Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Joey Hernandez Photography

A couple weeks ago my buddy Joey Hernandez visited UNIJJ with his son. Soft Judo creator Sensei Iinzumi (7th dan) taught before open mat. Joey's a photographer and captured much of the day in four photo blogs. The first covers the Judo class. The second and third capture Master Saulo rolling with his protege Michael Liera Jr. I'm the subject of the last segment. Here are a few select shots, but be sure to go to his page and look around.

Joey has no background in BJJ, grappling, or any martial art. He also didn't know he could step on the mats to get better angles and shots. That said, I think many of his shots are pure magic. I hope he catches the BJJ bug through his photography. Thanks for coming by UNIJJ Joey. Let's roll around again soon.

Guard Passes

Basic guard passes with Michael Jr. today. I say "basic" because they are taught in Saulo's White Belt fundamentals class but all were brand new to me. Double and single spider breaks and passes plus torreando-ish passes. Great stuff. So simple in concept. Can't wait to try to implement. Will try to make another session tomorrow before taking 10 days off for a family reunion. Then back to training on August 8th. Preparing for American Nationals in late September.


Got my eyeballs reshaped on Monday. I'm seeing a little better than 20/20 now. Dislodged contacts during training - no more! Unfortunately I have to avoid "strenuous" exercise for a couple weeks. That means no heavy training. I plan to go to my private this afternoon but will have to keep it low key. Also plan to continue my PT regime and will attend self defense class Saturday. (BTW, I went last Saturday...worked bully headlock escapes.) I leave this Sunday for a family reunion. Will be gone a week and there aren't any BJJ schools nearby so I won't be tempted. I'll be ready to dive back into training upon return.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Zebra Mats

For more than ten years the guys and gals at NOLA BJJ rolled around on Zebra mats. Those mats facilitated the promotion of three Black Belts, at least three Brown Belts, and countless Purple Belts over the years.

All things wear down with heavy use and it came time to replace the trusty old mats. I offered to help price shop and negotiate a deal. We considered a range of companies and mat products, but we kept returning to Zebra mats. Zebra quality is unmatched. Unfortunately, our budget could not afford 50+ new Zebra mats.

Rather than give up and settle for a cheaper mat from a less reputable company, I contacted Zebra and see if they could work with our budget. I spoke with Patrick McCarty and explained our situation. NOLA BJJ is a relatively small gym consisting mostly of students and blue-collar types. Accordingly, the mat fees are modest ($100/mo) and no contract is required. Patrick was very understanding and receptive. We quickly agreed to terms of a sponsorship deal to provide NOLA BJJ with lightly used mats within our budget in exchange for recognition of the NOLA BJJ / Zebra partnership. ("Lightly used" means the mats are essentially new but used at a recent tournaments or promotional event.)

The new mats look and feel great. We used some of the older mats to pad walls (including sections of brick wall that previously had no padding!). Thanks to Zebra, the gym has a great look and is a safer place to train. We couldn't be happier with the outcome. Thank you Zebra and Patrick for the sponsorship! NOLA BJJ looks forward to raising another generation of fighter on Zebra mats!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Started the morning with PT. Worked the left shoulder and back mostly plus a little right shoulder, wrists and leg/hip flexibility. Session felt good.

Another hot day in the gym today. Brief warm-up and a good stretch. (I've noticed that we haven't worked core much during the warm-ups. I'm used to a couple hundred reps of ab work each class. Wonder if I should supplement with P90X ab ripper X or Core Synergistics...) For technique we revisited the De la Riva passes from Tuesday's class and added a new pass from the same basic set up but involved different grips and sprawling out on a hip. It felt a bit awkward at first but after a dozen or more attempts the movement started feeling a bit more natural. Finished the technique section with 10 minutes of sweep / pass the guard from De la Riva set up. Although I couldn't pass, I only got swept a couple times and I swept a Purple a couple times.

Rolls were merciful again. Only 6 minute rounds. So darned hot. But this time I had enough gas in the tank to participate all four rounds. Hmm. Cardio getting a bit better? Got two Purples (one of them twice) and a White. Struggled with the Purples, but survived. Had a couple good sweeps. Passed once. Got a nice compliment from one of the Purples regarding my spider and inverted work. The other Purple had me in side control for too long. I'm really lazy when it comes to trying to prevent or escape side control. My training partners fight with everything they have to prevent me from securing side control. I tend to lay on my back and wait for him/her to do something...anything...and hope to find a hole. Lame. Roll with the White went ok. Had several dominant positions, but all sub attempts failed. Congrats to him for the solid survival skills. I need to keep working to secure the position before attempting the submission.

Me (top) training this past Saturday with another Blue from Outliers, a new RJJA affiliate in Santee, CA. Sensei's Saulo and Iizumi (7th Dan Judo) in the background.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Half Guard Passes

Private with Michael Jr. today. Warmed up with partner hip escapes, turtle to guard recovery, and swinging omo plata and arm bars. Hot in the gym again. Good sweat going only 10 minutes in. Reviewed the standing guard break, step over with hip brace and sprawl into half guard. The hip brace is a transition to escrima (underhook) pass. Then learned a cross face option if opponent defends the escrima. Finally an option to mount if opponent employs hip brace against the cross face option. Tons of technical details that make or break these techniques. I'll definitely review these techniques at our next session (Monday). Finished with a brief review of the open guard techniques from our first private.

Injury Report: Slight numbness returned to my right index finger today. May need to back off the activity. :-(


Private with Michael Jr. on Monday. Reviewed techniques from the last private (sweeps and attacks from basic open guard, including scissor sweep, helio gracie palm up / palm up choke, palm up / palm down choke, arm bar (2 variations), triangle, hip bump, guillotine, and kimura. New techniques included basic posturing in guard, grip defense, bait until you get the grip you want, pistol grip the opponents grip and stand up, break opponents grip, break guard, and establish x-pass setup. Standing break followed by ground break technique.

Tuesdays class was hot. I mean real hot. Started sweating before class started. Light warm-up and lots of stretching before 30 minutes of technique. De la Riva passes to positive and negative sides. Basic principle involved demobilizing opponents attacking leg (the one that stretches you out) by popping down and collapsing on it by switching to a crouching/squat position on your toes. The passes involved moving the trapped leg to one side or the other depending on opponents reaction and passing over. I struggled with the crouching/squat position. My thighs are big oxygen consuming beasts and this technique gassed Followed technique with 10 minutes of sweep/pass the guard from de la riva position. And I thought I was tired before...about puked.

Professor Leo took it easy on us during training. 6 minute rounds as opposed to 8 or 10 mins. Got a Black Belt and two Blues. Sat out a round. Almost swept the Black Belt a few times via knee push and x-guard, but his base was solid. I think I rushed the x-guard sweep. He eventually took my back and I spent several minutes defending neck and arm attack setups. Survived...but barely. The first Blue is much smaller. Lots of good sweeps. I caught him in either a reverse triangle or a shoulder lock via north south transition from a sweep off a pass. I was working both attacks when he tapped. Not long after he caught me in a reverse triangle. Tit for tat. Second Blue is much heavier than me. I got destroyed. He eviscerated my guard. Crushed me in side control. Tapped me by baseball bat or bread cutter from knee on belly, bow and arrow, arm bar, and kimura. It wasn't pretty. Extremely tired after class. My body took forever to cool down. Still sweating an hour later...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

BBQ Saturday

PT at 6:30a. Worked on the left shoulder a bit plus neck, back, and wrists. We almost overworked my shoulder on Thursday. This time I think it was just right. Not too stiff or sore. The neck and wrists are sore though.

Applied for my passport after PT. First step in the earliest planning stages for the Master/Senior Worlds in Rio next summer.

Self defence class at 10:30a. Reviewed grip breaks and learned four responses to when someone grabs your jacket or shirt from the front. In response to three different types of single front grip attack: shoulder lock, kimura(esque) and take the back, and take down to knee on belly and arm bar setup from wrist pressure. In response to double front grips: base out, pray up and around to trap arms, and take down to knee on belly and arm bar setup.

A Judo seminar followed the self defense class. I sat out. Bruised ribs on my left side causing problems for a week now. I really didn't think getting thrown around was a good idea.

Open mat and a team BBQ followed. Rolled with two Blues from our new RJJA affilliate, Outliers located in Santee. Both good and challenging rolls. The second Blue (about 150lbs) caught me in a straight ankle lock. We were both tied up in a pseudo 50/50 and both went for the ankle locks. He beat me to it. Rolled with a buddy who stopped by to hang out with his 5yr old son. We've known each other since 7th grade. He's never wrestled or done any martial arts. He took a bunch of pictures of the day. I'll post a link when he puts them up on his website.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Private: Back to Basics

First of twice-weekly hour-long privates with Michael Jr. today. My goal for the privates is to stick to the basics. Saulo's basics. I want to learn everything from the beginnig and pay attention to details until the techniques are ingrained in muscle memory and I can teach them without skipping a detail.

Started with a brief stretch and warm-up. Lots of non-conventional partner hip escapes plus a core lift arm bar drill from standing guard break attempt via muscle sweep set up. Techniques were built around the classic open guard. Learned proper grips and foot placement (control the hips). Reviewed the classic scissor sweep from the open guard set up. Followed with the Helio Gracie palm up / palm up choke from the same set up. Detail I'd been missing: Use your vertical leg to open up opponent's arm and create space for the second palm up grip then place the foot back on the hip and spread his/her out and into your choke for the finish. Then palm up / palm down, arm bar, and triangle options from the same set up. Next up a classic hip bump sweep with guillotine option if s/he throws weight into you to defend against hip bump. Finished with a kimura from closed guard. I plan to spend the first half of next class reviewing these techniques before getting into the next lesson.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

PT - Stretch - Train

First day of one-hr physical therapy + strength/flexibility sessions. PT for my left shoulder. Weakness from two past surgeries prevents me from doing push ups and pull ups. It has to be holding back my game too. Worked the inner joint quite a bit. No weights. Only minimal manual resistance from many angles. Shoulder very sore this evening. Also worked hip and knee flexibility. I'm fortunately flexible in many joints at many angles, but unfortunately tight in others. Working to loosen the tight areas and add strength to the joints that angles that are already loose. Plan to work on neck amd wrist strength in future sessions. Going to give this six months.

Training included half guard techniques. First, a half guard maintenance transition to open guard drill if opponent posts weight into your knee shield. Second, a sweep highly similar to the basic sweep taught in Revolution 1. Finished with a sweep option if opponent attempts to respond to the first sweep by stepping over to pass to the negative side. Rolls. 6 minute rounds. Got three much more experienced Blues and sat out a round. First Blue was smaller but...48 yrs old! Incredibly fast. Highly technical. Survived, but it was quite a struggle. Second and third Blues were a few years younger and ~5-10lbs lighter. Caught a couple arm bars from the back during transition to technical mount. Got arm locked from a crucifix(like) setup. I pretty much rolled into it. Drats. Cardio felt decent. The six minute rounds (and sitting out one) helped. I'm not ready for 8min rounds.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Strength vs. Technique

Nooner class. Worked a spider/scissor sweep. Plus triangle and de la riva sweep options off the spider/scissor setup. Really enjoyed these techniques. Good fit for my game. Then 10 minutes of sweep/pass the guard with emphasis on the learned techniques. Six minute rolls to finish. Got two Blues and Purple. Tapped a few times to one smaller/faster Blue. Specifically remember a triangle and an arm bar. Barely survived an onslaught of attacks from the other smaller/faster Blue. He had me in all sorts of guard knots. Rubber, inverted, spider, etc. None worked too well. Spent most of the last roll with the Purple on the attack (surprisingly). Lost two arm bar attempts from s-mount. Position before submission! At one point after I passed guard, he chuckled and said, " are strong!" I didn't know how to take it. Strength is a bad thing right? After class he said it again but added that strength plus technique is a good thing. It was a nice compliment; especially coming from a seasoned and respected member of the academy.

I lost a contact in class. That's three times in the past couple weeks. Once I lose one contact, I have to be careful not to lose the other or I won't be able to drive home from class. Hope to get lasik in the next few months. Until then I need to remember to bring extra contacts.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Back in San Diego

It's been a while...I know. Trained five or six times at NOLA BJJ and a couple times at UNIJJ since I last posted. My cardio seems to be getting worse and, as a result, my grappling's been lazy. That said, I've had some really great rolls with upper belts recently. I've also had some spectacularly poor rolls. Got banged up these past few weeks. Busted up lips, bruised cheek bone, sore ears, gnarly knot on my knee, tender turf toes, bloody nose, blood vessels ruptured in my eye, etc. Choked someone unconscious for the first time too. That was a trip. Bow and arrow. I couldn't see him, but I could hear him gurgling. He had a hand on my wrist and appeared to be defending. He didn't feel limp. Someone was sitting along the wall looking right at him the whole time and didn't know he was out. Finally let go and he was snoring (literally); eyes rolled back in his head. Freaked me out. Really. I'm not a violent person. It freaked me out. Next time I have a choke deep and the guy doesn't tap after a few seconds I'm letting go.

Starting to think about the Las Vegas Open, August 13th. Hmm... That's only a month or so away. I'm currently 217lbs with a gi. Can I drop 10lbs in a month? Sure. Do I want to? We'll see.

Oh! Got a new gi. Blue Vulcan A3. It's light and feels great. Hope that it makes for a good competition gi. Tailored the arm length. It's two fingers from the wrist bone with arms extended but with a little adjusting it will reach the wrist. Can't wait to train in it.