Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The journey from practitioner to artist.

I watched UFC 1 at a buddies house. It was amazing. I liked boxing, but this was a whole new thing. I was hooked.  I watched every UFC with my buddies. I worked the nightshift at a local grocery store, and read every martial arts magazine on the shelf during my breaks,  if one was really cool, I'd buy it.  About 5 of us would roll around and I usually got the better of the guys because I actually paid attention to how people did things.  That was about it though. I never lost interest - but I never took it serious enough to actually go learn from someone qualified to teach.
Fast forward to '08  still loved MMA and especially BJJ,  but watching it was about all I did . I drank lots of beer and ate lots of bacon and you could tell by looking at me. I was 225, not much of it muscle. I saw a pic of myself playing in the backyard with my son, and got really pissed at myself. I promised myself that if I could get myself down to 175, I'd go find somewhere and actually take some classes instead of just talking about BJJ.
About 5 months later, I was 172 and I kept my promise to myself. I didn't really know what to look for, so I just did a google search. Ended up at LA boxing on 620 since it was pretty close and they did MMA and BJJ. I LOVED it. The BJJ instructor was a purple belt from a local place, and an all round good guy. I did pretty good there, but I was stuck on the UFC thing. I refused to put on a gi. I got myself every book Eddie Bravo wrote, and called myself a "10th Planet Guy". I learned EB's half guard and rubber guard pretty well. I became quite the BJJ practitioner. Then LA boxing closed... I really didn't quite know what to do. There was a place pretty close to my house and I would show up there and roll, but I wasn't doing much. I ran into a guy there who was a really solid roller. He told me that I really should check out Vandry's. That I should suck it up, buy a gi and go - that there wasn't any better training in Austin than there. 

So one day during lunch I took my work out buddy who had seen videos of me rolling with me to go check out Vandry's. I signed up there. On that day, my life started changing.

Professor Vandry showed me that there's more to BJJ than tapping out your opponent. It's about the art. It's not about being tough or fast or strong. It's about figuring out how to be better. How to make a mistake, and learn something from it so you can make a new mistake next time. It wasn't just Professor Vandry though, it was the group of guys that I trained with. Every one of them where passionate about the art, and wanted to spread that passion. Every one of them gladly shared their knowledge. No one was was trying to hurt anyone else, in fact they where all careful. I remember pretty soon after signing up, I was rolling with someone, and caught him in a double arm bar. I too quick with it and tweeked his elbow a little bit. I felt bad already, but once Professor Vandry got done with me, I felt even worse. It was a totally different atmosphere than anywhere I'd ever trained. 

"You should be even more concerned about hurting your opponent than you are about getting hurt yourself" he said. That was interesting... And it changed my game. I don't even know if it's what he intended to do, but it substantially changed the way I rolled. It made me slow down, and in slowing down it forced me to pay more attention to details. To have better control. More hooks and handles, pay more attention to body weight distribution so that you don't have to muscle things. If you're yanking on an arm, you can't really prevent an injury right? You're also more than likely screwing something else up. You don't need to jerk an arm to finish an arm bar. The simple act of being careful to not hurt my opponent changed my game.

BJJ was becoming more and more a part of my life. Instead of going because it was fun when I felt like it and not showing up when I didn't.  It was that it was part of who I was, it just felt "wrong" to miss classes. In the past, if something came up, I wouldn't worry about training. No big deal. Now??? I'm at the office around 7 most mornings and typically don't leave the office till 6 so I can train during lunch and no one gives me crap about it. BJJ is important enough to me that I figure out how I can train and change things as needed.
I've always had issues in life with working hard for things. Things tend to "just work out" for me. I've been blessed with a really good aptitude for detail, and I'm a pretty good software engineer.  Didn't finish college because I got bored with it. I start lots of stuff, but tend to get bored with it and give it up.

I just suck at accomplishing long term goals. Getting belted was one. The week I joined Vandry's one of my in-laws started dating some Purple Belt that owned two schools in Ft. Worth. He came to visit and we hung out quite a bit for a while. He told me next time I was up in Ft. Worth (that was pretty often) that I should come to his school and we could "roll a little" and he'd give me my blue belt. I never did... Instead I decided that getting that belt from Professor Vandry was worth whatever it took. That this was a goal I was gunna put in the time and effort. Quite honestly, I don't think I've worked as hard at anything as I have at BJJ.

'Ain't much free worth havin'.

 It's not just a hobby now. It's part of me. I'm actually becoming a martial artist.

Happy Rolling,
The Geek in a Gi

Monday, May 17, 2010

Notes from rolling with a freekin' genius

I had the honor of rolling with Carter today. While I have studied him like I've studied no other BJJ practitioner  besides Professor Vandry, this is the first time he's asked me to roll.

I knew well that he had been working outside arm bars with the Professor and Doc, and Doc had caught me in one last time we rolled, and Professor has absolutely destroyed me with them. So as soon as he waved me over, I got my gears to turning about how to avoid the inevitable outside AB.

First of all, Carter (as expected) whipped me like a red-headed stepchild, don't get me wrong here, make no mistake about that. Lets just get that part straight right now. I'm also quite certain he really took it easy on me...


I'm actually a bit proud of some of the things I did right. I did a pretty good job at protecting my arms using my knee. Matt did some drills with me like 6 months ago, and ever since then I've really worked that. It worked out pretty well.

I've watched him roll time and time again, and I've noticed some things about him, and the second we started rolling, I made adjustments that probably would have worked against someone that didn't have a belt the color of the devils soul. I know that Carter has no qualms about standing up to pass, since I've watched him so much. So the minute he swept me to a bottom position I swung to a X. I was quick about it too, because I expected him to do exactly what he did. I think that's really the only thing I did against him that worked, and it really didn't prevent him from landing that triangle.

He did land an amazing keylock (some might call it an outside arm bar, but I'd get pissed at those people) that was really interesting. He was doing a great job at collapsing my hips, as I tried to step over to pass, he was able to turn me just a little. The interesting thing was I did not feel like I was in danger at all. In fact, I thought I was gunna at least get to half guard. But he did something brilliant.  Too bad I can't explain it here, huh? Yeah, I'm trying to figure out how to explain it, but I can't so get over it.

Another thing I know I need to keep working on is not committing my shoulders so much as I try to overpass. I've got a pretty solid overpass game, but with guys who have really good hips and flexibility like Carter,  I sometimes get myself caught in omaplatas because I just commit my upper body too much, and they get their legs over me... That's gunna take a lot of work, and the only way I'm gunna work through it is to spend more time rolling with guys that work like that.  Carter was amazing with his foot on hip or thigh game, and kept my hips outside. The problem was that I didn't get shoulders out too, so he was able to attack my arm, which led to a triangle choke.

Ok, brain dump complete for now...

I've been training pretty hard for the last month or so, and it's really paying off.


Thanks so much for the roll Carter, it's really an honor to train with you!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Being at home in half

My bottom game really revolves around half guard. Honestly, for me, it just might be better than full guard. No, there aren't as many subs, but for me, there's actually more sweeps. Also, getting back to guard is one of the most frustrating things in the world for your opponent (even though I'd rather just go for a sweep).

I haven't been able to make class much for the last month and a half because work's been crazy, but I have been training with Terrence, T is pretty new to BJJ but is a real athlete. Played football in college or something, and he's strong as an Ox (ugly as one too). He's also got a build that's makes my typical half guard game difficult. Dude's got crazy long arms, but short really short legs. Since I really like the lock down, that kinda sucks for me, because he his short ass legs make it difficult for me to get my inside ankle under his.

Last few classes I've made at Vandry's though, Professor Vandry has been working some half guard stuff. He doesn't have long legs at all either and watching him roll is ALWAYS amazing, but since I've been thinking half guard, I've watched for how he handles half guard. He approaches half guard a totally different way. I rarely see him use lockdown, instead I see him control his opponents through other means, like simply stepping on their calf and ankle.

Today we worked what he called "the pinch", it was something I'd never seen before, and actually might not have grasped had not Carter Fisk, came and gave me a few pointers. The whole point of this is to just hip escape and get one knee ALMOST inside, and push his hip with your knee, while using your bottom leg to apply pressure the opposite way. Honestly, this seems like a REALLY nice place to be, and I'm very interested in exploring some sweeps from this position.

I guess the point of this post is that I feel like I'm really evolving this part of my game. It's probably always been one of my favorite positions, and I kinda got to where everything was just muscle memory. I'd just always go for the lockdown/whip up, and look for the sweep. Rolling with and watching guys with builds that make that difficult has forced me to explore other options, and I'm really excited about all the potential.

I guess the more tools we have in our belt, the more comfortable we are. To me, half guard is just getting more and more comfortable.

Happy Rolling

- The Geek in a Gi

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Old School half guard.

So I'm changing gears lately, and spending more time working from the half guard. I really think half guard is probably the most important part of the BJJ game. Too often people don't work it, and find themselves struggling there. That's not a good thing since so many transitions move through half guard.

To me, the big thing for bottom half guard is to think if it as an offensive position. I really do. I'm attacking from there, not just fighting to get back to guard, most often I'm thinking that I'm just a step away from top side control.

I'm still a big fan of the half guard game Eddie Bravo plays. The lockdown opens up SO many opportunities for me because not only does it make my opponent uncomfortable, it DESTROYS his bottom half. You can't be offensive in bottom half if you've got both shoulders on the mat. So I concentrate on getting up on my side. The easiest way for me do that is getting double underhooks, and essentially trying to throw him over my head using the lockdown and shoving him up by grabbing him by the waist. At the same time (or immediately after that) I get up to my side.

Honestly, once I'm there. I feel like I've won a sweep already. Unless my opponent can get my shoulders down to the mat, he's gunna have a really hard time resisting most sweeps. Old School is my standby. While I'm on my side, I simply grab his toes with my bottom hand, pull towards me while driving him over with shoulder. If I keep his leg hooked as I drive through, I can control his near leg and prevent him from catching me in his half guard as I complete the sweep.

I'm really enjoying working my half guard, because so much happens there that is so fundamental to BJJ that makes a lot of the game more clear for me.

Anyway... Can't wait to train this week. Plan on working some sweeps where I'm not able to get to my side, hopefully I have some success and blog it!


Happy Rolling,

The Geek in a Gi

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The High Side

As most of my recent blogs show, I've been working a lot on my top game. My passing game has definitely improved a lot, and I'm starting to play with some new stuff in side control.

Usually, once I get side, I'll have one knee down by my opponents hip, and the other all the way up under his shoulder. I feel like I'm in a really dominant position and it's very hard for my opponent to escape. Sometimes though, he's able to get his elbow inside, under your hip that's closest to his shoulder.

When that happens, I've started working on a really high side control. I feel like I have a whole new set of options from here. When he gets that elbow tucked in, I've started crossing my ankle closet to his hips over his bicep or forearm, and putting about 70% of my weight on that arm. It really has the effect of gluing that shoulder to the mat. Once I've got that, it's hard for him to roll away, so I try and keep him from being able to roll into me. For that I just take my arm that's nearest to his head and get under his head and grab is lapel.

Lots of cool things have started happening for me when I get here...

The Pass

Since I'm now away from my opponents hips, he feels really free with his hips. This is something that took me a bit to get used to. I usually like making my opponents position as close to static as possible. I want to be the one moving, not him. In this scenario though, I've found that he really can't do much except get himself in more trouble... Why? Because he's not going anywhere without his shoulder and head right? So He can buck all day, but unless he gets at least one shoulder free, all he can do is buck up and down like uhhhh--- a very frustrated person?? Well, to buck, he needs to plant his feet on the ground. When he does that, passing to mount is EASY because he can't block me with his knees. I just gotta do it quickly, and make sure to get heavy as soon as I complete the pass.

The far arm

As long as I stay heavy on his near shoulder, I can sometimes release the cross face, and get 2 on 1 on his far arm. I've landed kimuras and americanas pretty easy, and even an arm bar. The nice thing is that he really can't roll over to protect since you've got his near shoulder glued to the mat. I've actually been toying with letting my high leg clear his head, and seeing how that works out. It feels like I'm a little vulnerable to a sweep when that happens so I wanna work more on my weight distribution when I do that, but man, his arm is DONE when I get there!

The near arm

Ok, so this is cool. That near arm is not defended at all, and most guys don't expect you to attack it. There's a whole plethora of cool subs for that near arm. I landed a near side shoulder lock using my weight to clue down his forearm and just pulled up on the elbow on one guy. Americana's are there for the taking, and even arm bars.

Anyway, I still have a lot to figure out here, but it's a nice little switch up to have in my repertoire.

Happy Rolling!

The Geek in a Gi

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dedication, ok, you win, it matters

I've been interested in Jiu-Jitsu most of my life. I've done the backyard roll with buddies, bought books, watched videos. I've been "informed". I'm a geek at heart and have a very analytical mind, and I have a natural attention to detail.

I remember in 6th grade, my teacher sent home a letter for my parents to read. I was pretty much a little pansy, and I was scared shitless that they found the sears catalog I had hidden in my locker or something. The note was actually that they wanted to test me for the accelerated program at school. It made my mom laugh, and understandably, because I never had extraordinary grades. I just did enough to get by, and not get in trouble. The reason they told my mom was that "I kept asking questions until I understood".

Well, I didn't make the accelerated program at school, which is probably a good thing, because those kids where really weird. The reason they told my mom was "I just needed to work a little harder".

Maybe the story of my life, clearly it's been the case with my BJJ. I've played around with it. I've went to places to "train", but was never serious. I'd always seem to find someplace where they  had just a little BJJ, and I'd do well. But the minute someone told me to don a gi, I'd buck up. "Why? I'm sweeping the floor with everyone here no-gi, except the instructor or the assistant. Gi's don't work, and I'm an MMA guy, they give you bad habbits"... I didn't wanna listen. I also didn't wanna go actually join a real BJJ place, it was just too inconvenient.

Vandry's has brought me full circle with that 6th grade version of me (minus the Sears Catalog in my locker -- married now, lets leave that one alone). Professor Vandry has made it clear, on NO uncertain terms that I'm gunna have to earn everything. No free rides, no gifts, it's about dedication.  Sure, it's not easy making it to class, but it's worth it.

I still have a natural inclination towards details, and not just "how" to apply a choke, but "why" the choke works. More importantly though, I've decided that BJJ is worth my dedication, and train every opportunity I can to gain experience, and still soak up as much knowledge as possible. I really think the dedication is the difference.

Happy Rolling,

The Geek in a Gi

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Use the top half of your body, you twit!

Today in class I started rolling with Michael, but he's evidently got a real job and has to jet right at 1. So I was just sitting watching a couple other guys roll, thinking about my guard passing. 

Then it was like a stream of senior guys asking me if I wanted to roll... I was in BJJ heaven (if one can equate getting choked out or arm barred to a state of bliss).

So Charley just kicked my ass basically. He's got the most devastating invisible knee! I just about tapped from it alone. However, I noticed something rolling with him. As I'd try to staple down his grounded leg when he was on his side. He'd escape his hips just a little so that I wasn't squared up with him at all. In fact, he was able to sit up and reach over my head and under my far shoulder. Not really a neck crank, but totally destroys any ability to resist him pulling me over.  It was really interesting, because I honestly felt that I had won the lower half battle, but he was able to somehow control my far shoulder and either roll me to get side control or my back.

I say thanks and sit down to digest all this, and then John walks over and asks me to roll. I'm like "damn, now I gotta get my ass kicked twice!", but I'll never refuse a roll with John. I always learn a lot rolling with him. So I went back to work.... SAME DARN THING! At least basically. I tried to stay really clamped down on his thigh, but he was able to get under my far elbow and collapse me while hip escaping. He did it time and time again, each time I felt like I did a little better, but still have a lot to work on.

So now I'm cooling down, getting ready to get back to work, and Doc says "cmon Elliott'. "SHIT!" If you don't know doc, you're not missing much, he's pretty much a total dick. I'm saying this to see if he's actually reading (or anyone for that matter).  Actually, Doc is a great guy, and I'm pretty sure he's the most technical Blue that I've rolled with at Vandry's. Add that to the fact that he's got some crazy wrestling background, and ain't a lil boy, he's pretty much a beast. He's also gotta fix my back tomorrow.

So I'm thinking, "Ok O'Hara, let's see if we can apply some of that stuff J and C just gotcha with." Well, the answer was evidently no. First roll, he goes to his side, I try to pin down a leg, and walk around, and he says "I'm pretty sure you're over comitted" and sweeps me like I'm a little school girl.  Instead of destroying my far side, Doc started putting a hook in under my near shoulder.  Interesting delima. I concentrate on my far shoulder, and end up getting some crazy hook under my near shoulder.

I've got a lot to work on, that's for sure. I definitely feel like I've got the hips working well, it's just time to work the shoulders together. I also think that I need to stop that bottom hip escape. If there was a way to keep myself tight, and deny that hip escape somehow, it would take away a lot of their options.