Monday, October 23, 2006

Game Plan on the Fly

Sometimes you have no other choice than to abandon your standard game plan when facing opponents of a larger size or superior skill. Some attacks or defenses will simply not work and you have to adjust accordingly.

In recent history, say the past year or so, every class I am paired with opponents who outweigh me by 30 to 50 pounds married to more experience. I do not learn much in the 5 minutes of attack defend, but the hours spent on reflection has taught me much. And my game has improved vastly because of this as well as my strength and conditioning. Of course my opponents have improved as well, so the results of each match has not altered much, but is closing in on parity. Time will do this as everyone improves.

I have learned when fighting a stronger and larger opponent, it is far more difficult apply different arm bars where strength is required. Try an Americana from top half guard against a guy who outweighs you by 50+ pounds who can most likely beat Sylvester Stallone in an arm wrestling match... You get the point. So how do you form a game plan on the fly?

At this place in history in my training, 16+ months of training, I have more and more tools in my arsenal. Enough understanding that I can more than likely do most of what my Professor tells me to do as he observes from the side lines. But all this understanding must lead to the formulation of what may work and what will most likely not work on an opponent that I size up before a match.

For a smaller opponent - Use your weight and work to hold top positions, avoiding sweeps and escapes. Strength has to match up well against speed. Shutting down mobility should lead to victory.

For same size opponents - All things being equal in size, initiative must be used to stay in control of attack. Once in defensive mode, the game is much harder to play. Getting and keeping control is the path to victory.

For a larger opponent - Where is the weakness? How could you work to gas an opponent with big muscles? Is it easier to leg or foot lock a tall opponent? How can you take away their size advantage; perhaps working on getting to the back? Is it easier to choke a big guy than to arm bar?
Experience is teaching me that it only takes time to figure out what works and what does not. As long as I stay on the mat and spend time on seemingly more productive routes to success, the faster I will achieve my goals. If I take a step back, eliminate all the useless stuff like emotion, appearance, and hesitation and then focus on options, the game becomes much more fun and fluid. And, of course, having Professor point out errors in judgement and style helps immensly over time.

Next time you face off against a tougher opponent, picture a better fighter than yourself, say Marcelo Garcia, and ask what would he do in the match? Then try it out.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Litany Against Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Frank Herbert

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Rear Naked Bed Making

There are right ways and wrong ways of applying different submissions, but I want to first talk about making your bed. Anyone can make a bed, although I suspect most fighters, to the disappointment of spouses and perhaps parents, are not very good at it. I know that I get an ear full every once and a while from my wife when I don't straighten the sheets.

When making a bed it is essential to do it the same way each time, step by step. First remove all loose materials from the under sheet. Then straighten up the pillows so they are in proper order and not sticking up or out. Then pull the top sheet or blanket over the bed and pillows. Then tuck in the sheet under the pillows for presentation's sake. And then swipe out any bumps. The bed is done and looks nice too.

Having a nicely made bed will impress your spouse, significant other, or parents regardless if you care or not. It may take some time in the beginning to get a process down, but the more you do it, the faster you will get. Just take a look at a maid in a hotel; 3 minutes to make bed so tight and neat, it looks military. Step by step practice leads to increase speed and accuracy in getting the job done right.

The same goes for a submission techniques. I failed to apply a rear naked choke this week that I usually can put on and pretty tight. I was in perfect position for the submission. In an attempt to put it on quickly, I missed one step that allowed my opponent to peel it off because I did not get my second hand in low enough behind his head; hidden below the bottom part of his skull to act as a door stop. And because I did not get the second hand in tight enough, I could not use my head to layer on my attack defense. And the whole technique fell apart like a house of cards; especially since my opponent was very strong.

Speed does not matter if you want to make a bed properly. The same rule should apply when attempting a solid submission. Sacrificing speed for sloppy execution harms the perfection of the technique and leads to bad habits over time. Go as fast as you can without missing steps. You may miss the application due to a defense, but step by step will eventually lead to speed, accuracy, and a successful submission.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I was away from the mat with a thing for the last two weeks. Last night was my first class back where I felt something I had not felt for a long time and certainly never to the extent it hit me yesterday.

Class was pretty normal, although we are in tournament preparation mode for Joslin's in November. And there was nothing out of the ordinary going on. The rolling portion of class Professor put me with the usual heavy hitters for my first two rolls. I felt fine, although I find it difficult to not rely somewhat on strength when out muscled. After these rolls I was paired up with an sneaky opponent that weighed less than me, causing me to move and think at a faster rate.

Near the middle of the third roll, I lost my breath but continued to roll. After my breath left me, my muscles started to work less and less. I felt clumsy and my attacks were more holey than church on Sunday. I kept trying to keep up the attack and gain position and play my game, but I could not hold anything. Credit goes to my opponent, but it was frustrating for me to feel like I could not lock anything in, which is unusual.

After the three rolls, class came to an end. While standing in line, I could not breath. I do not know what asthma feels like, but I imagine it felt like this. I knew I would not die, so it may sound strange, but I enjoyed the agony. I did my best to stay upright, although I did put my hands on my knees once or twice, and see through the fading darkness to pay attention to Professor's words during the final bow. The hardest part about being gassed is to not show that you are gassed, and to not pass out of course.

So I know why I gassed; I drove to damn fast far too early in the race. Two weeks off requires some re-building to get back to proper fighting shape, especially when you were ill. Missing classes is the fastest way to become unhealthy. The flip side is that the fastest way to getting healthy is to make it to every class. But all this lead me to an interesting paradox on gassing: the more you gas, the less you gas. I will be better next class.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Checkmate or Stalemate

I had the opportunity to watch a class on Wednesday due to a thing. I rarely get to watch my team mates roll as I am usually "in the shit" and seeing where most of the guys are in terms of skill is pretty cool. I have to mention Victor because this guy has improved immensely since he started with his brother in January this year. He uses the fundamentals well and once he learns to sew things up tighter, he will be a force. He also has some really sneaky knees...

Anyway, I saw something in the rolling portion of class that I did not expect and I will comment because I have been there before and have learned to move past it. I saw a part of match where fighter (a) got caught in bottom mount. Fighter (b) held it and was ready to launch an attack and waited for fighter (a) to make an escape attempt. Fighter (a) knew what was coming and refused to attempt an escape. It seemed like forever where fighter (a) just lay there while fighter (b) held position and waited.

When fighter (a) was asked why he did not attempt an escape, he replied, "because I know what fighter (b) is going to do". They ended up breaking the stalemate and started over in a different position which I could not understand. This was a missed opportunity to learn for both fighters. I wish I could have seen fighter (a) at least attempt the escape so fighter (b) could have done his thing. But I question why fighter (a) knowing what fighter (b) wanted to do could not put together a plan. As well, there are a few options to escape from bottom mount that fighter (a) has used on me more than once, all of which were effective to a least create space and get out from under there or end up in half guard. It surprised me that he did not use escape techniques in this situation even though his opponent was larger. Maybe I missed something...

I wrote about this a few months ago talking about 2 specific times I could not escape, but could not get tapped either. Once when Mikey had my back locked in an Anaconda or Back Triangle really tight and I did not know how to defend my neck while breaking the lock. And once when Gabre had my arm trapped in closed guard real tight and I, again, could not escape while defending the cross choke grip he was attempting. In both instances it is my opinion that I was check mated, even though there was no submission. I now have some idea how to deal with both these situations because I looked for answers. But with the fight I just mentioned, the bottom fighter had viable options already.

I am happy that I am still a white belt and will continue to keep my mind open like a white belt. If I play all defensive all the time just to avoid getting tapped, I will hit a ceiling and plateau in my ability. Sometimes it is better to get tapped just to see how it happened, why it happened, and work on a solution for the next time it may happen.

Grappling, like chess, has so many pieces and so many variables. I would rather lose to a checkmate than force a stalemate if it meant I got better for the next time. Will ego be my biggest opponent as I progress? I hope not because then that and everyone else will kick my ass.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cliff Keen Headgear

Draining my ear after every class sucked. But wearing headgear sucks a little less. I am not a big fan of wearing headgear to protect my ears, but found that it was essential to keep my training comfortable. After I tired of draining my ears, around 14 or 15 times, I decided to purchase some headgear. I looked online high and low and there were very few vendors who carried the headgear that I thought would be good for me. It is a specialty item which means that people do not usually carry it, including Walmart or Canadian Tire... ;)

I was looking at the Cliff Keen Tornado Headgear because of all the reviews I read. I checked out who had all the stuff I wanted, but the cross border duty rep and shipping was 35+ dollars. That was almost the cost of the headgear I wanted so it was not going to fly. Note to US companies and our glorious Canadian government; US/Canadian currency parity and the current state of cross border duties kills international consumer shopping.

Jonathan, a Purple belt at our club hooked me up with his gear temporarily until I could score my own. I was thankful, but wearing headgear felt like rolling in a fish bowl. It was worse than wearing my mouth piece for the first time after a few months of naked teeth. But for the good of my ears I continued.

So, I was set on the Cliff Keen Headgear and could not find a suitable vendor in Canada or the US until I went to the source. I went to and found my first choice; the black/black/black Tornado Headgear. Their online transaction did not work for Canadian shoppers, so I called. The sales lady was real nice, used to taking large orders from universities, schools, and other organizations, asked how many I would like to order. I said, "One black/black/black Tornado Headgear please". She laughed and took my payment info.

Three weeks later my gear arrived at the grand total of $46.00 Canadian; around $25 dollars less than the final cost of I tried them on and was instantly happy with how they felt and these things were so well designed, I could actually hear very well. I returned Jonathan's gear and rolled with my new gear the day I received them. There was a world of difference with these things; comfortable, unobtrusive, and after my third roll, I was somewhat unaware I was wearing them at all.

I love my gear and am happy I put the ear needles away. I may continue to wear them even after my ear finally heals up. Thank you Cliff Keen!


Monday, October 02, 2006