Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turtle in a half shell?

That was lame, huh?

A few months ago, if someone got side control on me, I'd work hard to get back to half guard, then work from there for a sweep or full guard. Then Professor Vandry did some class on working from turtle, just keeping your head tucked inside and pulling out a leg. It works like a charm. So I've gotten into the habit of instead of working so hard to get a leg trapped when I'm in bottom side, to just get to my knees. It's much harder for your opponent to resist.

News flash! When I reach for an opponents leg, sometimes he just doesn't let you grab it, and does the right thing. Namely, sprawl. So now, I'm stuck in turtle with my opponent throwing all his weight on me. Then he usually grabs cross label and goes for my back.

I'm actually pretty comfortable from here. Instead of going for rolling leglocks like the guys that are actually good at BJJ do, I've actually taken to working sweeps from this position. To me, key point is whatever arm he is using that has that cross lapel, I do my best to avoid him getting the hook in on the opposite side. This isn't always possible, but if I'm successful in avoiding that hook, the other hook isn't gunna help him all that much.

So, with him on my back, and trying to get his forearm under my chin, what I like to do is just grab his gi, right at the elbow, and give it a little tug. I like to tug, and hold, then tug some more, and hold. Some guys, I'm actually able to reach all the way under and grab up by his shoulder, that's even better. So say he's using his right hand to work that cross collar (my left collar). I'm either grabbing his gi at the left elbow, or better yet all the way up by his left shoulder. The idea is to spill him over my right shoulder.

If the guy was able to get the left hook in, I find it tougher, but I've still been able to pull it off against some pretty good rollers. What was successful for me was to, while pulling on that right elbow with my right hand, I sorta push up on that left ankle he has. More like I pushing it over my head. The key to me here is to make sure the forces I'm applying work together, to spill him in the direction I want. Essentially, I'm trying to force his body to roll over his right shoulder. So pushing his left ankle (and thus his hip) helps accomplish that.

As he's spilling over, I make sure to keep that grip on him and I drive my shoulder and head into his upper body. Sometimes, I'm stuck in this position where he's on his side, and he almost has me in full guard, since he never really lost that near side hook. I usually can still end up all the way to side control by pulling in on that left shoulder that I'm still holding on to, while driving his upper body flat to the mat with my head and left shoulder

This is a really slow, methodical pass, but man, it's really been working wonders in my game. I doubt it makes any sense reading it, but honestly, I don't give a rats ass if it helps you, it helps me to write about it. So go eat some turkey or something.

Happy Rolling,
The Geek in a Gi

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Elbows are Knees too

Ok, I think the blogging is actually making a difference in my game. Writing this stuff down helps me commit it to memory. Much more than a simple mental note. So with that in mind, I'm gunna brain dump stuff I noticed yesterday.

My last 3 posts (that's pretty much all of 'em besides that boring "about me" stuff) have been about top game. With the last 2 of them being about concentrating on my opponents lower half, his legs and hips.

It's been about 3 weeks since I've rolled with Chris. I was really looking forward to rolling with him. To me, he's a great measuring stick, and he keeps me real. He rolls at a great pace but isn't afraid to put a little back into it. He's also got hips like a freekin' salsa dancer. It totally drives me nuts, but in a much different way than salsa dancers do.

We touched up, and I immediately grabbed his left pant leg and right lapel and tried to dump him on his right side. Just as I expected, he didn't resist but as he went to his side he wedged his left knee in between our bodies and tried getting control of my left hand so he could scissor the legs and sweep me.

Interesting... Instead of worrying so much about that left hand, I concentrated on getting rid of that annoying knee. He had totally blocked my knee with his so I decided to get creative and pretend my knee was an elbow. While keeping as much weight as I could centered over his top leg and as tight as I possibly could, I wedged my right elbow in between his left knee and his hips (right where I would have liked right knee to be).

To me, it seems like the important part when someone is working a scissor sweep is to NOT let him get that top leg open past 90 degrees. It reminds me of some martial arts video where a guy was demonstrating the strength of arms, where he had some really small woman hold his hand back with his arm totally flexed (so his elbow angle was less than 90 degrees). She did it no problem. He then had the biggest guy (some macho 'roid lookin' freek) try to do the same, but had his arm straightened past 90 degrees. Was impossible. Thinking about the physics of the human body help me when rolling, I tend to remember little tidbits like that.

Once I had that elbow wedged in, looped my hand under his leg, right behind his butt and grabed his belt. At that point, there was NO possibility of any scissor sweep, and I was able to get to work on my stable and step around pass. At that point, it was almost free. There was really no way for him to block me since he had lost use of that top leg. I could pass the other way (to a bread rolled side control) fairly easily as well.

I guess the thing that really stuck out for me was the use of that elbow. When he got his knee wedged in front of my hips and blocked me from getting top half or side. I had to rethink stuff. It was a divergence from the normal path, but I was able to figure out detour that still got me there.

To me, that's a big part of what BJJ is all about.

Happy Rolling,

The Geek in a Gi

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hooks and Handles

The Battle

Still working on my top game. I had the privilege yesterday of rolling with a new partner. Someone whom I've watched quite a bit. He plays a really lose top game, and spends a lot of his time on his feet, and works to go directly to knee on belly. He outranks me (hold the jokes buttwranglers!), and I make it a point to not just go ask someone to roll that outranks me unless I've rolled with 'em before. So yeah, he came and asked if I was done for the night. My response was "Shit, I'm scared of you".

He got a kick out of it.

Anyway, I avoided getting on my back like it was H1N1, and immediately went to work trying to do the types of things I spoke of in my last blog. Instead of pulling him into my guard or half guard, I grabbed a pant leg and tried to pin down something, anything.  It actually worked - to a point. But instead of just letting me step out into side control, he was able to get a hook in under my leg that wasn't stabling his low hip. To say the least, this put a wrench in my plans. My typically step around pass wasn't working because he had a hook in under my leg keeping me from stepping over. I looked really stupid lifting that leg up higher and higher trying to shake off that hook, and at some point I felt like I was in danger of some really ninja looking sweep that I don't know the name of.
So, I did the obvious. I took a big handful of pant leg and tried to glue that leg to the mat so he couldn't use that hook effectively.

It worked pretty well. Anytime he'd get a hook in, I wouldn't just conceded that hook. I'd grab a handle on the leg that had the hook and try to get that leg pinned down. It was interesting. My step around pass was once again available, but I noticed something that was even better.

Since one hip was stabled down by my body weight from the initial attack, he was one one side. When I pinned down that other leg, if I made it a point to not let his hips get flat on the mat I could pass to his back side easier than stepping over that pinned leg. The hook was inside my thigh and he was rolled up on his side anyway trying to protect that obvious pass. If I just use the fact that he put a hook there and force that leg to the mat, there wasn't much he could do to stop it. It wasn't some anomaly either, because I was successful with it a few times.

I think I'm starting to touch on a bigger picture here. It's all about the opposing forces. If I can control both hips, or just one hip and the opposite shoulder. I've effectively made my opponent immobile, and last I checked it's a hell of a lot easer to walk around something that's immobile.

Anyway, there's my brain dump from yesterday, do with it what you will.

Happy Rolling!

The Geek in a Gi

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Passing of the Guard

Rambling on Leg Riding.

So, yeah, I take the overpass. I guess I've been caught in a few triangles and shy away from throwing my opponents leg up near my neck. Or, maybe it's a horrible over reaction due to some repressed childhood incident, hell if I know. 

I'm not gunna spend a bunch of time (by a bunch of, I mean any) discussing opening up a closed guard, at least not in this post, go search youtube or something - not sure why you're reading my blog anyway. This stuff's damn near impossible without pictures or videos anyway, but I digress.

I know a lot of this stuff is really basic, but I pass the guard a hell of a lot more than I land flying triangles. Consequently, I'll probably blog more basic stuff that the not so basic stuff. Also, I'm really not that good, but since this is my blog , I get to pretend I'm awesome here, and unless you hack my account you can't change that.

I was rolling with Matt a week or so ago, and he gave me a great pointer that has helped me a lot. When I'm in an open guard I'll have one foot flat on the mat so my knee is up and my other knee down. I used to sort of crouch on the other foot, in my mind it let me react quickly.

Well Matt pointed out that I was a moron. Those weren't his exact words. Dude doesn't have a mean bone in his body -  in fact you can actually put your whole body weight on his busted up knee and he'll just say "oh man, it's not your fault". Once again, I digress... He pointed out that I should lay the top of my foot on the mat. This made a huge difference in my posture. Scissor sweeps are damn near impossible since I was really glued to the mat. It also has the effect of making everything tighter, and it really feels like to me that triangles are a lot tougher to lock up - like the shoulder sit higher in relation to the chin. That could totally be my imagination, but hey, it's my blog, call me a liar in comments if ya wanna. 

So, that shin and knee is the great equalizer. I can fend off a multitude of weapons with it, so Matt and I drilled him attacking from different sides, whatever arm or shoulder he would attack, I'd have that knee up with the other one down with the top of the foot on the mat. It worked amazingly.

Amazing enough that I realized that the minute he's switch sides, there was a nice little window where I could totally staple his leg that was on the mat. By staple I mean, my knee will be on one side of the leg, with my toes on the other, so that my knee and foot form the "prongs" of the staple, and everything is held down by the shin.  I Just ride that knee that's planted on the mat over the leg. Of course, the higher the better, but to me the key (as with pretty much all top game) staying REALLY heavy and tight. The instant I had that knee stapled down, I'd immediately find something to latch on to.  Ideally the cross face, but I don't always get that lucky. Sometimes I find myself hugging his waste, or just grabbing the waistband and dropping all my weight on that leg. At this point, the shoulders are important, but not as much as the hips. It's all about getting as much of my weight on that leg as I can. I want his hips immobile, if he can shrimp out, I've just lost all the progress I gained. 

Once I've got control of that bottom hip, I'll get back to work. I really don't wanna get stuck in half guard, and quite often I can avoid it with some intelligent footwork. Instead of moving that leg that's doing all that great stuff for me and stepping through, I step over with my other leg (my legs are crossed at this point) THEN go ahead and pull the other leg all the way through. This stuff is a lotta hip work. The position of my upper body shouldn't really need to change all that much. In fact, I concentrate on NOT changing it, that way he doesn't have any windows of escape where he can get all cute and start bucking around.

Another thing that helps me while trying to establish side control is to concentrate on really keeping my knee closest to his hip tight to his body. I DO NOT want him wedging his knee back between our bodies, because -- uh, because that sucks.  That's sometimes a really tough battle, I sometimes find myself battling someone who's pushing like a umm- really pushy thing on my knee while trying to shrimp out so he can get that knee wedged back in. What I typically do in that situation is reach my arm closest to his hips all the way over his waist and plant my elbow on the ground, that other hand I'll try to control his shoulder some way, but I'm talking about way too many things at once and I'm confusing myself, so lets not talk about that high arm right now. Anyway... Yeah, so I'll have my knee up against is waist and my elbow on the mat on the other side - it's basically the whole staple thing all over again except I'm using my elbow and knee and torso instead of just my leg. If the dude is too wide I'll use put my hand on the mat, but make sure to keep my arm pinned to his back. I really want everything nice and snug. It's also very important that I keep my other arm on the other side of his body (I try for an under the head cross face), or else I end up getting swept like a dust bunny on one of those dust buster commercials.

This feels like a rambling post, but I really feel like I've made some great progress with my passes, and I wanted to dump my brain (I ate taco bell today, so I dumped everything else a few hours ago) and get this all on magnetic media so I wouldn't lose it.

Happy Rolling,
The Geek in a Gi

Thursday, November 12, 2009

That 10nth Planet Mount Gangsta Lean thingy

So yeah,

I've followed 10nth planet stuff for a while. However, since starting at Vandry's I find myself using the Rubber Guard less and less. It takes a whole mess of work to break down someone's posture like that, and if they have a clue whats going on (pretty much everyone at Vandry's does), they're not gunna let you get your hips high enough anyway. BJJ isn't about outworking your opponent, it's about out smarting him. This post is about stuff I like, not stuff I don't so I'll shut up about Rubber Guard for now.

There are quite a few things that really DO work for me from the 10nth planet system, and I've found myself using quite a bit lately.

In his first book (BJJ Unleashed) Eddie introduced what he called the "Monkey Mount",later in his book  "Mastering the Twister", he modified it to a position he called "Gangsta Lean". I actually find myself using both.

Monkey Mount
Quite often in traditional mount, your opponent will T-Rex his arms, and you guys just sit there and look really gay. You don't wanna lose mount so you're really careful going trying to get a hook in on an arm, and you push and push on an elbow trying to get break open that T-Rex. It's not really that fun. You both sit there until someone does something stupid.

Instead of screwing around with all that, throw all your weight right on his head, underhook his elbows and put both feet right on his hips and push. You definitely will break open that T-Rex. Clearly this position isn't as stable as traditional mount, but the point isn't really to stay there, it's to open up that T-Rex to get to work, not to sit around like a goofy lookin' putz.  Honestly, I usually don't get swept from this position, because

  •  it's pretty close to impossible for your opponent to get a good over hook on your arm to prevent you from posting if he wants to buck and roll
  • it's tough for them to really buck their hips since you're pushing down on them with your feet.

I never sit around in Monkey Mount anyway though, I use it to break open up the T-Rex so I can get to the neck or isolate an arm or shoulder, or move to the next position.

Gangsta Lean
The other position that I really like is what EB calls the "Gangsta Lean", EB says he modified Monkey because of the instability I just mentioned.  For me, the Gangsta Lean is very stable, and I find myself using it a whole lot when I get mount - not just for the stability, but also because it opens up some interesting submissions that aren't as readily available from traditional mount.

So the transition from traditional mount to Gangsta lean is pretty simple. First you'll pull one knee all the way under your opponents shoulder and cross face him (under the head) with the arm on the same side, so that his arm is trapped between your Lat and your thigh. The way EB teaches it, you throw your other foot all the way down by his hip, but I find myself posting my foot out a little farther and sitting toward the side of his trapped arm. I feel even more stable this way.  At this point the majority of your weight should not be centered directly on your opponent, it should actually be more (maybe like 70%) on the side where your knee is tucked under his arm. When I'm here, I feel like there's really no where my opponent can go. I'm totally controlling one arm and shoulder, so he can't roll that way. My weight is mostly on the side that he can't roll to, so for him to try to roll the other way he'd have to be Jeff Monson or something.  As weird as Austin is (Keep it that way!), Jeff Monson does not live here, so we don't have to worry about that.

Once you've done this, you have a free hand, and he does too... Just get wrist control and pin his hand to the mat. You'll always win this battle since you've got gravity on your side and he can't put anything into it since his shoulders are glued to the mat.

Triangles there for the taking if you want it (pull your leg over the pinned down arm), or I'll go for a keylock on that arm sometimes by releasing my the cross face, but keeping my chest pinned to his face so he can't bring an arm through to protect or roll over.

I also have started to toy with some nice lapel chokes from here, haven't had a whole lot of luck with 'em yet, but it seems like they are there. I'll keep everyone posted.

Happy Rolling,
The Geek in a Gi

And away we go

Ok, so yeah, right, whatever...

I already have my Geek Blog, but no one that is anywhere near cool reads it. Unless you're a horribly boring software engineer like myself, it's pretty much greek.

I have 2 loves in my life that aren't actual people. I've already got a blog for one, and we just covered how god awful it is to read if you don't share that love. In the interest of keeping blogs that are awful to the common folk, I'm creating this one.

Yeah, so here is my BJJ blog. Just a bunch boring stuff about me that you can read (or not, whatever blows your dress up).

I've been interested in BJJ since uhhh, UFC 1, I watched it with a buddy that worked w/ me at Winn Dixie. Royce Gracie was amazing, he made a guy tap out while he was upside down!! So I caught the bug...

Problem is, I lacked any sort of discipline in my life so I just played around. Read some books... Watched every UFC I could, but that's about it. A buncha backyard bullshit.

Fast forward some 12 or 13 years...

So I saw a pic of myself and realized that I was a horrible fat ass. At 6' even I was tipping the scales around 225. I decided it was time to change so I made myself a promise.

If I could get down to 185, I'd actually go do some MMA or BJJ training.

6 months later I was at 183' and I kept the promise to myself. I went and joined the only thing that resembled MMA that I could actually drive to considering the crazy life I had at the time (wife and I owned a dance studio and I had a full time job -- kept me pretty busy).

At the time, I just thought it was awesome... Some really cool guys there, and they had a Purple belt that was teaching a BJJ class 3 nights a week as well as an MMA class 2 nights a week. I went religiously. But no matter what that purple belt told me, I wouldn't put on a gi.

I was an MMA guy, damnit, and I read all of Edie Bravo's books... Gi's give you bad habits. It had to be true, cause Eddie said so. Plus, you couldn't wear them in MMA anymore since Dana White took over.

Well then, the placed closed (none to gracefully), and I got a new job.  My world was shattered.

I started the search again, and decided it was time to actually go check out Vandry's. Since a lot of the guys I rolled with at the previous place had mentioned that I would love it.

So I did. I figured I'd go on no-gi days, since Gi's where for guys that really couldn't understand the sport.  Problem was, that was only on Wed, and Sat (and Fri open mat, if anyone wanted to roll no-gi). I really wanted to roll more than that.

Then I met Prof. Vandry. It was pretty clear to me in about, hrm... uhhh 5 seconds, that I needed to buy a gi. I decided to give it a whirl.

Well, you see the title of my blog, right? I'm still a geek, but I love my Gi, and I also make every class at Vandry's I possibly can.   I won't spend any time discussing the differences in the game in this post, but probably will eventually.

Training at Vandry's has fundamentally changed the way I think about BJJ. It's not about getting your oponent to tap out, it's about learning how to be more efficient with your motions, and be more conscious of angles where your body weight is. It's about getting better, not beating opponents.  I have also met a group of people that, although I don't "hang out" with much (since I've got a wife, and she can kick my ass) I consider real friends, and guys that I really look up to in the sport of BJJ.    It keeps me sane (my definition of sane is clearly different than most though, so take that with a grain of salt), and healthy.

I'll try to keep the mushy pansy type posts to a minimum on this blog, really.

Happy Rolling,
The Geek in a Gi