Month: January 2010

If you’re tired, it doesn’t matter what you know!

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Night Class – Wednesday

The academy was packed. About 20 people were in the boxing room and 30 to 40 training in the Muy Thai/Kickboxing class. I observed for about 15 minutes before BJJ class and briefly chatted with Josh and Polar Bear.

Class began with a light jog, shrimping and a few rolls. Then it became clear that this was no ordinary warm-up. We performed duckwalks, duckwalks with hops, military type pushups while crawling, a number of bear crawls, body drags, etc. Warmup was at least 30 minutes. I was exhausted before we began drilling.


We worked on a sweep from sitting up guard and a sweep from butterfly guard.


After drill we began rolling but with a twist. Prof. Smiley had us rolling for flow and without submissions – just technique. Although I was exhausted I was immediately happy. I have been working on certain techniques for weeks and have not been able to try any of them in the gi class because, well they are gi classes. As one who wants to become proficient in the gi I spend way too much time grip fighting and defending submissions.

I first rolled with Robert (Frosty). He seemed to be relatively new. I decided to work on an escape from turtle position that I have been experimenting with at home and have been taught a few times in class but never pulled off in a roll. I baited him to take my back and when he would get to the side I would roll and put him back into my guard. I nailed it the first time out. I was so excited I tried it at least four more times. The fifth time I learned an important lesson. Don’t use the same technique too often. He timed me and gained side control. As we were going back and forth it really didn’t matter though and we just worked on changing positions.

The next guy I rolled with was definitely a new guy. We traded positions and once again I couldn’t resist baiting him to take my back and then hitting the roll to escape and place him in my guard.

After this roll I thought we were through. However, Prof. Smiley had a different plan for us and we had to continue to spar. I don’t remember who I rolled with next  but following that I partnered with a white belt who seemed pretty sure of himself. I had that sense of dread that comes when you are facing a guy with a high energy level and you know that you have little in the tank. All through class I had seen him and a couple of others who seemed to be bouncing off the walls with energy.

We began with him sitting down in BFG. I initially passed his guard but he did a good job of not remaining flat and was able to shrimp away. I sat back and immediately regretted it. He jumped up in a fury and garnered a knee on belly. I didn’t have the energy to respond. My goal at that point was just to keep him from getting the submission. During the remainder of our roll I saw many opportunities that I had to shut down his game but I didn’t have the energy to do so. We ended up with me in his guard.

After that I rolled with Jaime (blue belt). I tried to pass his butterfly guard and ended up in his guard. He was able to get a sweep but in the process my foot became entangled with his legs and immediately cramped into an L position. I yelled tap. I sat out for a minute and we began to grapple again. A few seconds into it, Prof Smiley stopped us to show us a technique (I didn’t mind) and that was the end of class.

Overall: I was glad to see that my solo drills continue to pay off. But, I was definitely unhappy about my cardio level. It doesn’t matter what you know if you are too tired to use that knowledge.

Fabio Gurgel and a young Leo Vieira – 1997

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The fluid nature of their grappling is amazing!

*The funny thing about this video is that no one in the background is paying them any attention. 🙂

Forecast – Swampy!

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Florida, like most of the U.S., is experiencing mind-boggling temperatures. One day it’s hot and the next day it’s cold. I think this had something to do with the classroom temperature on Friday. It wasn’t exactly scorching inside but it felt ‘swamp-like.’

Warm-ups consisted of a light jog, rolls, shrimping and stretching. In drills we worked on a takedown from behind, an X-sweep and 2 variations of the X-sweep. Those 2 variations were ‘killer.’ Professor Smiley showed us how to perform a variation of the sweeps where we turn upside down and then spin around again for a triangle choke. I didn’t know I could perform those techniques because I am not as flexible in my back and hips as I would like to be. But I was able to do it with little struggle. Later  I was lucky enough to have Prof. Smiley demonstrate the technique on me during ‘sparring.’


I rolled with Prof. Smiley first and we started on the ground. Good news first, I was able to use the sitting up guard pass he showed me last week. He complimented me on the pass and said for a second he was ‘stuck.’ I had solo drilled the pass all last week so I was happy that I was able to pull it off. Although I tapped constantly, I was still able to use some of the techniques that I had been drilling at home to varying effect. I have been trying to concentrate on not lying flat on my back, using the umpa (sp), sensing escapes from the half-guard, etc.

My next roll was with Art (blue belt). The main thing I want to say here is that Art is very good at tapping people out from his guard. He maintains a Youtube page that maintains his exploits. So I spent most of my time defending his attacks from guard. I was able to use a arm bar defense that I learned from Dave Camarillo. (It’s on my video side-bar page.) I drilled that technique at home as well because with the gi I needed a different set of techniques to defend them.

All in all, good practice. I am seeing little improvements. But if they keep occurring they will one day be grand improvements.

Crazy Dreams…

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Last night, I had a dream that my wife and I were walking down a street and all of a sudden we were surrounded by a group of guys and one random women. They looked pretty threatening and were about to attack us.

Seeing there was no escape, I said to them (and this is a dream now), “Why don’t you be men and fight me one on one.”

One of the guys who was about 5’11 with brown hair and a snarl ran toward me and said, “Come on!”

As I ran toward him he jumped guard. I pulled back, he landed on the ground and I yelled the cheesiest thing I have ever heard.


I grabbed his legs and began to pass (at least that’s what I’m claiming), but then I woke up. Which is what I usually do when I’m in danger in a dream.

This morning, when I told my wife what happened, she just rolled her eyes.

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.


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


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.

Purple Belt Demonstration

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Once again, an incredible display of BJJ out of the Roy Dean Academy!