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.
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.
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.
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.
Before I begin, I attempted a guillotine choke today. I didn’t get it but I can”t remember (since 2004) ever using it during rolling. Even though it is a very effective technique I’ve always viewed it as an easy ‘sub.’ Plus, in my first academy we used to have this guy who studied Hapkido who used to do things like pull on your fingers and use his forearm as a police baton. His favorite move was the guillotine and he would hold it for an entire roll if you didn’t tap. I learned guillotine defense by never putting myself in a position to let him attempt it and what I should do if he ever did.
Our warm-up was pretty long as we did a lot of stretching and at least 300-350 sit-ups before shrimping (about 8 types). Ryan, who led class today, has another name for it but I can’t recall it as I write. In drill we worked on passing the butterfly guard by trapping one leg. We practiced about four variations with the final one ending in a shoulder lock submission.
After that we rolled. My first matchup was against a guy whose demeanor didn’t match his grappling style. We started from our knees. He held out his hand and introduced himself. He gave no indication that he was ultra-aggressive. As we struck our beginning poses, a few seconds passed and then he exploded into the air with a “HUUUUUUH!” and with all four limbs coming in my direction. As my new policy is to not let new guys get the top position, I reflexively pushed him in the middle of his chest. He fell back like a rocket out of a cannon.
We both looked at each other for a second and then he jumped up to his knees. I had a sinking feeling as I realized that I was in the middle of a spaz match. I figured I could calm him down if I remained calm. We clinched and I twisted him down by holding on to his neck and left arm. I wrestled him until I obtained side control. Once I had it he waited a few seconds and then tried to explode out of the position. From there I snaked my knee across his stomach for the mount. I knew he was going to explode again so I grape-vined his legs. He exploded just as I locked up his legs. I didn’t feel like giving him a chance to go ballistic if I tried for a random submission from the mount so I knuckle choked him for the tap. I talked to him after class and he said he had been grappling for a month now.
In my second roll I matched up against a white belt/striped. This guy is getting pretty good real quick so I just decided to not experiment today. I also pulled him down by grabbing his neck and pulling on his left arm. I tried to obtain side control but he began shrimping as soon as his back hit the floor. We spent the majority of time with me trying to passing his guard to half guard, him recovering and back to half guard. At the end he was able to reverse after a scramble and we ended with him trying to pass my half-guard.
Once in the middle of our roll he tried the scissor sweep but couldn’t get it. After he tried a few times he said, “Bakari, you are heavy!” He is right I am heavy in comparison. But I also know that I have a very high resistance to scissor sweeps. Every place I have trained people have commented on me having a good base in the guard and much of my core balance comes from Judo.
I told my wife I am going to start lightly telling people it’s my Judo base not my weight. I’ve had guys bigger than me try it to no avail as well.
In my last post I talked about using Mario Sperry’s guard pass in class. I picked it up from this clip. I was able to pass with it once and had a number of near misses. I have used a natural variation of it in the past as a response to butterfly guards but never the well thought out version that Sperry presents.