Friday, July 30, 2010

6 - 7:35p

6-6:10p: Stretched. Not the oldest guy on the mat today. Wayne (Brown Belt) is instructor today. We're the same age. His wife Kiri (also a Brown Belt) was there too. Young and relatively inexperienced crowd tonight. Lots of white belts (including Green, Orange and Yellows) and a handful of Blues. Only one purple.

6:10-6:20p: Brief warm-up and standard drills.

6:20-7p: Hip escape drills. Lots of them. Different variations. Good "back to basics" class that taught me a few different ways to create space and escape as someone is passing to improve position before getting squashed. One of the drills was very counter-intuitive and most of us had difficulty with the movement. Assume opponent takes double-underhook, reaches around with the left hand, grabs your left gi collar, and starts stacking your right leg/side. If you are too late to create space and maintain leverage necessary to thwart the stack and recover guard, you can still post off opponent's neck with your right leg and bridge to right shoulder while swinging left leg over to facilitate a back roll to the right (i.e., roll INTO the stack). You can block your opponents hip with your right hand as you back roll out to prevent him/her from taking your back and to facilitate guard recovery after the back roll escape. VERY awkward, but it was very smooth/fluid when Wayne and Kiri demonstrated the technique. I imagine ginastica natural training would make the technique much easier.

7-7:35p: 10 minute rolls. Wayne encouraged us to roll at 75% and keep moving without gassing. First up was Matt (Blue Belt). He broke my posture most of the time I was in his guard and swept me a couple times. At one point he took mount, transitioned to seated mount, and I rolled over. He took my back. I established back survival posture. Defended neck attacks, and eventually he gave up and went back to mount. After some time, he found an arm bar. I wasn't breathing too hard at the end of 10 minutes, so I think we followed Instructor Wayne's instructions pretty well.

Second roll was with Dave. Dave's a 3-stripe white belt with 5 months experience. Probably 60lbs lighter than me. We kept the roll slow as instructed. At one point Dave took my back and started in with RNC attacks as I tried to establish back survival posture and set up for an escape. He never got the blade of his wrist under my chin and at one point stopped squeezing to ask if I was ok. Yeah. I was ok. I told him I'd tap if I wasn't. I wanted him to keep going because each time he reset his left arm to secure the choking arm in bicep and cup his left hand behind my head he would expose the left arm to attack. I tried once, but missed due to a slippery wrist. Waited patiently and he stuck it out there again to reset and attempt to get better leverage. I raised my left arm a bit when his left elbow extended beyond my left arm, I raised the left arm, grabbed his left wrist with my right arm, and pulled down (making sure his thumb stayed pointing up) for the armbar. He verbally tapped. Said he didn't know he was vulnerable until it was too late. Neither did I, until Rusty taught it in self defense class a while back. Not breathing too hard after this roll either.

Got Nick (Blue Belt) for my last roll. I thought it went very well. We actually "rolled." Had a couple near passes that would have been passes on most white belts, But Nick had great hip escape movement that created a ton of space to re-insert a knee. Spent a lot of time in half butterfly guard. At another point in the roll he started to stack me and I tried the fancy roll out we learned earlier in the go. In fact, I felt like if I forced the roll I might have injured my neck. Hmm... need to lose some of my gut (gets in the way of back rolls) and practice the motion more before I try that again. Nick had my back (what's new?) for what seemed like the last 2 minutes of the roll. Struggled to establish back survival and fended off chokes. Survived... Again, not breathing too hard after the roll.

Overall impressions: I managed to complete 3 ten minute rolls without breathing too hard. Was I working at 75% as instructed? Or was I rolling too easy? Is my cardio improving? Not sure, but it was a good class nonetheless.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

12p to 1:30p

12-12:15p: Light warm up / standard drills.

12:15-12:35p: Mount maintenance technique. Learned a few new tricks to keep hips tight and weight balanced during straight and side bridge attempts. I'm still not keeping myself low/tight enough and need to use abs to suck my hips down.

12:35-12:50p: Slick gi choke from mount. Apparently Professor Kadu learned it the hard way from Saulo (i.e., multiple submissions). Palm down cross grip with elbow firmly pressed into sternum (it should make opponent very uncomfortable). Walk posting hand over and around head. Insert thumb into collar behind ear and take a good grip. Wrap hand around and drive elbow into other side of sternum (hands are now in cross choke). Turn thumbs up and drive forward with head to ground. Nice. Now if only I can maintain mount long enough to try it out!

12:50-1:05p: Mount maintenance / escape drills. Top person tries to maintain mount without grabbing (fists and palms only). Bottom person tries to escape. My first partner (new white belt) escaped fairly easily. Then again, I escaped his mount to recover guard without too much trouble either.

Got a purple belt for my second partner. He started on top. He's probably 60lbs lighter than me, but he had me so squished I literally couldn't move. Literally. Purple belt called over Professor Kadu and they tried to talk me through the escape (flatten one leg, bridge enough to angle hip, bridge again to create enough space to work arm under chest to post against hip and create more space, bridge again while posting against opponent's hip, hip escape, etc...etc...etc...). Of course I *know* to do everything they were telling me to do (It's in Saulo's book), I just couldn't. I was squished and couldn't create any space whatsoever. I tried to explain that I wasn't strong enough. They both disagreed and said it isn't a matter of strength. Hmm... If it's not strength and I can't move AT ALL even though I feel like I have a good understanding of what I'm supposed to be doing, what technique am I missing? I thanked the Professor and said I'll keep practicing. After Professor Kadu left, the purple belt told me that I really just need to fight more. Said I should imagine that he took mount and will submit me if I wait too long. If I'm submitted, it's all over. So I have limited time and MUST give all that I have to escape mount. lower back and hamstring muscles were already cramping from the technique portion and on the verge of injury via pull... Maybe I'm a wimp, but my body was telling me I need to develop some more coordination and build a bit more muscle memory before exerting 100% during a drill lest I hurt myself. I'm not sure if people who have been in tip-top physical shape for years understand what happens to someone when they sit on their arse for 15 years and do not do ANY exercise whatsoever. I just need to keep working the muscles and practicing. Over time, I'll get better. Just not gonna happen during a 15 minute drill.

1:05-1:30p: Rolls. 7 minutes each. Started with Eric. Eric comes from a family of wrestlers and has an extensive grappling background. I'd seen him around the gym before, but only during kids class and self defense. His two boys are taking the classes. Today was his 5th class. Eric is strong and fit. Forced me to play defense the entire roll. He set up a good arm bar, but gave me plenty of time to set up the arm bar escape. Time ran out. Eric was breathing a lot harder than me after the roll. I suppose that makes sense since he was on attack most of the roll and I was simply going with the flow and waiting for opportunities to improve my position without making silly mistakes.

Second roll wasn't really a roll. Professor Kadu matched Eric and I with Chris (Blue Belt) for sweep / pass the guard drills. Chris started with me in his closed guard. I broke his guard and after a bit of back and forth, eventually passed to side control. Eric came into my closed guard. He knew a couple guard break techniques but didn't quite have control of my hips. I saw an opportunity to shoot a triangle and took it. He postured up immediately and I never really had a chance to lock it in. He stacked it and I rolled over to take him down via elevator. Since I gave up my back, the exercise was over and Chris stepped into Eric's guard. Eric did a great job maintaining open guard with the Blue Belt. Chris briefly passed a few different times but Eric was able to insert a knee and fend it off. It will be interesting to see Eric progress. He's a natural athlete and his grappling background seems to be helping (as opposed to hindering) his transition to BJJ. I overheard Professor Kadu comment after class that he didn't seem to have the bad habits most rasslers bring into BJJ. Hope he sticks with it.

Last roll was with JJ (Blue Belt). JJ worked me over pretty good - pulled, spread, swept, smashed, etc., the entire roll. I think he only submitted me once (arm bar from seated mount), but that's not the point. He had my number the entire roll and I really couldn't muster anything that resembled competent jiu jitsu.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paragon SLO

Visited my parents in San Luis Obispo (SLO) the past few days. Managed an hour of weights on Monday and a bit of cardio by jogging from the house to the top of Islay Hill and back on Tuesday (about 2 miles with a cutback trail through open space). Today I stopped by Paragon for a bit of mat time. Professor Chris Lavato and his students welcomed me and were very accommodating.

We started with two double underhook stack pass defense techniques. The first technique involved creating space via hip escapes and establishing at least one butterfly hook and spider grips. Then place one foot on hip with opposite foot sinking in the bicep for spider. Swim foot that was on hip under the spider grip and you either have a triangle or sweep options. I worked the sweep option.

Second technique involved establishing at least one butterfly hook followed by sitting up to wrap arm around opponent's back to grab belt (choosing a single butterfly hook and using the arm from the hook side to reach across opponent's back to opposite side/belt). For example, if I tended to prefer the right side so I'd leave my right foot in butterfly hook and reach over my partner's back to the opposite side (his right hip/belt). Follow the overhook grab (almost concurrently) with a hip escape to the left while grabbing the opponent's right knee with the free right hand, then post with left leg and roll opponent on his left side and take side control. Good complimentary technique to another butterfly sweep I learned a couple weeks ago.

Rolls followed. Professor Chris said the day classes are fairly informal given the typically low turnout. I fit four rolls into the hour. We didn't follow a clock, but my guess is the rolls were about 10-12 minutes each with water/rest breaks between. I rolled with Chris (white belt), Assistant Instructor Joe Stanley (just earned his purple on Monday!), Mallory (white belt) and concluded with Professor Chris.

Each roll was quite enjoyable, but working with Professor Chris was truly great. He allowed me to work, but differently from other BBs I've worked with. Chris allowed the right amount of space here and there and pressed submission setups while leaving a door open for escape opportunities. It was all very subtle. He created opportunities for me, but if I didn't recognize them in time (or at all) he simply moved on and set up something else so I had another shot. The flow felt very good and although he didn't say a single word to me during the roll, I am confident that my technique would improve dramatically over time if all my rolls were half as instructive as my roll with him today. Thanks for everything Chris!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

9:50a to 12p

9:50-10:15a: Stretched and shrimp drills as kids judo finished up.

10:15-11:00a: Self defense. One other adult (Chris) and lots of kids. Learned three escapes from the guillotine. One when attacker's posture is low (not really choking) and two when attacker's posture is correct for the choke. When posture low, block knee, step in between legs, sit down. That forces attacker to fall forward either on his/her head or into a roll. When attacker's posture is correct for a choke, monkey grip, then (a) reach over shoulder and tire out attacker by hanging; (b) step around and crumple knee forcing attacker to ground. Pressure shoulder into neck (via stack of sorts) until choke release. Also learned an escape when one arm is trapped via underhook. Monkey grip, hang trapped arm, swing arm, step out, step behind taking attacker arm behind back.

11a-12p: Open mat. Three rolls with guys my size. Warmed up with Brandon (Blue Belt) followed by a roll from his closed guard. He worked attacks. I worked survival/escape. He caught me a few times (triangle, arm bar). Had a nice escape from back survival posture to take side control.

Second roll with Alex (Blue Belt). Got my butt handed to me most of the roll. A couple triangles. Couple arm bars. Couple Kimuras. But...a couple nice escapes from back survival posture and arm bar attacks as well.

Last roll with Mike (White Belt). Passed guard once to side control and attacked his arm. Tried for Kimura technique we learned Tuesday but couldn't control him and maintain the trapped arm. He escaped. Got worked over the rest of the roll. Couple triangles. An arm bar (after triangle escape).

Observation: If I give up my back or allow an arm bar set up, I have about a 60-70% chance of escaping via back survival posture/escape, seated mount escape, or arm bar escape. I have about a 0-5% chance of escaping side control or mount. Hmmm...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

11:50a to 1:30p

11:50-12:10p: Stretched. A visitor from Brazil who wore a white belt on Monday now has a brown belt. I thought something was up. He had his way with many blue belts earlier this week. Apparently he forgot his belt and Saulo made him wear a white belt. Ha! Oldest guy on the mats again today. Ryan, one of the visiting white belts from Tuesday's class was back.

12:10-12:30p: Warm ups / standard drills. Tiring.

12:30-12:40p: Professor Leo asked what we wanted to do. Ritchie (Blue Belt) said side control escapes. Learned three techniques. Traditional, underhook to hip switch to elevator, and roll away. I'm terrible at all three. In fact, side control and mount escapes are probably my weakest points. I simply don't have the core/upper body strength to create and maintain enough space to hip escape or roll out. Frustrating actually.

12:40-12:50p: Side control defense. Four positions. Hard to describe. Professor Leo called out positions and we transitioned back and forth. No problem when the opponent isn't resisting.

12:50-1p: Side control escape / defense drills. Bottom guy tries to escape. Top guy tries to maintain side control. Horrendous showing. I couldn't recover guard a single time with any of my opponents. Even when I know they were giving me a little space to work with, I was worthless. Quite demoralizing really. At one point I worked with JJ (150lbs Blue Belt). He escaped and recovered guard effortlessly. I have 70lbs on him! I couldn't even come close to recovering guard. No matter how he transitioned on top. He told me to use more of my weight and center on his chest. Won't my 220lbs squish him? He said yes...but that's the point. Hmm...that's the third time since coming to this school that I've been told to use my weight as a weapon when on top (twice by different Professors).

1-1:30p: Rolls. 8 minute rounds. Sat out first roll. Odd number. Professor Leo called me over for the second roll. We didn't really roll. He just talked me through some things. Horrible showing (again). I don't know what to do when someone isn't really trying. Feels awkward. At one point, when trying to pass his guard, he asked if I knew what I was doing. I said, "No." He encouraged me to start thinking about jiu jitsu. I've been thinking. My thinking goes something like this: "Hmm...well the three guard pass techniques that I know didn't work, so what else can I do? Muscle? Heck no. He's 6'3" 250lbs. Improvise? Ok...better than nothing. How about this? Didn't work... Try this? No... Hmm... I'm at a loss." So, I felt like telling him that I am thinking, but I'm thinking like a 3month white belt who ran out of ideas. But I just kept my mouth shut and tried to absorb the lesson.

Last roll was with visiting white belt Ryan. I probably have 50-60lbs on this kid. We spent 7 of the 8 minutes with me on top trying to pass his guard. He had me in half guard most of that time. I don't know what was wrong with me, but I couldn't pass it. I could tell I was making him very uncomfortable, but he hung in there and fought on. Every time I passed, he'd recover half guard. Then full guard. Then I'd pass (briefly) and he'd recover half guard. At one point I went for an arm attack from side control and he hip escaped out and I pulled him into my guard. Overall, it was a good roll; although, I really need to figure out how to pass half guard and maintain side control. Not to discount Ryan's excellent guard and escape to guard recovery game though. Good stuff. Wish I had half those skills.

Overall Thoughts: Today was discouraging. I know the side control escape and maintenance techniques. But I just can't seem to execute. Much much smaller opponents are having their way with me. I know I'm just a newbie, but when 150lb blue belts tell me I'm not using my weight and then when I do can still escape - yet I can't escape their side's frustrating. No worries. Just need to keep at it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

11:50a to 1:30p

11:50a-12p: Stretched. Oldest guy on the mat, but two white belt visitor showed up. A bit sore/tired today. Surfed this morning at Blacks. Fairly large swell hit today (i.e., lots of paddling).

12-12:20p: Warm-up / standard drills / stretches. Professor Kadu corrected some triangle, squats, and burpee technique mistakes. As for the squats...I'm just not strong enough to them right.

12:20-12:40p: Arm bar from side control technique. Liked the pressure on the chest (at a specific point) that, when done right, almost always causes the opponent to hip escape in a way that makes it easy to step around for the arm bar.

12:40-1p: Kimura from side control technique with arm bar option of opponent employs a typical defense. Complimentary to the last technique. Good stuff.

1-1:30p: Rolls. Big, tall (6'4") visiting white belt first (Milad). Said he has about 3mos experience. I knew right away I had a fight on my hands. He was powerful and explosive. Pulled me into his guard. Things got pretty sloppy and out of control real quick. The roll was exhausting and I don't remember a lot, only that I never really felt in danger. At one point he stood up in my closed guard. I released the guard dropped my hips and grabbed the ankles. Apparently he hadn't seen that before because he didn't grab my gi lapels to stabilize he fell backward. But he was too close to the edge of the mats and fell off (pads are on a 4" riser) and landed hard. Took a moment to get up. I should have had more awareness of where we were. I wouldn't have dropped him had I known he would have fallen off the mats. Near the end of the roll I took his back and sunk in a rear naked. It was solid. Had the full throat and arm cupped behind the head. Buzzer rang as I began to squeeze. Oh well.

Second roll was with the other visiting white belt (Ryan). Ryan's an inch or two shorter than me and I probably have 30lbs on him. Again...exhausting roll. Again, never felt in danger but this roll I felt like I was on the attack a lot more. Had multiple advantageous positions; however, Ryan did a great job inserting a knee and recovering at least half guard as I rushed transitions. Professor Kadu watched both of the rolls and said I need to take more time controlling the pace by slowing my opponent down and consolidating positions as I advance/attack. In other words...don't respond to spaz with more spaz 'cause it just escalates the spaz into a spiral of...spaz! I get it. Should have realized it during the time.

Sat out the third roll. Angelo decided to sit out with neck pain. Professor asked us to go to the side mat and work on technique. I worked the side control armbar and kimura techniques from earlier in the class. His neck wasn't any better so he set out the final roll too. Hopefully he's ok.

Fourth roll was with Joe (Blue Belt). Now this is jiu jitsu! I pulled him into closed guard. Transitioned to open guard and worked between De la Riva and spider. He eventually passed. At one point his knee on belly inflicted some serious pain. Tried the knee on belly escape, but he was defending against the roll out and transitioned to take my back. Neck attacks followed. Spent most of the roll in back survival posture, but could not establish my base for an effective scoop. Joe established a body lock. No problem. Rolled into the lock and wedged hips for the break. Although I defended the neck ok most of the roll, I could not escape (properly). I could have waited out the rest of the roll in survival posture, but, not wanting to stall the roll, I decided to improvise escapes. Right? Wrong. "Escaped" right into a choke of sorts that crushed my fingers. Had to tap. Not from the choke, but because my fingers were getting crushed between my gi and the blade of Joe's wrist. No problem...start over. He pulled me into his guard. I broke the guard, but got caught in a triangle after a sloppy pass attempt. Tap. After the roll, Joe congratulated me on back survival. I get a lot of compliments on back survival so I suppose I'm doing something right. Now, if only I could learn to: (a) not to give up the back so often; and (b) establish the survival posture well enough to enable an effective scoop / escape.

Monday, July 19, 2010

8:50 to 10:35a

8:50-9a: Stretched. Only white belt, but this time not the oldest. Cliff, a mid-40s purple belt also on the mats.

9-9:20a: Warm-up / standard drills / stretches. Counted my crunches in Portuguese for the first time. Nice!

9:20-9:35a: Butterfly guard sweep technique/drills. Very similar to what we worked on last week.

9:35-9:50a: Butterfly guard sweep variation. Added an arm lock with wrap-under cross choke. Professor Cantu had a fancy name for it, but I don't recall. Nice technique though.

9:50-10:05a: Sweep / pass the guard from butterfly. Rotated partners every few minutes. Got swept multiple times. Tapped due to arm lock once. Only passed guard once by trapping a butterfly, reaching under to grab opposite leg cuff, then push knee and pull cuff to step around. The Blue Belt apparently hadn't seen that before so he tried it on me. As he was working the technique, Professor Cantu came over and showed me how to defend and maintain guard. Unfortunately, his technique required hip/core movement that I am either not strong enough or not coordinated enough to pull off. Oh well. More to work on!

10:05-10:35a: Rolls. 7 minute rounds. Got Cliff, the Purple Belt, first. He swept me a couple of times and took my back. He attacked the neck most of the roll. I did my best to maintain back survival posture, but I struggled the entire time. I eventually established the posture, broke the hooks, and escaped/reversed to a half butterfly as time ran out, but it seemed too easy. As if he allowed the space. I don't recall tapping during the round, but I doubt Cliff was trying too hard either. Good workout though.

14yr old orange belt phenom, Angelo, was next (see first couple minutes of this video). I pulled him into my open guard and set in for De La Riva with my left leg hooked and my right foot on his left hip. Angelo basically gave me his left side and I shot the triangle. Struggled a bit to angle for the lock, but had it locked up with a bit of posting/hip shifting. Spent most of the rest of the roll in various open guards trying to stretch him out and break posture.

I grabbed Blue Belt Pilot Chris (as opposed to another Chris I've rolled with before) for the third roll. We had a good back and forth and at one point he went north-south. I really don't know what to do when on bottom in north south. I sort of just wait for my opponent to do something and do my best to defend against both arm attacks and chokes. Well...Chris grabbed a gi collar and started walking around. It wasn't choking me, but the pressure on my jaw was intense. Didn't feel like having a dislocated jaw so I tapped. I also don't know what to do when I have someone in my half guard. Again...sort of just wait for the inevitable pass. I look for kimura opportunities, but to date, haven't found any. Chris also took my back at one point and I again struggled to establish and maintain back survival posture so I could work an escape.

4-stripe Blue Belt YJ was last. Got my butt kicked all over the mat. YJ turned what I thought were solid omoplata and arm bar escapes into different arm bars for the submissions. YJ caught me in a triangle. Professor Cantu coached me on posture and to use an elbow to create some space. Next time I defended the triangle well enough and he let go. Spent a couple minutes in back survival. YJ was angling for all sorts of chokes, but I fended them off until time ran out. It felt good to be attacked for 7 minutes solid. I wish I had the same experience rolling with all upper belts. Seems like most give me too much to work with. Right now I'm content working on survival and what better way to survive than to be attacked incessantly by someone who knows what s/he's doing and can work combinations? Thanks YJ!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

9:30 to 11:15a

A day late...but...better late than never.

9:3o-10a: Solo stretches, core exercises, push-ups, shrimps, and other solo drills. Worked up a good sweat.

10-10:15a: Cool down stretches and watched the end of kids judo class.

10:15-11:15a: Self defense course. Three other adults this week and dozen or so kids. Mostly worked with Earl (another 34yr old white belt with 3 mos experience). Practiced falling and front rolls. Then learned a take down and throw in response to someone trying to choke from behind. Instructor Wayne stopped the class so they could watch Chris (a fairly small woman) throw big me. The kids got a kick out of that. Photos of the class posted on the UNIJJ facebook page, including this one (I'm the bald guy in the back).

Had to get to my brother's birthday/Afghanistan deployment party so I couldn't stay for open mat.

Friday, July 16, 2010

3 training...

Took Wednesday off (on purpose), but got too busy yesterday and have a schedule conflict today. Been active though, so I'll chalk it up to "cross training." ;-)

Golfed with my brother yesterday. He's brother's shipping off to Afghanistan next month (NAVY Seabee). Had a great round. Driving improved dramatically since the last time I played (last summer). Didn't fatigue like I used to. Finished the 18 holes strong. 18 holes used to drain me. Must be the BJJ.

Also been working in the back yard. Ripped out the back fence, an invasive tree, and some very poorly installed concrete footings. Need to install a retaining wall and build a fence.

My idea of R&R (i.e., Remove & Replace the fence!)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

3 Months

Three months ago yesterday, I stepped on the mats for the first time. I was 220lbs and completely out of shape. I'm still 220lbs, but feel stronger, healthier, and even a bit younger. I've had a dozen or more comments from friends and family who haven't seen me in a while suggesting that I've lost weight or look "trim" or "fit." Although I haven't lost a pound after three months training (four times per week), my weight distribution is definitely changing.

My game has progressed well enough in the past three months. I get frustrated that I'm not as coordinated as the younger folks, but I can feel progress. I'm still struggling with side control and mount escape to guard recovery. Also feel like I'm ready to learn and implement a half dozen or so sweeps.

I celebrated the three month mark of my journey by taking a day off from BJJ. Went surfing atBlack's with Pat instead. Had to wake up at 4:30am to meet him so we could hike down the hill and be in the water by 5:30a. Ugh. It was a great session though and it's clear that BJJ is improving my shoulder strength, which makes my surfing experience more enjoyable.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

11:50a to 1:35p

11:50a-12p: Arrived just in time for a bit of stretching. Took a place on the mat next to two black belts I hadn't seen before. One was a fourth degree BB and both spoke Portuguese. Not sure what the story is, but there seems to be different BBs from Portugal Brazil here every week training with Saulo. About 10 or so classmates. Yup. I'm probably the oldest by at least 5 years. Oh! One other white belt. Nice!

12-12:15p: Warm-up / drills. Did well enough. Professor Leo Santos pulled me out of line on one of the drills to show me the technique. Can't really describe it.

12:15-12:30p: Half-guard passes from stand up. Two variations. Good stuff, although I don't know if I've ever found myself standing up in someone else's half guard. Professor Saulo called Michael (16 yr old 4-stripe blue belt) to the other mat where he and two black belts had been rolling. Michael spent the rest of class rolling with the two black belts, including the 4th degree BB. Saulo coached the whole time. This kid is real good and obviously being groomed. My guess is he'll have a BB by 19. Maybe 20.

12:15-12:45p: Same half guard passes, but bottom person was supposed to retain half guard and try to sweep.

12:45-1p: Sweep / pass guard from half-guard. Rotated partners every couple minutes.

1-1:35p: Rolls. 8-minute rounds. Odd number of classmates so I sat out the first roll. Fine by me. At this point I was exhausted. Even contemplated calling it a day and not rolling. Glad I stuck around, but I felt miserable...

Got Professor Leo for my first roll. Leo is a big guy. Probably 6'2" or 6'3", 235lbs? Solid. After a minute or so of trying to pass various spider, de la riva, etc guards I peeled off a foot and tried to stack pass. Result? Caught me in a weak triangle, but I didn't feel too threatened because he didn't have the full angle to lock it in. I thought I defended well (wasn't choking or losing blood flow yet) and tried to remember which direction to step around to for the escape/pass. Professor Saulo yelled out something in Portuguese from the other mat. Professor Leo yelled something back (also in Portuguese) and let go of the triangle. I asked why he let go. Apparently Professor Saulo told him to go easier on me. Professor Leo said he told him that I'm going hard so he had to go hard. No problem. Start over from guard. I don't remember a whole lot of the roll, but he definitely went easier on me. He allowed me multiple opportunities to bridge/hip escape side control to guard recovery and even left back exposed a couple times to see how I'd react. Well...I didn't know what to do, really. Tried to sink hooks in and go for chokes, but since I know I didn't earn the position I spent too much time wondering how aggressively I should attack. He eventually escaped and at some point I could only escape to elevator and switch to turtle to prepare for back defense (man he's quick!). Professor Leo spent some time working for an attack angle and I eventually rolled over in an attempt to establish back survival posture. He allowed the escape to elevator and pass to side control. Again...wasn't really sure how to react because I know I didn't earn the positions. Tis all good though. Glad I had a chance to work with a really big strong guy.

Second roll was with a Blue Belt. Can't remember his name. I was soooo exhausted by this point. I could tell my partner was exhausted as well. I don't remember all the details, but I know things went slowly. Very slowly. Back and forth between guard break, pass, escape, reversal, etc. I fended off multiple deep neck attacks from side control, mount, back, etc. Although they hurt like heck (bordering neck crank), I could breath and could tell I had at least one functioning carotid. I survived and he let go each time. Spent what I thought was the last minute of the roll in side control survival posture. Actually thought to myself, "Good. Looks like he's willing to ride it out." With 2 seconds left on the buzzer. Professor Saulo wanted us to keep rolling. After another minute or so he declared to the class, "I want to see the real you." I could tell my opponent was gassing so I gave everything left in my tank. He tried to lock in the arm bar from mount. I had plenty of time to defend and Saulo's trusty arm bar escape worked like a charm. I locked it in, sat up, stuffed it, extracted the arm, stepped around to side control and almost immediately proceeded to knee on belly. Looked for arm attack and choke opportunities, but couldn't come up with anything. Should have taken a chance or transitioned to mount. Stayed in knee on belly way too long. Long enough for my opponent to push the knee (elbow tight so no step around arm bar opportunities) and recover half guard. I tried to execute one of the half guard passes we drilled earlier in class, but I lost control of his head and he reversed and took side control. Drats. I think we ended there...

I don't recall being as tired after a training session as I was today. Even when I first started. It wasn't a fat out of shape tired. It was a good fatigue. My body feels good. Sore. I'm exhausted. But feel great. If all classes were like this one, I could probably only make two to three per week.

Monday, July 12, 2010

4:30 - 8p

5-5:30p: Watched the kids class. They played a few games, drilled a scissor sweep, and then rolled. Watching the five year olds roll was fun. The older kids (8-10 yr olds) rolled with some technique. Scary to think how good these kids could be if they stick with it.

5:30-6:10p: Suited up and stretched. Others started trickling in. I was pretty nervous. My first evening class and I could tell it would be crowded. Glad to see a few white belts. Four to be exact. One had three stripes on his belt. All three appeared to be 5-10 years younger than me. Yup. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was the oldest guy on the mat. Even older than the early-30 something green belt (I thought the colored belts were for kids...someone will have to explain that to me). Only one brown belt tonight, but a half dozen purples and 15 blues or so. Kiri was the brown belt (self defense instructor from Saturday's class).

6:10-6:30p: Saulo taught tonight. Kiri led warm ups and standard drills. Lots of different drills that I hadn't seen before like barrel rolls and walking down one side of the wall on hands with feet up against wall. I think I did ok... Managed to do most of the push-ups (proper way), although I think pride was the only reason I didn't do them from my knees. My shoulders will be hurting tomorrow...

6:30-6:45p: Take down drills. 3 judo take down set-ups (no throws) each and swapped partners ever three minutes. The two take downs I learned at the Rolles Gracie seminar came in handy. I tried to pick up on what the other guys were doing, but I think I'll need to see those moves a bit slower before I can execute properly.

6:45-6:55p: White belts went to the side mat while Saulo worked with the upper belts. Saulo asked Michael to lead us. Michael is a 16-yr old 4-stripe blue belt and the son of the academy's manager (Mike - a purple belt). I'm quite impressed with is patience. First drilled a common judo throw. Not sure what it's called, but you basically break the gi grip on the right arm, reach over back, step in and across with right foot, check the hip, and throw.

6:55-7:05p: Drilled butterfly guard posture maintenance. Form triangle with body to prevent opponent from flattening you out.

7:05-7:15p: Drilled standard butterfly guard sweep. Trick is to fall sideways and use base leg as leverage for sweep as opposed to falling backward and trying to muscle the hooked leg over. Worked it both ways to feel the difference. Nice!

7:15-7:30p: Same butterfly sweep, but this time the opponent was supposed to post and distribute weight to maintain base/posture or prevent the sweep.

7:30-8p: Rolls. Apparently white belts have to ask permission to stay over for the advanced class sparring session. Professor Saulo allowed me to join. 6 minute rounds. Sat out the first roll due to odd number of sparring partners. Approached two other white belts who just finished and partnered up with Eric. He pulled me into his guard. I passed with a stack, then went to side control for a while. Went to knee on belly from Eric's left side, but could never lock it down for the step around armbar. He managed to escape to elevator so I took his back. Sunk only one hook in and grapped a cross collar choke before rolling him over. Should have sunk in both hooks. Eventually got the rear naked though. We started over and it was almost the same story, but I was on the receiving end. Eric had my back and was going for the choke. I fought off the choke for quite a while, but he eventually had it pretty deep. I started gargling and thought about tapping...then the buzzer rang. He was about 5 seconds away from the tap...

Second roll was with Dima (I think that's what he said). Another white belt, but clearly more experienced. He was the only white belt that Saulo allowed to stay with the upper belts earlier in the night. Not sure why he doesn't have any stripes because he's pretty solid. Dima caught me in a triangle within the first 90 secs or so. The rest of the roll was pretty back and forth, but I do recall him taking my back and that I struggled to establish back survival posture. Seems to be a theme tonight...

Last roll was with a three stripe purple belt. He approached me. Didn't catch his name. Nice guy and very easy going. We rolled a bit and he swept me, then attacked the neck. At one point he got me in an Ezequiel from half guard. He asked if I do a lot of no gi...nope. Just didn't realize what he was doing until it was too late. Rookie mistake. Next time he pulled me into his guard, swept me, and proceeded to mount. Shifted to seated mount to either attack arm or neck (felt more like a choke set up) and the trusty seated mount escape worked. Back in his guard. Not for long! Scissor sweep again...dang. Back to mount and then to seated mount. This time he had me all tied up and there was no way I could execute another seated mount escape. But I did manage to allow him to take my back (sort of slid into his seated mount and forced him on his back while he continued to attack neck). I worked hard to establish back survival posture, but he opted for the body lock. I attempted body lock breaks by rolling into the lock and a slight hip thrust/twist. Worked ok, but he re-established the body lock on the other side. Ok...let's try this again... In the meantime he's attacking the neck and I'm fending off (hand fighting / collar defense). This probably went on for 2-3 minutes and the buzzer rang. He congratulated me on the strong defense. His encouragement seemed genuine. The attacks were relentless. Glad I survived as long as I did.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


9:45-10a: Stretched and watched the end of kids judo class. So cute. Some of the kids couldn't have been more than five.

10-11a: Self defense course. Mostly young kids. One other adult, my age (Earl). Taught by husband/wife brown belt couple (Wayne/Keira). Very nice teachers. Turns out Wayne is my age and we attended UCSD at the same time. I don't think our paths crossed in school. We learned bully head lock defense/escape/submission transitions. Posture, block punch or prevent clasp, trap arm, then three variations for escape. Two of the variations involved a take down to head lock break to armbar. One variation involved head lock escape to rear naked choke.

11a-12:15p: Open mat. I was the only white belt. One black belt, one brown, a few purples, and a handful of blues. Matt (blue belt) asked me to roll. He's probably 40lbs lighter, but as with almost everyone at this school, in great shape. Matt pulled me into guard and I spent a while fending off sweep attempts. Eventually I trapped a half butterfly and slowly worked to side control. He made a number of bridge/hip escape attempts and other foot techniques to recover half or full guard. I guess I defended well enough because I maintained side control. Eventually hip switched/shuffled to separate his right arm from his side. Moved left leg around in front of his face to set up for arm bar and he defended. Ended up sticking my left leg under his head and then locked my left foot behind my right knee - like a a triangle from north-south, but I was sitting up and didn't have an arm trapped. Same choke set up that I used a couple weeks ago. I applied the pressure and could hear him struggling for air. Tap. Said he didn't know he could be choked like that. I didn't either until I choked someone with it a couple weeks ago. Still don't know what it's called. I improvised the choke both times as a reaction to opponent defense of my arm attacks. We went again. Good back and forth with him applying lots of attack pressure. Passed my guard without too much trouble. Arm and neck attacks. Forced me to scramble and survive. He set up for an armbar from mount. I saw it coming, but was late in setting up my escape. We struggled a bit, but I managed to fend it off until the buzzer rang. He released and we stopped the roll. He had me though. I was about 10 seconds away from losing control of my defense and giving up the arm.

Second roll was with Johad (Yohad?), also a blue belt. He's much closer to my weight, but a little shorter. Defended a number of sweep attempts with low base and weight distribution. Eventually got swept. Not sure what happened but he had me in north-south a couple of times and each time the only thing I could think to do was escape to elevator then defend the back attack via turtle. He found a few holes and pulled me onto my back. Tried my best to establish back survival posture and defend the choke, but after a bit of a struggle he eventually got the choke. Tap. We went again and it was mostly the same story, but this time he couldn't get the choke from the back and he eventually ended up transitioning from the back to mount during one of my escape attempts. From mount he set up the arm bar via seated mount. Seated mount escape worked, but my balance was off and he took my back again. He managed to transition from back to mount again, wedge my arm off my side, and secured the arm bar...No escape this time. Tap.

I caught up with Sayar before calling it a day. Sayar is 12 and an orange belt. Very big kid though. I thought he was least 15. Probably weighs 180lbs already. He was in the self defense class earlier, but wasn't rolling with the group - just watching. We worked together for 15 minutes or so and he practiced a number of chokes, arm bars, triangles, an omo plata, and hip escapes to guard recovery.

Thursday, July 8, 2010



11:40a-12:10p: Got to class early. Observed Saulo's Black Belt class (open to Brown and Black Belts) during stretches. He's a master. He rolled with a different guys every 6mins or so. The best roll was with a BB, appeared to be same height/weight, looked white/european, but they were speaking portuguese. The guy was probably in his mid- to late-20s. Saulo submitted him about every 45-90 seconds during the 6 minute roll. Slow. Deliberate. Beautiful.

12:10-12:25p: 9 guys today (not counting instructor). 1 Brown. 2 Purples. 5 Blues. And me. Professor Cantu (sp?) noted that I was the first one to class, but last on the mats (with a smile of course). I was so distracted by Saulo's rolls, I didn't realize I really needed to pee until Professor Cantu called for the warm up. Argh... embarrassing. Warm-ups and drills were fairly standard, although I wasn't familiar with a couple of the core exercises. Also...they count in Portuguese. I studied a bit last night, but don't quite have it down.

12:25-12:35p: Worked submission drills (whatever we wanted from guard). 20 reps. I worked a few arm bars and triangles. Professor Cantu came over and showed me how to improve the armbar attack. Felt much better.

12:35-12:45p: Pass the guard drills. I chose torreando. Professor came over and showed me a variation to knee on belly. Hmm...not sure if I'm ready to go there yet. Balance felt off. One day at a time.

12:45-12:55p: Mount maintenance / escape drills. I wasn't much of a drilling partner. Have the darndest time maintaining mount and can't escape worth beans. Professor gave me some pointers on how to maintain mount. Will keep working on it.

12:55-1:05p: Sweep / open guard pass drills. Had my guard passed many times. Wish I had a camera on me because some of the things these guys were doing were really slick. Succeeded with two overhead roll / reversals to mount (technique learned at the Rolles Gracie seminar) and Saulo's scissor-sweep variation.

1:05-1:15p: Back survival/escape and attack drills. Professor Cantu showed me a couple basic techniques from Saulo's book. I had a cerebral knowledge of the postures/escapes, but executing them with the correct hip movement is something entirely different. After my mini-lesson, I matched up with Chris. At one point I had a good grip on his left collar with my right hand and saw his right neck exposed. I thought it might be a good idea to stick the blade of my left forearm on his right carotid and pull on the left collar. Well...I didn't exactly have my blade on his carotid and started smashing his jaw. Chris gave me a strange look (the "uh...what are doing?" look) and I let go. I don't think I hurt him and we had a good chuckle about it, but let's just say I should probably learn to play a few songs before trying to improvise.

1:15-1:30p: Rolls. I "rolled" with a Blue Belt (didn't catch his name). Wasn't much of a roll, which was fine by me. He just worked with me and let me move around a bit. He'd stop and coach me to hip escape here, bridge there, etc. The roll basically turned into a side control and mount survival posture / escape to guard recovery drill. Learned some great things in the process.

We had an odd number of classmates so I sat out the last roll and chatted with Professor Cantu a bit. Mostly about NOLA BJJ and my great experience there. Turns out he knows Rafael Ellwanger from Louisiana. Nice.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


8:45-9a: Paid my dues, purchased a new copy of Jiu Jitsu University, and bought a gi and patches. Mike, the manager, seems like a really nice guy. Made me feel right at home.

9-9:10a: Stretches. Only six students plus the instructor.

9:10-9:30a: Warm-ups / drills. Blue belt led. He did a couple of strange drills that I need to see a couple more times. Only finished about 85% of the core exercises before cramping set in. No push-ups.

9:30-10:05a: Worked arm bar swings to each side using only hip/core swinging movement with a flat back. Professor came over and said I was doing the hip/core swings wrong. Yeah. Figured as much. That drill requires a ton of core strength and flexibility. I'm just not there yet. Not even close. He showed me a solo core drill that I need to work on at home. Next worked on a technique to trap an arm and shoot the triangle. Finsihed with an armbar, triangle, armbar combo that relied almost exclusively on core strength. In summary...lots of core work...must have looked pathetic...soooo soft.

10:05-10:30a: Rolls. Only 6 minutes each this time with a couple minutes in between. Andrew was first up. He's fast. Escaped numerous position advances and attacks and recovered guard. Geez. Managed to catch him with a choke by wrapping my gi around his neck from either side control or half guard. He advanced to knee of belly a couple of times. I tried to employ Saulo's knee on belly escape, but something was amis. I managed to escape knee on belly, but only recovered back to side control as opposed to open guard. I don't think I'm bridging and swinging over enough.

Second was Chris, a smaller, but very strong and fast Blue Belt. Survival mode. Managed to successfully employ Saulo's trusty armbar escape, however, I had to rely on a variation since I couldn't bring my left arm all the way under his left leg and connect with my right wrist (the arm that was under attack). Rather than clasp the ankle/lower leg, I grabbed his gi pant, but the physics seemed similar. Had a couple more opportunities to escape knee on belly, but Chris had a much better defense against the escape than Andrew (as would be expected) and, although I managed to remove the knee from belly, I exposed myself to an armbar and this time could not escape. Tap. Good roll.

Got Russell for the last roll. He's an organge belt. Probably 14 or 15 years old. Although fairly large for his age, he didn't seem very aggressive. Rolled light with him. Gave up many positions and advanced attacks slowly. Didn't finish off a couple arm bars, americana, or chokes. Just let him work. Nice roll to end the day, although I was surprised when the Professor called time. Class over already? But I still have gas in the tank! ;-)

Saulo and Xande came by towards the end of class. Apparently the San Diego Chargers had a private lesson after our class. The Kettle Bells were out, so it may be for strength and conditioning as opposed to BJJ. Not sure... A couple very large guys rolled in as I was changing and heading out the door.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


9-9:20a: Ran up and walked down a large steep hill in the neigbhorhood ten times. Sprinted the 3rd, 6th, and 10th rep. Probably a little less than two miles total distance. Tried to control breathing. Amazing how much it felt like getting squashed toward the end of my first 10-min roll last night. Instinct was to panic and hyperventilate...lost control of breathing a couple of times...will continue to work on it.

9:20-9:45a: Stretches followed by core work. 10-15 reps of various core drills (crunches front/left/right, jackknives, gi chokes, triangles, inside heels, scissors, bicycle, etc). Lower back cramped a bit.

Injury Report: My right knee didn't feel too keen after the workout and has been a bit stiff all day. The same knee gave me a few hints of sharp pain while surfing Sunday morning and I feel it every once in a while in bed if my ankle gets caught in a sheet or blanket. So far...fingers pain during training/rolls. But the caution flag is up.

Monday, July 5, 2010


8:45-9a: I was the first one out in front of the University of Jiu Jitsu this morning. To be perfectly honest, my stomach was in knots I was so nervous. Before long, another student walked up and waited. We struck up a conversation by my car. Katsu is from Japan. Studies BJJ back home and has been in San Diego three weeks. Today was his last class before returning to Japan. He saw "The Gracie Way" sitting on my front seat and got really excited. Said he'd love to read it some I gave it to him. I only had the chapters on Royce and Renzo left and can get another one much easier than he can. The doors opened and I learned black gis are no good. Blue or white only. So I borrowed a white gi, changed, and hit the mats to stretch.

9-9:15a: First observation...the mats are nice! Same mats we use at NOLA BJJ, but they are suspended and somewhat bouncy. I would do judo here! Second observation...stretching is up to the individual. No one led stretches. We sort of sat around the mats and stretched. Also, the Professor who taught this morning is Brazilian. His english is very good, but he's clearly Brazilian.

9:15-9:35a: Warm-ups / drills: Very similar to NOLA BJJ, but no core and no push-ups. Familiar is good (especially on a first day when I was so nervous!). Led by a very young blue-belt (I think he's 16 'cause others congratulated him on getting his driver's license). Not sure who he is, but he opened the studio this morning (had a key) so he obviously has Saulo and Xande's trust. Drills were almost the same as NOLA BJJ, except we monkey walked back from the end of the mats (almost like bear crawls) and they added a hip escape to elevator drill. Also did this head over heal drill with a partner. Sort of like paired cart wheels where the partners use each other's momentum to roll like a wheel. My partner and I got it fairly quickly. Others struggled a bit. I don't think most in the class had seen that before.

9:35-9:55a: Drilled a step around technique from north south when partner is in turtle position. Required lots of balance since the Professor encouraged us to avoid the natural tendency to place a knee or hip on the mat as we transitioned around the back. I tired quickly and didn't make all 20 on each side. Next the Professor taught two arm locks from side control when opponent hip escapes to create space using almost the same walk around technique. If timed right, these locks can be quite effective.

9:55-10:05a: Full speed spars from side control, but fists closed (no grips). Bottom opponent tries to escape. Top person tries to advance position or attack. When bottom person escapes or top person submits opponent, partners switch. I gassed. My partner, Andrew, is about my height and clearly very fit. He seemed to escape my side control at will and I couldn't do much of anything from bottom. Bleh.

10:05-10:40a: Rolls. Wow. Three 10-minute rolls, but I sat out the middle roll. I'd only done 6 minute rolls before and we had an odd number of students. First roll was with Andrew (no-stripe white belt). Started from knees. He poured on the pressure. He caught me in an armbar from seated mount. He pulled it off so quickly I couldn't employ Saulo's seated mount escape or armbar escape. It was a very smooth submission. At one point I had him in guard and managed to break his posture ok. Shot an omoplata and almost pulled it off, but he immediately rolled out. Nice. Another time I was in his guard and left one arm extended slightly. Andrew shot a triangle. It was so quick, I still don't know how I escaped. I'm thinking, "No way is this kid a beginner as suggested by the no stripes..." It was a pretty intense roll and I was gassed.

Professor asked me to sit out the second roll. I didn't complain. Not that I would have verbally complained at all, but my body/mind didn't protest. ;-) 10 minutes at full speed with a strong 20 something was crazy tough.

Got Katsu for my last roll. Katsu is 5'9" or so and I bet only weighs 130lbs. He's also a no-stripe white belt. We rolled light. I swept him a couple times and allowed reversals so we were always moving and we alternated between attacking/defending. I enjoyed this roll, but even though it was 10 minutes long, I didn't get very tired.

Overall Impressions: Nerves notwithstanding, I really really enjoyed my first day. It's familiar enough, but slightly different and very demanding. There are a lot of "big" guys there too, which will test my survival skills. Can't wait until tomorrow's class.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

No Rolls Gracie in the water, but I have fun trying

Last night I read the chapter on Rolls Graice in The Gracie Way. Rolls' story is amazing and tragic. I had no idea he surfed. It makes perfect sense though. Surfing is dominated by smaller folks and the best employ incredible balance and technique to submit the powerful ocean. I surfed quite a bit in high school and my first couple years of college; however, weight gain and shoulder problems sidelined me for the better part of the last 14 years. Last summer, when I started feeling healthier, I decided to get my butt back in the water.

Came home from New Orleans to find my brand spankin' new surfboard by Holeman Surf Designs waiting for me. It's custom for a bigger guy like me with a history of shoulder problems. JP Holeman sponsors one of my best friends and eco-warrior Patrick Zabrocki. I'm stoked to support Pat via his sponsor and to hit Black's Beach this morning for my first session with the board.

Board Photos:

Black's this morning ~6:15am (two dark spots in the first photo are dolphins!):

The waves were great for summer. Waist to chest high with occasional head high and overhead sets. But far too crowded (The photos above do not show the main break, which is about 1/4mile north). Imagine very crowded mat space. Assume Black and Brown belts get as much space as they want and the Purples and Blues take whatever is left over. If they are lucky, Whites may find a 4x4 space but must yield to the upper belts. Well...I'm essentially a White Belt surfing at a world class break on a holiday weekend with a south swell (conditions that attract more Blacks and Browns than Mundials, PanAms, or ADCC)!!! I managed to catch a few waves and have some fun, but getting wet again was reward enough.