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Old 08-05-2009, 03:09 AM   #251 (permalink)
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A Note on Aggression

Since I've gotten back to the Bay Area for the summer, I've been training a lot more Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, trying to reestablish my submission game and really work the classic jiu-jitsu chokes so that my ground attack in judo will be that much more effective.

I had a great lesson with Stephan Goyne, the brownbelt instructor I've trained with for a long time, today. We ended up training in Oakland at Rocha Jiu-Jitsu and then going to K-1 Fitness in San Francisco where he also teaches. Bother were fantastic sessions, and it's great to get to train in solid classes back-to-back like that.

However, the thing that stood out to me today had little to do with the technique, so while I may come back and talk about the north/south position, which I think is very important to developing a good ground game, especially when attacking from the top (as the north/south is one of the best ways to attack one you've passed the guard), I thought it was worth making a note about something arguably more important than technique: Mentality.

One of the guys who joined us today in San Francisco was a guy names Dante in his early twenties. He was a good guy, and had been working out in the muay thai class previously (good striker, it's worth saying). He definitely watched MMA, and knew the basic positions (though, since we were working north/south, he was already learning something a little more advanced, in terms of transitioning to the position).

He picked up the movements quickly and, when Stephan teaches in San Francisco, he usually doesn't bother to take the new guys out and work basics during sparring, he just sort of lets them roll with the senior guys and has us (the guys who have been around a while) work slowly with them). This is radically different from the approach Eduardo, the blackbelt Stephan and I study under, generally takes, which is the jiu-jitsu equivalent of having guys in thailand kick the heavybag for a few days before they start really working with the advanced guys (armbar, collar choke, guard posture, etc.).

Since Dante and I are the same size (about 150ish), we ended up rolling together, and he's an aggressive, active guy. His technique, on the ground, has a long way to go and so I just took my time, worked slowly through positions and let him expend energy. That's a good practice for me, because sometimes I get too involved in the scramble when I should be focussed on advancing the position in a low-risk manner, and so I like working with the aggressive guys, even if they're less technical.

The real problem that I had, not so much with Dante as with his mentality (and his general nubile jiu-jitsu) was when he was rolling with Luke.

Luke is probably 12 or 13, weighs about 130 pounds and is a phenomenally technical, very active and aggressive kid, especially for his age. He competes with my brother, who's a little older, and does very well, and while he doesn't really give me much trouble (not surprising, given I'm six years older than he is), he makes it fun for me.

Dante and Luke, both being very aggressive, went at it pretty hard, and while I was rolling with some other people I was watching them out of the corner of my eye just to make sure everything was O.K.

At one point, Dante caught an armbar on Luke and, because he had never gotten an armbar in a sparring session before, cranked it. The result was a very sore elbow for Luke, and the rest of the night off.

Injuries are a reality of training. I have severely damaged feet and shoulders that make odd crackling noises to attest to that. But it is good to attempt to minimize injuries.

I know that many people see sparring as a way to maximize cardio and simulate a match, but that, in my opinion, is not the purpose of sparring in jiu-jitsu.

Push conditioning on the treadmill, in the circuit workout.

Save the match level intensity for the match.

The purpose of sparring, in my opinion, is to cultivate a level of technical ability. There's nothing wrong with applying techniques at speed, but there is something wrong with attempting to muscle through a submission that you don't really have, as the risk of injuring your training partner (who is, expressly, not an opponent) increases dramatically.

Obviously, it's all well and good to say these things, but it's important to make sure we keep them in mind on the mat. Even if this is just a note to myself (as many of the notes in this training log are), it is one worth writing.

I get strange looks from my training partners in judo when I spin for armbars and chokes from the side control, because the assumption is that, if I'm moving quickly, I'm applying a great deal of force, as opposed to just working the quick setup quickly (which is what I try to do), but I understand that fear that there is a guy on the mat who insists on jumping into those submissions in what should be a relatively friendly sparring session.

So, that's my note for the day.

I do think, though, for those reading this, that I can say Luke really impressed me in the sparring up until that armbar with Dante. He submitted Dante two or three times using solid collar chokes and a triangle he's spent a lot of time working on. The kid's going to be a phenomenal grappler someday.
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Old 08-10-2009, 01:50 PM   #252 (permalink)
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The Face is Not a Defense

One of my favorite things about being home for the summer is training at Rocha Jiu-Jitsu. Oakland is a great place to go if you love the martial arts, and Rocha Jiu-Jitsu is far and away the best academy I've been to in the Bay Area (though I'm incredibly biased, since I've trained there for such a long time).

Part of what's great about training at RJJ is that there are a lot of world class grapplers who kick my ass on a regular basis, especially after I've been training judo pretty strictly for a few months at a time (which limits the positions I've developed to side-control and guard positions).

One of the best training partners (and there are many) is a guy named Jeremy Adkins, who's won more titles at the Pan Ams than I can even count.

Jeremy passed on a piece of wisdom to me the other day that, according to him, comes from Eduardo Rocha (a third degree blackbelt under Royler Gracie and our instructor): The face is not a defense.

I've listened to Eduardo yell "choke the face" every time I mount a guy for years now, so I know pretty well that just dropping the chin into a gi choke is not a valid way of defending it (I've seen guys get their noses broken and their necks cranked, which a ref won't stop if it's a valid choke attempt), but to this day, it's hard to remember that the choke cannot be defended simply by proper placement of the neck.

The lesson in this has everything to do with the nature of defending attacks, especially from bad positions.

It's not enough just to be patient when you're in a disadvantaged spot. If you're mounted, if the other guy has your back and he's working a choke, you can't keep your elbows in like you're defending the armbar and try and defend the choke with your chin.

You have to use your hands to defend the choke because, in reality, you've only got a few weapons at your disposal and you have to use them.

Part of this is why it's so important, when you're in control of a fight, to slow the pace down, so that you can execute the techniques properly, and when you're in trouble, to push the pace in an attempt to force a scramble and escape.

Anyway, that's a pearl of wisdom from a fighter more experienced than I am.
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Old 09-10-2009, 12:28 AM   #253 (permalink)
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Some Thoughts on Judo and Newaza

I've been training judo with an awesome academy in Fresno for a while now. Still, even after a year of training judo, one of the great points of frustration is the total lack of respect for mat work that a lot of my training partners have.

I'm not going to rant at length, but I will say that having submitted most of the blackbelts I roll with, I expect a certain level of respect on the mat.

I respect the throws. I'm getting better at them, but I'm far from great. That is what gives me respect for the throw, so I understand how important and difficult it is to master.

That said, now that I've been training and competing in judo, I'm starting to understand why they don't have as much respect for newaza.

There's an understanding in judo that if you just turtle, you can get the standup. That's great for sport judo (though my training partners know that unless they want me to kneel on their back and choke them, they have to mount a legitimate defense), but it's a terrible, terrible habit.

Now, from the prospective of pure submission grappling, it's a bad idea. But I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, and a training partner who was asking me how I'm so successful attacking the turtle.

The short answer really should have been:

Quote:
Because, from a grappling standpoint, it's a very weak position.
But that's not what I said. I said:

Quote:
Because it's a stupid position.
Of course, this sparked a conversation with a few of the coaches, who wondered why I was so blunt about it.

My answer was simple:

The turtle position is the fastest way (in a real fight) to get yourself killed.

This, of course, needs some extrapolation. I'm not talking about strikes to the top of the head. My answer to this position in a real fight is to resort to the old pride rules. The turtle leaves you completely vulnerable to:
  1. Soccer kicks
  2. Knees
  3. Stomps
In terms of the medical consequences, it's probably the worst beating you can ake.

The reason that the turtle is the worst for defending is that if you're defending the stomps off of your back, you can use your legs to defend the attacks. You're opponent has to be wary, because of the possibility of leglocks, and because of the threat of the upkick.

You cannot defend yourself from the turtle. You can block the strikes with your hand, but when your head gets punted like a football, it's really not going to help to have your hand in there.

Anyway, these are some thoughts I threw out there in practice, and the guys understand that (though, obviously, for the sake of sport judo, they're going to keep defending with the turtle). Figured they might be worth posting.
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Old 09-10-2009, 09:17 AM   #254 (permalink)
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The turtle is the bane of our ground game, and what you said is completely true. That's the reason I intend to train BJJ one day, to get rid of that awful habit, and learning leglocks and necklocks.

You know what, if the referees in Judo would just allow more time on the ground and not stand people up as soon as one goes to turtle you would see a lot better ground game. Because we have a lot of attacks when opponent is in turtle, we just need more time.
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:32 AM   #255 (permalink)
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The turtle is the bane of our ground game, and what you said is completely true. That's the reason I intend to train BJJ one day, to get rid of that awful habit, and learning leglocks and necklocks.
Yeah, this is a problem, too.

That said, I use a lot of leglocks to sweep in judo, I just don't crank them to finish.

The kneebar off of the back is a great way to secure a sweep and get to a good position. There are a few leglock attacks from the top (and bottom) of the turtle that come from freestyle wrestling that are very useful.


Quote:
You know what, if the referees in Judo would just allow more time on the ground and not stand people up as soon as one goes to turtle you would see a lot better ground game. Because we have a lot of attacks when opponent is in turtle, we just need more time.
Yeah, that's actually a huge problem with the guard game in judo, because the guard game, when it works well, is about patience, grip-fighting, baiting and countering. If you have to go in all out attack mode from your back, you really lose a lot of the power of the guard game, which comes from controlling posture and attacking the joints and neck methodically.

But, yeah, it's also a problem from the topside of turtle, and you would definitely see people stop with the turtle if their opponent had a lot of time to flatten them out and secure chokes.

That said, the big problem my training partners have with defending the turtle is that they think it's an effective defense. Their goal isn't to advance the position, it's to stay in the turtle. Instead of trying to get back to guard (which, actually, is really difficult given the way I tend to attack the turtle in jiu-jitsu, which is grab the collar and the belt put my knees in the middle of the back, and my feet above the hips), they just chill there, and that gives me a lot of ways to attack without needing to worry about getting countered.

Still, my real problem with the position is that on the street (or under Pride rules) there are a lot of really bad things that can happen.

In fact, even in some grappling tournaments and MMA, there are bad things. People who've watched Alexander Karelin (and his Olympic performances are some of the greatest displays of Greco Roman I've ever seen) understand that if you are strong, and if you can control the body, you can put the hurt on a turtled opponent without using strikes.

Unfortunately, the Karelin lift is also illegal in judo. But that's sort of the problem.
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Old 09-10-2009, 03:32 PM   #256 (permalink)
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The thing is, because of the tendency to turtle in Judo, in my dojo when we learn new moves and transitions, most of them are when your opponent is turtling or on his belly. I know a decent amount of reversals and submissions that come from attacking the turtle.

Funny how the rules have so much influence on the preference of allowed techniques. We learn things from the guard, but because of competition experience, we concentrate on attacking the turtle.
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Old 09-10-2009, 08:49 PM   #257 (permalink)
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Funny how the rules have so much influence on the preference of allowed techniques. We learn things from the guard, but because of competition experience, we concentrate on attacking the turtle.
Yeah. This is a big problem when I drill newaza, but it works well for me.

I don't mind fighting off of my back with judo players, because so many of them lack experience passing the guard. Frankly, I'm more comfortable there than turtleing out.
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Old 09-20-2009, 01:17 PM   #258 (permalink)
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ROTC Combatives

One of the greatest complaints about the Army and Air Force ROTC programs here at Fresno State is that they lack any sort of combatives training, so the guys go into their bootcamps without any real combatives background, unless they take sport judo through the school, or jump into one of the self defense programs (which, realistically, are **** defense programs, and not as aggressive as what a soldier needs).

One of my good friends is in the Army ROTC program and asked if I would mind getting together with some of the Army guys who were interested in learning some of the stuff they're going to see in military combatives (in terms of striking and groundwork) and how to deal with real situations.

I said I was down with that, but I wanted to make sure that there was a supervising officer who could clear it and get us access to a mat room.

So hopefully that will work out. They're all really good guys and deserve to see what they're going to be getting into in a military combatives program.
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Old 10-13-2009, 01:45 PM   #259 (permalink)
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Kickboxing Notes to Self

I'm the first to admit that my standup is not that great, but it seems like it's improving lately. I've been working a lot with a guy named William Cho, who's got an extensive background in Shotokan Karate and kickboxing, because he teaches pretty close to me in Fresno.

My workout has really been about getting the fundamentals absolutely down. I understand the techniques, but it's about making all of those things completely mindless, so that means a lot of reps.

Last night I was working circuits with one of Will's students, who had taken over the class for the night, and all of the kickboxing drills were going pretty well. I get a lot of power out of the body and leg kicks and was working on getting inside (which is something that I've been drilling with Cho, because he wants me to use my thai clinch, which is really solid, and also because I have good knees).

One of the things that I've been noticing is that some punches serve to close the distance, others serve to create difference.

I'm sure this is a no-duh to most boxers, but since distance control in MMA is even more important, because of the importance of the clinch game, I thought it was worth acknowledging.

Firstly, a straight punch will always create distance if it lands. There is, literally, an act of pushing your opponent backwards with a jab or a cross, when it connects to the head. When I'm trying to close the distance, while it's necessary to set up combinations with the jab, it's important not to overuse the jab or the cross.

Hooks are really effective at closing the distance, because they're shorter they demand moving in. Any time I'm close enough to land a really quick left hook, I can find the clinch pretty easily.

It's an interesting note, I think, because sometimes opening with the left hook is a pretty good attack, especially if your opponent has been timing the jab.

Hopefully I'll have some more notes on the kickboxing side, but I put a lot less emphasis on it than I do on my judo training, at the moment.
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Old 10-28-2009, 01:05 PM   #260 (permalink)
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Leg Kicks

I was working extensively on leg kicks with Dominic, a former pro kickboxer and one of the two guys who teach kickboxing at one of the local places I train.

I dedicated about ten rounds to the right outside leg kick, which I've been finding I have a lot more issues with than I initially thought. I really wanted to get the form down, so I decided to drill the sh*t out of it: Six straight rounds, and then four rounds of holding the kick for Dominick and four rounds delivering it, alternating.

There are a few things I've been really zoning in on.

The first is that, like any guy with a weak kickboxing background, I tend to deliver kicks with the top of my foot. There are plenty of professional kickboxers who do that, but it's bad form, especially on the leg kicks. I'm getting used to using the shin starting about two inches above the ankle. This is psychologically problematic because I don't really like being that close without going into the clinch, but I think I'll get used to that.

The second is that the sound of a good leg kick is not what Joe Rogan thinks it is (though he seems to go back and forth). The slapping kicks from guys like CroCop are a use of the foot. They do damage, but it's different than the shin kick. I've spent a lot of time trying to develop pop punches, so I like the idea of pop kicks. However, there's little to no sound in a good leg kick. It's just the weight of the body sinking into the opponent's thigh via the shin. It's a totally different sound and feeling, so I'm getting used to that.

The third, and final, note is that the shin is a baseball bat. I've said this to myself for a long time, but I haven't always understood entirely what it meant. I was never a very good baseball player, but the concept of swinging the leg and turning the hips behind it is starting to really sink in, so that's been very helpful.
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