Friday Night Fights! Plus some Engrish.

BJJ Class, Friday 28 March

Had a great class… dragged myself there after work with my buddy Sam. At first it was only the two of us and about 400 shooto people training. Our coach was finishing off a combini bento (cheap-ass convenience store dinner) when we got there which wasn’t a good sign, but it turns out he has injured his chest and is not training too hard for a few days.

We warmed up and then just got to sparring, going 3 minutes then changing to a new partner for three minutes, then resting for three. Rolling went pretty well.

There was a guy there who I remember used to give me some trouble. We used to be about the same level. This time though he was either tired or out of shape or something (or maybe I am improving!) but he had nothing for me. I managed to triangle him despite crushing my balls badly (still considering whether I should wear a groin guard or not.)

There was one other blue belt there, who I have seen before. He was a top guy a few years back if I remember correctly, and suffered some kind of injury (or had a baby, or something…) and took a lot of time off. Now he’s back with a vengeance. He has that tough feeling of an old-school competitor, the type that grafts hard on a building site or something all day and then comes to jiu jitsu and it’s like rolling with someone sculpted out of wood. He was very fast, very technical, and had good stamina.

Mentally, I had to convince myself that I could compete with him. When we first started rolling I could feel his strength and skill and found myself almost giving up, barely resisting against sweeps or submission attempts because I felt it would be futile. Luckily I managed to snap myself out of that, and we had a few epic rolls. He is much better than me though so it was a case of survival for me. We sparred from standing for the last five minutes and I tried to bust out a few judo flips to no avail, but I’m slowly feeling more confident in my standing. I want to practice it in a BJJ environment more. I want to work on my single leg, uchi mata to inside foot sweep, and double leg.

The spars with him as the night wore on turned into tests of endurance and I managed to keep pushing myself till the bell went each time. I like those rolls (after the fact) as once you’ve survived a few of them, your stamina/endurance/ability to survive goes up a notch.

The ezekiel choke is working wonders for me at the moment. I like to attack the sides of the neck rather than the throat, and if I’m in mount or side control and someone leaves their neck open I can usually sneak it in pretty quick for a quick submission. Bow and arrow choke is also a definite go-to move for me… maybe it’s because of my long limbs?

I’m getting that tingly feeling as I start to think about the competition in May. If I can keep up this level of training and remain healthy, I’ll definitely be feeling ready for it.

Here’s some Engrish for you, found wandering around the city today.

fucktard.jpg

Yes, it’s a shop called Fuctard.

Advertisements

OJJ March 23

photo-logo.jpg

My body hurts. My fingers are red raw. My face is still glowing like a beetroot.

All signs of a good training session! I had a fantastic time last night at the 32nd OJJ. OJJ is a kind of social club at our dojo which originally started as a club for middle-aged men (or parents) who couldn’t come at other times, or just wanted to hang out and talk about cars or soft porn DVDs or whatever the hell it is middle-aged men talk about. It has mutated now into a wicked group of all ages and sexes that train very hard.

I had all the different aspects that, to me, signify a good training session during last night’s “jiu jitsu marathon”.

In no particular order:

I got owned.
The all-Japan blue belt champ from a few years ago (now a very solid purple) totally ownerised me, including an accidental knee to the head and a palm smash directly to my nose. Aside from those sneaky tactics, he was very quick, very strong, and very technical. Total ownage, great fun.

I owned.
There was a monster of a blue belt who I was paired up with. I wasn’t looking forward to it because last time we rolled (even though it was about a year ago) it was a slow, painful death for me. To my great surprise and joy, he was completely out of shape and I managed to triangle, armbar and collar choke the shit out of him. After about four minutes of this I realised something was up, and after the round ended I think he went off to barf in the toilet, but hey, we have to take these small victories where we can.

I persevered.
I had a few of those rolls where you feel as weak as a baby. Where your arms feel like useless pieces of balsa wood, and as you grip someone’s collar or sleeve, you know the chances of you moving them or controlling them are slim to none. Kind of like grabbing an elephant by the tail and trying to push it around. But I made sure I just kept pushing myself to keep moving, keep trying, for the full six minutes. Those rolls are very good for you.

I didn’t learn anything new, but it was a good, physical session. I managed to do one sweep that I’ve slowly been working on and now can count it as a useful part of my arsenal. It’s a good counter to a guard pass. If you can’t defend the pass and it looks like he’s passing, let’s say to your right, make sure you have a spider-type guard on his right arm, but instead of your foot pressing into the crook of his elbow, it’s your left shin. Keep that grip on his right sleeve with your left hand. Bring your right leg up, knee/shin across his chest if you can, and put your right heel on top of your left heel, basically so that your heels are touching but with your right one on top because you are going to push with it. Grip his left pant leg at the knee with your right hand, then push your heels down, your shins out, punch his leg up into the air, and roll up to sweep and land in knee on belly. Difficult to follow hey, but it worked last night.

colour-belts.jpg

Ten coloured belts… that’s a pretty good number. Including 2 all Japan champions and one all-Japan absolute third place!

whites.jpg

A good chance for white belts to practice as much sparring as possible.

don.jpg

Ide-san, the don of OJJ.

steam.jpg

Hardcore sweat, steaming up the lens!

steam2.jpg

BJJ 22 March

I went back to jiu jitsu after missing loads again due to stupid health reasons. I was the only one there! Those wise Japanese are all in bed snoozing. But I’m getting the drop on them with some private training with a black belt!

We worked on loads of stuff and I got to pick his brain big time.

Some random notes to help myself remember:

X-Guard
I asked about the X-guard to help clear some things for me. He went over the basics, including the setup… from half guard, I can try the fabio sweep, tipping over to the side. They counter by posting a leg out, I scoot under and grab firmly, thus starting the X-guard. Important to pinch the leg between my bicep and my hand so that they can’t just step over and escape. He says it is popular in Brazil (or was the last time he went) not to use the X shape with your feet anymore, but to kind of stagger them, like a Z. So your inside leg, the top of your foot/shin presses into the back of their knee. Your outside leg, facing the same way, the sole of your foot presses against the underside of their knee, pinning the leg between your feet. Then just kick out hard and make sure you have control of their arm so that they can’t post, for the sweep. Alternate setup is from quarter guard. Also, turning my body away, which seems counter intuitive, is essential for taking their balance. Turning my body is more powerful than just pushing or pulling with my arms.

Left or Right?
Nothing major, but my coach said something interesting… he doesn’t think in terms of what is his good or bad side (i.e. I only work sweeps to my left, etc.) but he thinks in terms of the opponent’s side. So if the right side is presented to him, he has certian things he likes to do. If the left side, he has different moves. I kind of liked that way of thinking. You don’t need to be ambidextrous with all techniques, but you need techniques for each side.

Combinations
So essential in pulling off those submissions which seem so effortless and catch people by surprise… the combinations. Setting up one while thinking about the next one in your mind, so that as they defend, they fall for it. He did a bunch on me that I can’t really remember, but there are some really basic ones I have to keep in mind. Collar choke from mount to armbar. Knee-on-belly to far side armbar. Far side armbar defense to mount.

Collar Chokes
I asked him about the really basic choke, which I had learnt kind of by osmosis but never really had explained to me. I need to remember: Put first hand in palm up, grip collar. Other hand goes over head, thumb in collar, and press on face with elbow. Ouch. Create the space and then put forearm across throat. Squeeze. From mount, I can pitch forward and post on my head, come up to my toes for extra pressure. If they defend, scoot the mount up higher to raise their arms above their shoulders so they have less power. If there arms are too far away from their core I can go for the armbar. From half guard, if I’m quick, I can use that choke almost like an armdrag, me scooting out to the side, them faceplanting on the mat, where I can take the back or finish the choke.

Mindset
Many times today as soon as we started sparring, the very first movement, he would stop me and say “No!” I need to put it on even from the start. First move is so important. For example, when playing open guard, I shouldn’t sit with both knees up. Two targets for him to grab. One knee up, elbow on knee, one knee down / open. And also, not to let him get basically any grip on me at all. To see it coming and fight it off or turn it into my own grip on his arm.

Guard Passing
Basics!Remember to keep control of the legs the whole time, even when in side control. Lift the legs to counter his shrimping. Shoulder pressure is not just pressure for the sake of it, it’s directed pressure… like a shoulder barge to pin them on their back so that I can pass. When passing, think “big” with my legs. Walk (run) them around in a big circle, keeping my legs away from their arms or legs, so they can’t grab me or draw me into half / full guard. Blast around, keeping that shoulder pressure and describing a wide arc with my toes on the mat. Also, reminding myself to use my body and not just my arms… for example if he traps my arm while passing, forget the arm and pressure him with my chest, shoulder, head… anything!

Pummeling
Ridiculously important for keeping control in almost any position. My coach is really great at pummeling with his legs, too. Not letting you get any purchase when you are on your back. Every time I try to pull him into guard or half guard, his legs are spinning off and away from me and coming back in a position of control for him, just like when you pummel for underhooks with your arms.

Standing
We sparred from the feet. I suggested to do standup with the class every lesson, and he agreed, but said it was slightly more dangerous for beginners, more chance of injury, so we need to practice lots of ukemi (falling) too. He says standup is soo important for the physical aspect that it gives you, and that people who always roll from the knees end up lazy, mega-technical, and not as strong as people who regularly practice their wrestling or tachi-waza. I was like, no shit, that’s why I go to a different bloody place to learn judo every week! He showed me a very nice takedown. Scoot down for the single leg, grab it deep under the knee, stand up, so if my left arm is hooked under their right leg, lift it high up. Get a grip on the part of the gi that hangs down below the belt with that same left hand. They are having to balance on one leg at this point. Then bring my right arm in and under the leg to switch the gi to that hand. My left hand then goes around their waist, gets a grip, and then I can pull them back and around to the ground very easily.

Shit, that wasn’t even half the stuff, and it was loads! Free private lessons are awesome…

BJJ – Monday 10th

Dragged myself to BJJ last night.

Not many people came but it was an excellent class. There was me, a purple belt (and all-Japan master and senior blue belt up to 72kg champion!), and this monster of a blue belt, who is also about a ten-million dan judo black belt (and throws the shit out of me on Wednesday nights).

maraiga.jpg

His name is Maraiga… actually I think that’s a nickname but whatever. The guy is built like a fucking tank… Remember that round, metal dude from the creepy kids movie “Return to Oz”? The thing with the moustache? He reminds me of that thing, only not made of metal, and with completely different arms and legs, and without a moustache, and… actually not like that thing at all. He’s like a cannonball with arms and legs.

Our coach was forced to give him a blue belt after a couple of months when he was consistently twisting all of us into the kind of shapes we just aren’t supposed to be in. Once, I saw the small of my back with my own eyes when he submitted me via spine-inversion.

So there was those two, and my coach, a black belt. So basically I got choked, armbarred, shoulder-locked and de-strangulated non-stop for around two hours. Afterwards my body felt like it was constructed from shards of broken glass and raw, pounded meat. My face was literally glowing red and was so badly chafed, I canceled the shave I had planned for that night. I may never need to shave again.

In other words, great training!

Lazy Sunday BJJ March 2

Had a nice Sunday morning session. Coach is still in Tokyo so Ide-san, the judo and OJJ don, took the class. We went over lots of basics, which is always good, and some not so basic De La Riva stuff.

Basics:
Being in closed guard: Bad! If I’m dragged down to the floor from standing, always jam a knee in then work for the pass. If I’m stuck in guard, hands in armpits, stand up, then sit down with the knee jammed in.

De La Riva:
Practiced the DeLa Riva to helicopter, to back mount, and a sweep invented by someone from our dojo (I think) where you thread both your legs through theirs and then turn them. Need to practice all of them more.

I got choked by a strong whitebelt, which sucked. I’m still using the excuse that I’ve had three weeks off. I figure that excuse is good for another couple of training sessions. That guy is tough though. He broke my nose a year and a half ago, so I am a but gun shy around him. He flails a lot. He’s also an anti-gang cop, which is nice.

My buddy Sam came, who I introduced to BJJ. Usually with my friends who come to jiu jitsu, I have to continually prod and pester them to go. Sam has been more times than me though in this last month! His long limbs will be a great advantage once he learns how to use them properly.

 

sunday.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the Saddle

Went back to training last night after about 3 weeks of back to back illnesses. No weights, no exercise, no jiu jitsu. Not that I lift anything other than my own flabby arse and a couple of rubber dumbells.

I was interested to go back and check my level, to see how crappy I had got. You tend to get crappy really quickly when you take time off. But it kind of threw me when I was the only jiu jitsu guy in the dojo.

My stupid sensei had decided to go to France for a week and not tell me. Or maybe he did tell me but I didn’t understand, and just nodded my head and laughed as I am wont to do when I don’t understand what someone is saying to me. I learned later that a student had won a trip to France in a raffle, and just gave it to him, so he took it. Fair fucks to him, the guy doesn’t even take Christmas off, so I hope he has a good time, and eats loads of foie gras and truffles and comes back all tubby and out of shape so that I can have a vague chance of beating him.

So I ended up rolling with the Shooto class. The instructor kindly made it a grappling only class. Whether that was for my benefit or not, I’ll never know.

I did alright, better than I thought. Learnt a few things, the main thing being… LEGLOCKS! HOLY SHIT! I couldn’t do anything without getting my legs twisted off like bottle tops. Man, it was ridiculous. I was tapping like crazy, it was like a non-stop tattoo. There was a guy there who had won the Kyushu Abu Dhabi trials and a bunch of amateur fights. He is a monster. Not big, but in amazing shape, and crafty as fuck. He’s like Masakazu Imanari, who he cites as one of his idols, in that he’s an innovative and dangerous grappler who likes nothing more than to twist your feet until your knees go pop. One thing I learned, though… or had reinforced. Don’t play the other person’s game! He would always pull me into guard, or go on his back, wait till I tried to pass, then spin round and leglock me somehow. The first and only time I pulled him into my guard, I triangled him! That felt good. But then he heelhooked me about ten times in a row, and the feeling disippated somewhat.

grappling.jpg

Had a few good rolls with various people. Enjoyed rolling without the gi and experimenting with different stuff. I find it easier, actually, to grapple without the gi. Physically. With the gi, when you roll with someone with a tight game, you have to fight for every inch. No-gi is a lot faster and looser.

Anyway, back in the saddle and it feels great. Except for the pain all over by body, that is.

Judo on Wednesday!

Recognising I’ll never be a world champion

It’s difficult, but it’s true.

Only a very, very small percentage of people will ever be truly, truly great. You and I are most probably not in that percentage.

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about my position in the jiu jitsu world. About how utterly, completely and terribly, abysmally, anonymously low it is.

I see videos of the greats, of the Leo Vieiras, the Naoya Uematsus, the Genki Sudos, the Rickson Gracies, the Andre Galvaos, the Eddie Bravos, the dude in the purple belt test, and it makes me a little sad, because I know I’ll probably never be that good.

Rickson Gracie will never give me a nickname. Marcelo Garcia will never ask to borrow my taping. Royler Gracie will never get my armpit in his face.

Faced with this thought, this idea that I’m 99% guaranteed a jiu jitsu career that involves pottering about at local competitions and clawing my way through each belt, I have three choices.

1) Cry. Give up. Realise it’s all hopeless. Some part of me, when I do something, always wants to be really, really good at it. Not just a little good, but to be really fantastic. I’m like the world’s laziest perfectionist. I’m a half-arsed obsessive compulsive. When I do something, I like to do it the same way every time. But that never actually happens because I’m too lazy and forgetful. When I enter into some field of endeavour, I’d like to do it to the best of my abilities and really make something of it, but that rarely happens because life always gets in the way. And I’m lazy. Sometimes when things are going really good at training, I imagine that I could enter the worlds one far, far off day. Then I get another cold, take a week off training, and return to suckitude.

2) Be a real American hero and yell “Fuck you!” in the face of insurmountable odds. In other words, delude myself that I will be the greatest in the world one day, and train with that lofty goal in mind. Pros: Looking totally awesome while being really aggressive in sparring and grunting a lot when performing moves; pumping my fist in the air while stirring rock music plays; wiping sweat and blood from my brow and taking a deep breath then plunging back into the fray. Cons: Requires too much energy; lifetime of minor disappointments followed by major disappointment when I fail miserably on the world stage and / or never even reach said stage.

3) Accept my lowly status and continue pottering. Now, this is more like it. You could even say it’s zen. Or Krishnamurtian. Or just lazy. But it basically means accepting my place in the grand scheme of things, and just getting on with it.

There’s a very cheesy and over-used saying which I’m going to use here again, with some cheese, delivered in in the form of a commandment.

Thou shalt not compare thyself to thy peers. Thou shall only comparest thyself to thy previous self.

It’s an oldy but a goody. It really is true. You can only compare yourself to how you were yesterday, and if you improved, you’re doing good.

Even the best out there are not the best for long.

10893-copy.jpg

My good friend Theo used to have a saying. “There’s always someone bigger and badder than you out there.” One night we were cruising along and we saw a guy prancing down the street, chest puffed out, looking like Captain I’m a Right Hard Bastard, giving everyone the stink eye. Theo pointed at him and said to me, “There’s always someone bigger and badder than you out there.”

Later that night, a friend of mine was drunk and tried to tackle Theo. Theo is a master ninja, and he stepped out of the way and redirected him into a wall. He split his head right open, so we took him to the hospital. Who did we see getting brought into the emergency room beaten to a bloody pulp? None other than Captain I’m a Right Hard Bastard. No word of a lie. Looks like he ran into someone bigger and badder and suffered the consequences.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes. You suck, the sooner you realise that, the sooner we can get on with our lives.