Month: September 2010

My Fingers Gave Out….

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I was trying too hard. I have a fair amount of grip strength and from my Judo days I know how to grip without fatiguing. But my fingers still lost every ounce of strength tonight. My instructor kept quasi-yelling, “Grip the back of his gi.” Instead, I just placed my hand on his back, curled my fingers and made a face like I was squeezing lemons. I was pretending. There was nothing behind it.

Advanced class tonight was half-guard mania. We worked on a half-guard escape 15 times to each side and then Prof. Roberto discussed the philosophy behind it and some ideal uses for it in competition. Then he divided us up for positional rolling. He paired me with Aaron, who is a Blue belt (3 stripes). Aaron had his way with me as I have never used half-guard as an offensive tool. I am not mugging for my blog and pretending that I have no game when I really do or possess even a smattering of half-guard ability. I have been grappling since 2004 and I literally have no experience with it except for catching people in half-guard as a stalling technique.  I am the anti Robson Moura.

When Prof. paired me up with Derek who is about 5’6 and 130 pounds I held onto him like a tiger holding onto a baby goat to keep him from passing my half-guard. I admit that when I was in his half-guard I used my weight to anchor him to the mat.

Am I evil?

I was so embarrassed by my performance that I am going to devote way too much time to learning half-guard. I think my fingers ‘dropped the ball’ because I was trying to overcompensate my lack of skill with grip strength. I don’t usually do that.

Until next time!

“Na-ah! It’s not going to happen!”

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Check out my new book, Grappling for Newbies on!

There were just two of us in Advanced class on Wednesday; Tristan and me. The fighters had just finished up a long session before ours and many of them opted out.

As a warm-up we started out working on a reversal of the headlock if someone has you in Kesa-gatame. Prof. Roberto had us roll back and forth practicing it for about 10 minutes. Then he showed us a slick choke (using the other person’s gi) that we can use from side control. He also showed us a variation of it that we can use to obtain an opponent’s back.

After practicing these two submissions, Prof had us roll from set positions. I started in Tristan’s guard. Tristan, who is also one of the fighters at GB, is a 2 or 3 stripe white belt but he is a gym rat so he is pretty sufficient at avoiding submissions. He’s about 6ft tall and appears to be about 180 but is only 155 pounds. In our first five minutes I was able to pass his guard with a bull fighter’s pass but when I came down my knee crashed into his and action stopped. When we resumed I was pretty much able to keep a dominant position but I was not able to submit him. I haven’t been able to since I started training here 3 months ago.

On our second roll he started in my guard. I tried to triangle him and instead ended up being passed. From that point we traded positions back and forth until I ended in side control near the end of the round. I have been working on the arm bar from side control and attempted to pull it off. As I headed around to his other side Tristan said something like, “Na-ah! It’s not going to happen!” He was right and I lost my grip. But it did put me in a good position to try for a bow and arrow choke from behind. I was actually able to reposition myself a couple of times because I had such good control from the arm-bar setup. I’ll never know what would have happened though because Prof Roberto said, “Time!”

Prof then asked for us to choose what position we wanted to work with him in. I asked for him to place me in mount. I don’t get mounted often but when I do I stay longer than I like. The funny thing is that I am hard to submit when I am mounted, (In a real fight I would get my behind whooped because it would take me so long to reverse it!). Prof had a mount that I was not used to but I stayed calm even when he smothered me. I am used to huge guys doing it so it would take a lot to make me panic. I was eventually able to get the reversal but he submitted me with an arm-bar soon after (He tweaked my elbow.). We immediately started again with him in the mount. After a bit, I was able to reverse again and even briefly had a shot at a guard pass attempt (I didn’t get it) before the buzzer sounded.

We bowed out after that. I was tempted to attend the fundamentals class (there seemed to be at least 15 people) but I had to prepare for work the next day.

Good class!

White Belt Monster

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I returned to BJJ after missing 2 1/2 weeks. Prof. Roberto asked where I had been. I told him I had to return to work. I am teaching two new classes this semester and I am using a new book for a third class so I am constantly in prep mode.

But anyway, this is a BJJ blog so let me tell you what happened in class.

Warm-ups and Drill

After the ten minute warm-up we worked on some drills. In the first one we had to flip over our partners backs and then flip back over while holding on to the far-side lapel of their gi. We’re both 200 pounders so I knew this would be challenging. Dave is 6’4 275 so I was a little worried. I was barely able to keep my base as he propelled himself over me. I had a little better luck and was able to go over and bring myself back more times than I failed to do so.

On the second drill we had to let the person set up base in side control, then bench press them upwards and move our feet from one side to the other. I repeat, we are both 200 pounders. We choked each other while trying to bench press each other and not let our hands touch the mat. Prof told me to keep my hands off the mat so Dave could push me up with his own strength. He did okay, but we couldn’t even pretend when it was my turn. Two hundred and seventy five pounds was my max when I benched pressed in college. Nowadays I can knock off a few reps of 225 when I am at the gym, but there was no way I could lift Dave 10 times for this drill. He stayed on his knees while I pushed up his upper torso.

On the third drill one partner had to stand above the other one (foot in armpits) and then we shrimped the length of the gym four times using their legs to push-off.


For self-defense we worked on defending against the front bear hug, which led to a hip throw and knee on belly. Then we worked on defending against a headlock on the ground.


At the end of class we were paired up and had to lie on our backs facing the opposite way. I was paired with J…, who is a three stripe White Belt. He appears to be about 6 ft or so and 180 to 200 pounds. For some reason I expected him to be explosive and I wasn’t disappointed. When Prof said go he nearly jumped to his feet. I pulled closed guard to control him and he was using full horse power. I heard a fellow blue belt telling him to slow down, but he didn’t listen. He was moving with so much force that he when he shifted his weight he was off-balance. I was able to rock him over with my closed guard and landed in mount. I wanted to end it right then so I used the Knuckle choke. I saw that he was resisting with all his might so I leaned in to it for the tap.

He took it well and said let’s go again. This time, Dave (not my training partner) counted for us and he exploded again. It seemed as if he was even more intense. This time I heard at least two people say slow down. He tried to choke me from inside my guard and I attempted a front choke as well. It didn’t work and he managed to break out of my guard and tried to pass. I caught his right leg and established lock down. Then I established an under hook on the same side. I attempted to slide under his arm but he blocked it so I pushed on the opposite side and flipped him over. I tried a one arm choke where you grab the lapel and pull down but he was fighting it with so much strength I decided to ease up because I didn’t want to hurt his windpipe by accident. I attempted the front collar choke and he quickly tapped. I was surprised by its effectiveness. I may start using it more.

Since time wasn’t up I grappled with him two more times. He was able to establish side control once and he locked it down tight. I couldn’t power roll him at all. But I did manage to regain guard and reverse him. We ended with me in full mount.

I have to admit that during the first moment of our grapple I thought to myself that I didn’t want to grapple with him again. He seems to be a nice guy but I wonder what it would have been like if I didn’t have the experience or strength to control him.


What I did notice is that I have been able to finish people more quickly. Before I was really good at establishing positional dominance but had trouble getting the submission. As of late I have been able to achieve taps soon after achieving top position.