Combat Athletix

Open Mat – Battle in the Cage

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I’ve been to class three times since my last confession….

Anyway, I haven’t posted my last three sessions but I’m still on track. My academy has started an Open Mat Saturday (2/20/10) and I was extremely excited because I can literally double my attendance with few scheduling conflicts. It was also a new experience for me because Open Mat takes place in the MMA cage room and I have never been in a cage before.

On the day of the open mat I was the first to show up. Dan happened to be there while his son was attending Kid’s BJJ and said that he’d go through some drills with me. I worked on some side control escapes and then showed Dan a few of my tricks to gain and escape side control. Whenever Carlos (brown belt/assistant instructor) sees my ‘go to’ side control escape he calls it the “power roll.”  (When I can’t work a ‘regular’ side control escape I lean into my opponent and then roll back the other way. I end up in side control.)

After drilling a while Andrew (a fellow blue belt) comes back and asks if either of us wants to roll. I agree and then I had my first match, albeit a friendly grappling session, in a cage. My last time rolling against Andrew was over a year ago. He attends nights and I attend day classes. We couldn’t tap each other then and this time it was no different. Although, what was cool is that we are much better than when we last grappled. We went back and forth and at one point he actually used the cage to move around. I believed we grappled for about 7 to 10 minutes and by the end a couple of guys from the MMA class were watching us, which I believed increased the intensity of our roll.

What’s interesting is that I went to open mat with the idea of taking it easy and by no means were we wild. But since I haven’t grappled with Andrew in a year or more it was almost as if I was grappling with a new guy in class. And in those situations people tend to grapple a little harder than if they roll with each other all the time.

It is funny that I ended up grappling in a cage. It seems that the longer I participate in BJJ the more I end up doing things related to MMA such as sparring with the MMA guys and wrestling in a cage. I joked with Dan earlier and said I may end up fighting in a MMA match if I’m not careful.

Not really, but I never thought I would be grappling up against an indoor fence either.


Chokes and Chokes and Chokes…..

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Last Friday we had a mini-seminar in how to choke from the guard. Prof. Smiley taught this class and it was loaded with tweaks we could use for our chokes. We worked on the Guillotine, front choke, a choke when someone is in Turtle and a choke you should only do in an emergency. I also learned on Friday that it is now legal to perform windpipe chokes in certain BJJ tournaments. I will stick to the blood (carotid) chokes though.

It was funny though, when he he mentioned windpipe chokes, Joe pointed at me and laughter erupted. My favorite choke is the Knuckle choke and as far as I know its a blood choke. I have tried to tap everyone that I could mount with that choke so I hope I am not that guy in class who’s a jerk and doesn’t know it.

The last choke Prof. taught us was what to do when you have someone in your guard and they are defending the cross collar choke.

You shake em.’ —————  You shake them and shake them until their head rises up and then you sink in the choke. I had it performed on me and it is disorienting and confusing when it is happening. Prof told us to be wary of applying such a move in a tournament and that we might want to cover up once we let the person go just in case they decide to punch you. I just decided to file it under Self Defense move or if for some reason I am in a championship match or something.

I’ll be thinking, “Where’s my money?” the entire time I doing it.


During the rolling session I got to roll with my White Belt Nemesis Joe (I am blue belt for new readers). Joe hasn’t been around for a couple of months so I wanted to take advantage of him before he could get his sea legs back. [On a side note, when I first rolled with Joe about a year ago I was able to take him down, put him in side control, then mount and apply my knuckle choke. But Joe turned out to be one of those guys who would come every day and when I rolled with him a month or so later he was a completely different player.]

I was able to achieve over-wraps and secure a take down by placing my left foot on his left heel and pulling him down backwards. I was able to achieve side control and then mount. When he tried to upa I was able to grapevine one of his legs, which he uses all the time by the way. When he was able to get out of mount I didn’t remain in his guard. I stood up. Since I’ve learned a few more guard passes I decided to play the outside game and ran a bull pass to side control. I used my new stapling technique to keep him pinned and to keep him from shrimping out.  When he was able to shrimp away I stood up again and he pulled a sweet sweep on me. It’s the one Roy Dean does where he sweeps you and uses your momentum to pull him up like he’s on waterskis and you’re the boat. I saw him coming up but I met him half way and pushed him back to the ground and fell into his guard. We played there until the buzzer sounded. Joe is probably a blue in spirit and the way he trains that was probably the easiest match I will have with him from now on.

I also rolled with Jamie for the first time. He’s our wrestling coach. We stalemated and he ended up on top in the end. In the early part of our tussle I used my weight to keep him from driving forward. The entire time it just felt as if he was driving forward even when I was on top of his back and he was turtling. I was afraid that if I tried to spin to his back he would explode upwards and I would lose positional dominance. I rolled harder than I wanted to with him but I wasn’t winded at the end so that is a plus.

My roll with Prof. Smiley (Black belt) was as always an experience. What I do like about rolling with Prof. is that even though he is a lot stronger and bigger than I am (muscle-wise) his rolls are laid back and controlled. Although I tapped often he told me that I was moving well and he gave me a lot of instruction throughout. I take that as a sign that I am improving. (He handcuffed me at one point and held my arm behind my back like I was Chris Horodecki in the IFL. I vow to not let that happen again. I am a grown man.) 🙂

Good class!

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.

Chance Meeting….

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It’s been 41 days since my last BJJ practice. Since that time I have not even performed a BJJ solo drill. And that’s bad since that is what my website was initially based on when I started it nearly 2 years ago.

Anyway, last weekend, my wife and I decided to head to the mall after a trip to the library. While walking through the food court, I saw Smiley (head instructor and owner where I train) and his family. We greeted each other and I immediately went into excuse mode, just like most of the college students that I teach when explaining an absence. Even though I legitimately can’t attend BJJ classes right now, I still felt guilty.

Smiley told me about a lot of new happenings at the facility and I can’t wait to go back. I know I may be rusty, BJJ wise, but I should be in good shape. Although I haven’t been able to make it to class I have lifted, stretched and performed cardio and anaerobic exercises for the past 60 days. It’s never the same as rolling but it also never hurts to do it.

Sunshine State BJJ Open

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I didn’t participate but I went to watch everyone compete and lend support to our academy. We had over 20 guys and gals participating, including kids. I believe we (Combat Athletix/Smiley’s MMA) came in 1st for gi and 2nd for no-gi overall. I might have that reversed. A lot of our white belts placed as well.

I have competed in Judo competitions but never BJJ. It just so happened that the first time I saw BJJ up close was during a Judo tournament. It was around 1998 and a guy performed a flying armbar on one of my teammates. It caused a near riot. Our guy was so upset and confused that it got everyone else upset and confused.

The one difference that I noticed was that the BJJ tournament was packed and everyone was right on top of the action. People were really into the matches as well. I could feel the energy and can understand how it could sap some of your strength if you are not used to it.

It was interesting to watch.