Monday, January 15, 2007

Organic vs. Military

Funny how a hour discussion with my Professor can turn my entire plan on its head. I have a pretty good idea of one or two escapes and controls for each position I encounter; the white belt curriculum embedded a lot of that in my head. Originally my idea for putting together my game plan was to come up with my one or two favorite techniques for each position and drill them ruthlessly until they were second nature. However, there is a problem with this...

Do I want to play Soccer like Germany or like Brazil?

They do call it Brazillian Jiu Jitsu and not German Jiu Jitsu, right? So my philosophy has been altered about what my steps are in putting together my game plan. I have found that my best learning comes from actual rolling where moves and flow are very unpredictable. Depending on the match, it is sometimes not that difficult to set the condition for submission. There are sometimes too many variables to establish one technique for one position. So if I pigeon hole myself with only one or two possibilities, I lose so many more options. And that will get me tapped.

However, if my focus is getting to a place where I have control and options, the game is much more in my favor. This makes most sense after Professor showed me a couple of pages from Eddie Bravo's latest book. Where as before my goal was an entire move and only one move, now it will be to put myself in the ball park and work out my submission from there.

Another thing he mentioned which I find very valuable is to not be so rigid when rolling at this level. He dropped that famous "Be like water" quote from Bruce Lee, and strengthened his message even further. So where does that leave me? Still learning and doing my thing. But concentrating more on training and less on "Kataizing" my game. This will also make for less work and better results I think.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Back to the Beginning

Here is where things get interesting. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gained popularity in 1992 due to Royce Gracie in Ultimate Fighting Championship 1, so by my calculation, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been slowly snow balling for the past 15 years. It has been evolving and evolving with new techniques, flavours, and curriculum being added to it. I must also mention the effect of Mixed Martial Arts on the evolution of BJJ as crafty people have actually learned how to punch the face from within closed guard. The fundamentals remain, but there is a frothy layer of new school bubbling up and a record pace.

Here comes the fun part, how do I choose what I want to work on, need to work on, and how can I improve my game. I am a kid in a candy store about to get a stomach ache. This, I think, is the first step in putting together my ground game plan. Here is what I am going to do:

  1. Type out each position in a spread sheet; closed guard bottom, closed guard top, half guard bottom, half guard top, side control bottom, side control top, mount bottom, mount top, and north south bottom.
  2. For each position on the spread sheet, write out my favorite and most successful techniques for each.
  3. Add techniques that I think may work to each category.
  4. Work out a flow in my mind of if technique 1 fails, go to technique 2, etc... There should be a simple flow laid out as well as an escape or back to square 1 plan as well.
  5. Go over the plan with my Professor.
Once I have the base of my plan drawn up, it will be my own personal Blue Belt curriculum. Of course, I will study everything that is put in front of me to build my fundamentals, but with the goal of taking only the stuff that will improve my game plan. *If you try to catch too many rabbits, you may not catch any.

As I get the first draft completed, I will post it here for everyone to take a look at. After that, I will put together my Step 2; how to train and work my plan. Putting it down on paper is only a guide to follow, work has to be done. I will post my step by steps on that as well. I estimate that there will be 23 techniques in all for every position listed above, not including variations or transitions. But we will see...


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Killing Habits

One of the greatest challenges I am finding in building up my game is deleting all the bad habits I carried into class with me when I started over a year and a half ago. These bad habits not only slow down my progress, but they also get me into trouble some times. I need to forget what I know, let it all go, and re-build from the ground up.

This may sound silly, but the stuff my Professor teaches actually works. It is solid, effective, and if deployed properly, will work 90% of the time. I question why I, in certain situations, try something completely different. The simplest solution was taught to me, but slips my mind when given the opportunity. Perhaps that is the key to proper progression; letting go of all the previous habits and replacing them with new and better ones.

Last night we were working on control and a pass from half guard. Get position, pull the lapel, pass the lapel under arm of opponent, arm over head grab, shift weight to floor (all the way on the side floor), sneak bottom knee inside, and peel away the top foot going to full mount or side control. It was slick and I used it right after in randori (roll time). It worked. But it made me think of all the things I would have normally done, most of which could have got me in trouble (swept or put in full guard).

So, that is why I mention it here. I need to let go of my bad habits and put into full effect all the good stuff I have learned. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (or my current version of it...) can be so messy. My goal is to clean house.

I have also started working more on my game plan and will be meeting Professor Friday for a private lesson to go over it. I will post it up for everyone to take a look at, as well as how I decided on the elements as I continue to write.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Big Steps and Small Steps

I find that going back to class after a short hiatus can be pretty challenging, especially if that hiatus involved turkey, sweets, and lots of laying around. Of course, for me over the past three weeks, it involved an average of 4 to 5 hours of sleep a night with my two kids. So I felt that my first class back was extra crispy.

After 10 years of Karate, I often saw people get discouraged on their return and then quit. They could not keep up with the class. They did not know the curriculum. They were passed over in a grading. And many other reasons. In fact that was one of the reasons I halted my career in Karate; stopping in the Black Belt Sai Kata in front of all my peers and my Sensei in a weapons class because I did not have enough time to practice it. Life got in the way in a big time. My ego took a hit and I used it as an excuse to throw all my work away... well there was more to it, but my ego taking that hit was the catalyst. It happens to everyone at some point in their life.

The best part of going through that is it prepared me for my training mind set in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. My expectations have a lot less to do with ego (in this case what others think about me) and more to do with my own personal progression (what I think about myself). I do not have to be an expert. I do not have to be top dog. I do not have to be able to kick every one's ass. All I have to do is train.

Some classes I get my ass kicked. Some classes I do the kicking. But as long as I am there, I am progressing, and that is all that matters. This all came into perspective after being a paper weight while getting a whooping from Sam on Wednesday. I was shut down and non-functional due to gassing. Did I learn something, sure. I learn something every time I fight him. It brought to the forefront that which I just spoke about, but I also learned that he is using combos a lot more which means all heavy weights in the Grand Prix this year should be very afraid... terrified even.

So, my advice to anyone who reads this; train for yourself. You do not have to be Superman. All you have to do is show up and give it your best every time. Progress can be slow or fast, but it is still progress. No progress is made if you do not train. Do it for yourself and no one else, that is the key to sticking with it and getting better of course.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Did you know that every moment of the day, we are moving over 1000 miles an hour? That is how fast the earth is spinning. We do not realize it because we are stuck to this ball of dirt along with everything else around us, hurling itself through the universe at untold speeds. It kinda feels like we are standing still, doesn't it.

I brought this up because this is a great analogy for class and progression in BJJ. As everyone around you gets better, it is hard to notice your own progression. The blue belt who has been tapping you for a year still taps you, even after an entire year of training. But I have found that I only notice how well I have progressed when I roll with a relatively new student at the club, even a student who has been training for only a few months less than me. I wonder what it would be like against a non-fighter on the street... ? ... ;)

Tonight I am going back to class after the holiday war. Yes, war. This year I had 7 separate Christmas events. Crazy! But I did manage to get a new project launched: I took some of the tools I have been using for my own progression and polished them up for others to use.

I also wanted to give a shout out to Aesopian, a brother fighter from Tampa! He just earned his Purple and to my recent knowledge, has a really kick ass site: Check it out.