurgle.

No tap.  So I let it go.

We both scrambled to our knees and I was able to land a semi- Kesa gatame. He was able to slip out and get to his knees and then I pressed his head down and jumped on his back. Long story short, I ended up sinking in the rear naked choke, with the kind of grip where you know your partner is not getting out of unless you let him go. He would not tap and yet he wasn’t defending properly. This time the gurgling noises turned into a wheezing sound. I thought about letting him go and then he went silent. I immediately let go and then, he jumped to his knees in a ready stance.

I was thinking in my head, “Are you kidding me?” But what I said was, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah.” Then I told him I didn’t know if he was out or not. He then asked me if I wanted to get back in the same position. I declined. I don’t think I have ever run accross this type of grappler before. I don’t know if he refused to tap because I didn’t have proper technique although I knew I had him both times or if he figured that eventually I would grow tired and let go. I felt good so I could have squeezed for a very long time from a grappling standpoint. It was a no-gi class, but he had on worn blue gi-pants, so I know he is not a beginner and knows when he is in trouble. Or it could have been because he had his wife and his small children there. I know the thought crossed my mind that I should not choke him out because he is not protecting himself.

I also rolled with Carl (formerly Big K/blue belt) and Ryan a purple belt who has been training here for two months. I rolled to stalemates with both guys, although all I did was defend against Ryan. Afterward Ryan asked how long I had been studying BJJ and when I told him he said I was a “good grappler.” I’ll take it!

But anyway, in class we worked on how to fall properly and did a lot of drills requiring mild acrobatics. We also worked on a double leg takedown. Carl and I worked together and on the last two takedowns, I had bad landings. I will probably feel it tomorrow. We also worked on a butterfly guard sweep that led to back control to a number of options including the twister.

Excellent class.