Monday, April 30, 2012

Losses by Bow and Arrow

Phoenix Open:  I lost my division and absolute to bow and arrow choke.

My division fight was sad.   The kid started out just like his videos.  Jumping around all over the place.  It was hard to focus he was so spastic.  He shot for a single.  Almost caught me, but I sprawled and we went out of bounds.  Reset and he shot again.  This time before the clench.  I don't know the name of the move, but it's the same takedown that Q (NOLA BJJ wrestling coach) taught when I was in New Orleans last time.  Basically a quick level change and collapse on an ankle.   Professor Antonio thought I gave up the take down too easily.  He's probably right.  Landed on my back in a modified butterfly guard.  I began to look for spider grips and improve my guard but it didn't take him too long to shut me down and work a pass.  I recovered part of a guard and he passed again.  I'm down 8-0 at this point and couldn't recover guard.  I decided to wait for an opportunity to bail to turtle and try to recover guard from there.  Got to turtle, but he took my back.  I almost escaped, but he set the hooks again.  I think I was down 16-0 he found the collar and caught me with a bow and arrow at around the 5min mark.  Not sure why I didn't look at the score after the loss.  Still seeing stars from the choke, I suppose.  The kid weighed in at 193 so I had about 15lbs on him.  Presumably he fought in the Super Heavy division because his team already had a competitor in the Medium Heavy and no one in Super.  It was a good strategy because he ended up getting silver (he lost 12-2 in the final).

My "aggro" opponent.

Division observations/lessons?  First, I'm not an aggressive fighter.  The kid came in charging.  Faster, stronger, and more determined.  I didn't have a response for that.  I either need to ramp up my aggression or figure out how to deal with hyper aggressive opponents.  Second, I missed a couple opportunities early in the match (post-take down) but chose not to burn the energy with 4-5 minutes left in the fight.  I honestly wasn't worried at this point and had no idea I was about to get destroyed.  Hindsight being what it is, I should have worked harder to improve my open guard position before he had a chance to work his pass game.  Guard is my bread and butter.  I didn't fight hard enough to implement my game.  Third, I need to work on fundamental guard recovery from side control.  The lazy route to turtle has been fine in training, but it's not a good habit.  Oh...and about those tons of holes in my opponent's game that I noticed from watching his videos?  Well, I learned that my holes are much, much bigger.  :-)

The Open class fight went better.  They paired me with a beast of a guy who won three fights to take gold in the Heavy division.  An inch or two shorter than me, but said he weighed in at 207.  Although I have a couple pounds on him, I'm a fat slob in comparison.   He shocked the snot out of me by pulling guard.  I kept on my feet and broke his guard open immediately.  I began to set up a pass and he went berimbolo.  I stuffed it and he found his way back to closed guard.  I trapped his right arm, stood up, and opened his guard.  He went back to berimbolo.  Stuffed it again.  This time he changed it up and went for another sweep.  I really have no idea what he did.  Next thing I know I fell back and I immediately started to defend from my side in modified turtle.  It didn't take him long to get my back.  Down 6-0 and it didn't take him long to sink the bow and arrow.  He defeated his next opponent by kimura within a minute.  I didn't stick around to watch the semi-final, but my guess is he did pretty well.  He's extremely strong, has very good hip movement, and is highly technical for a Blue.  Perfect storm.

Open class observations/lessons?  First, I need to work transitions between guard opening and guard pass set up.  I felt like each time I opened his guard, he was ready to transition to a sweep set up before I was ready to transition to a guard pass.  Had I been quicker on the transition, I may have avoided the sweep and possibly passed his guard.  Or at least improved to half guard.  Second, my instinct after the sweep was to turn away from him to turtle and not turn into him to establish half or open guard.  Just like training.  Third, as he started taking my back I didn't try hard enough to prevent the points.  I saw an opportunity to escape, but didn't execute.

 w/ Professor Antonio before the drive back home

Overall positive:  I was the ONLY master/senior 1 (aged 30-40) Blue who had the cajones to show up to the Phoenix Open, let alone drop down in age to compete with the Adults.  That has to count for something.  My nerves were fine.  Almost calm before each fight.  My cardio and top game stamina has improved, by leaps and bounds.  Felt good during and after both fights.  I played top for 90 secs or so in my second match and had no cardio issues whatsoever.  That's definitely an improvement.

Overall negative:  I'm a lazy competitor.  Far too lazy.  Some really bad training habits have carried over into competition.  I need to fix those.  Not that I need to train harder.  Just smarter.  Don't bail to turtle anymore.  Fight the sweeps and guard passes harder.  If I end up under side control, stick it out in the bad positions and work for a proper escape and guard recovery.  Finally, I need help with bow and arrow escapes.  I can't recall the last time I tapped to bow and arrow.  My go-to escapes proved ineffective in competition.  Need to revisit/refine existing escapes and learn a couple more.

Professor Antonio - Adult, Black, Heavy Champ! 

Grappling X on Sunday.  Double elimination.  30+ grouped together.  Assuming I take third or better (by win or default), I'll get four fights between division and open class.  Still have to cut 7lbs or so by Saturday morning weigh-in.  This week won't be fun, but I can do it.  I'm already looking forward to a post weigh-in sushi feast.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Week in Review

Start weight: 211.2
  • Mon 4/23:  1hr cardio (elliptical) plus 240 light weight reps focusing on left shoulder, bicep, and tricep.    
  • Tues 4/24:  1.5hrs BJJ plus 1hr strength and conditioning. 
  • Wed 4/25:  2hrs cardio/core, including 80mins elliptical, 10mins stairs, 20mins core (250 reps), and 10min cool down. 
  • Thurs 4/26:  1.5hrs BJJ plus 1hr strength and conditioning.
  • Fri 4/27:    Travel to Phoenix.    
  • Sat 4/28:  IBJJF Phoenix Open.  About 30 mins warm-up and 8mins fighting.   Got destroyed.  I'll write more about the experience later.  
  • Sun 4/29: Travel home.  
Final weight:  209.8 (Guessing 4lbs of that is water weight from drive home)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Last Training before Phoenix Open

Tough class last night.  Aggressive warm-up followed by slow yoga-style stretch session.  Drilled sweep / pass the guard.  Guard position had one hand in belt.   Then 2-min rounds training with rotating one hand.  For example, one guy starts with left hand in the belt.  At 2-min, switch hands.  At 4-min, other guy starts with left hand.  At 6-min, other guy switches hands.  At 8-min, switch partners, repeat x 6.  Worked with a Brown, two Purples, and three Blues.  Finished with a 10-min round.  Got a tough young Blue who gives me lots of trouble.  Professor pulled me out at 5-min mark due to Phoenix Open.  Said to rest.  Great class.  Very sore this morning.  Keeping one hand in the belt really makes you rely on hip movement.

Phoenix Open brackets are up.   The guy I fight in the first round has videos on YouTube.  I can't figure out why a guy with the same name and same school fought in the Middle Weight division the past two years, but is in the Super Heavy division this year.  Maybe it's not the same guy?  If it is the same guy, I see tons of holes in his game.  That said, he's VERY aggressive and a bit spazzy.  I'll have my hands full controlling the pace.  A Purple advised me last night not to put any stock in the YouTube videos and just play my game.  Good advice.

Post-train @ 204.2lbs.  Woke up this morning @ 205.4lbs.  That's basically 2.5lbs from making the Heavy division (with gi weight).  If I had known I would be that close to Heavy a day out from the Phoenix Open, I would have dropped a division and cut more aggressively.  'Tis okay though.  I'll make <201 for next weekend's Grappling X and continue at a healthy pace of 1-3lbs per week to reach 185lbs (Medium-Heavy) by the Master/Senior Worlds at the end of July.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Short warm-up followed by 15mins of grip breaking and take down setups.  A Purple (probably 180lbs) dominated me during grip breaks.  If someone like him gets a hold of my gi, I'm done.  Technique was a half guard pass (weave variation).  I liked it, at first.  Finished class with 20min positional sparring from half guard.  It was nearly impossible for me to implement the technique in a sparring situation when the opponent knows it is coming.  The first Purple I worked with couldn't execute either.  The second Purple, the grip break guy, dominated me with it.  I didn't stop him once and he shut me down every time.  Quite humbling.  Open mat training included four, 6min rounds.  Got three Whites and a Blue.  All smaller than me.  Mostly let them work, but I hit a couple sweeps and passes that I've been having trouble with against larger or more experienced guys.

205.2 after class and 206.4 this morning.  Still have to cut 5+lbs by next Saturday morning to make 30+ Light Heavy (181-200lbs).  I heard a rumor that Grappling X usually combines the 30+ divisions with Adult due to lack of 30+ fighters.  The Adult Light Heavyweight division is 196-205lbs.  Either way, I'm on course to make weight.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week in Review

Start weight: 212.0
  • Mon 4/16:  1hr conditioning (quad-focused).  
  • Tues 4/17:  1hr walk (3.8 miles). 
  • Wed 4/18:  1.5hr cardio/core, including 30min elliptical, 25min core,  20min stair climber,  and 15min stretch/cool down. 
  • Thurs 4/19:  1.5hr cardio, including 60min elliptical, 20min stair climber, and 10min stretch/cool down.
  • Fri 4/20:   1hr strength and conditioning.  
  • Sat 4/21:  1.5hrs BJJ plus two mile walk.  
  • Sun 4/22:  Rest day.
Final weight:  211.2

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Had to Stop Myself

Great to be back on the mats this morning.  Class started with a solid warm up before reviewing basic guard opening techniques from the ground and learning a couple standing guard break techniques.   Finished class with positional training from standing closed guard and one six-min standard training.  I worked with a 160lb Green with a foot injury.  We went very light.  Almost flow roll.

I managed three rounds for open mat.  Got a smaller and older White, a younger and slightly lighter Brown, and Black, 170lbs and probably late 30s.   Fun training.  Most impressed with conditioning.  Handled 11 tough minutes with the Brown and after only 90secs rest, got called out by the Black.  Solid sweep against the Black (bread and butter sweep off a pass) and a few reversals and sweeps against the Brown.  Escaped a few arm bar and choke attempts.  Played more top game than I expected as a result of the sweeps and escapes.  The White had me in some awkward but not terribly threatening positions.  Brown caught my arm once or twice.  Black caught it once.

Very tempted to keep going.  Had to stop myself from overdoing it.  Feel okay now, but have slight tingling sensation in my right index finger and thumb.  That means the neck is aggravated.  Glad I stopped when I did.   I hope to train again Tues and Thurs before the Phoenix Open on Saturday.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tourney Changes

Phoenix Open (4/28):  I dropped from Senior 1 to Adult.  No one else signed up for Senior 1/Blue/SuperHeavy and there wasn't anyone registered for Master/Blue/Super.  Only one person in Adult/Blue/Super division, so what the heck.  That should qualify me for a fairly full Adult open class.  Looking forward to mixing it up with the young bucks.  

Grappling X, San Diego (5/6):  I dropped from Heavy (201+) to Light Heavy (181-200).  Grappling X lets you weigh in without a gi and 24hrs before fight time.  I woke up the last two mornings at 208.0.  I figure I can drop 7+lbs in 15 days.  I would have been among the lightest of the 201+ division; a division without an upper weight limit.  Not ideal, but I didn't think I had a chance at Light Heavy.  Weight progress is going well so I'm really looking forward to mixing it up with the faster Light Heavy group.    

I was feeling well enough to hit the mats today, but couldn't.  Life interrupted so I handled my responsibilities and took the missed mat time in stride.  Strength and conditioning tomorrow and then BJJ again on Saturday morning.  Can't wait!  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu

I am so honored to apart of UNIJJ and the RJJA.  Thank you to my professors and training partners at NOLA BJJ for helping me find my San Diego home.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week in Review

Start weight: 214.5
  • Mon 4/9: Rest day.  
  • Tues 4/10:  1hr strength and conditioning (went light). 
  • Wed 4/11:  45min cardio (elliptical and stair climber) plus 2hrs dancing to the Skatalites! 
  • Thurs 4/12:  1hr strength and conditioning (went light).  
  • Fri 4/13:  1hr conditioning (quad-focused cardio).  
  • Sat 4/14:  45 min cardio (elliptical intervals) plus two mile walk.  
  • Sun 4/15:  Rest day.  
Final weight:  212.0

Saturday, April 14, 2012

2 Years

Two years ago today I awoke from a fitness slumber by stepping on the mats for the first time.  The past couple years haven't been easy.  I've been sidelined more than six months by various neck, knee, hip, toes, and other joint injuries.  Unfortunately I cannot train on my anniversary due to neck issues.

Chronic injury/pain is nothing new for me.  I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), Hypermobility Disorder.  If you're curious, you can read more here, here, and here.  At age 17 I had capsular shift surgery on my left shoulder to prevent subluxation (temporary, partial dislocations).  My 20s were very difficult.  I had a synovectomy of my left shoulder and a chunk of muscle removed from my right shoulder.  Ongoing hip, back, and shoulder issues prevented me from any regular exercise.  I gained a lot of weight and struggled with depression. By my 30th birthday (2006) I weighed 260lbs.  My triglycerides were off the charts and HDL was around 15-20.  Doc said I was a great risk of heart disease and put me on meds.


I tried exercising, but weak joints from the EDS prevented me from repetitive exercises like jogging, swimming, exercise bikes, weights, etc.  I really didn't have many options.  So I changed my diet.  I cut out almost all refined sugars and started taking a mix of joint support supplements recommended by a few doctors in England (PubMed has their paper).  

By late 2009 I had dropped 20-25lbs and the supplements allowed me to start jogging on a treadmill or riding an exercise bike for 20-30 minutes a few times per week.  Yet every few weeks I'd have to take a couple weeks off due to hip or knee issues.   

On April 14th, 2010,  co-workers Mike (Brown) and Aaron (Purple) dragged me to NOLA BJJ.  Sure.  Why not?  Only one class.  I had no idea what to expect and about died from the warm-up.  Looking miserable and probably a bit green, Mike chuckles and says, "The easy part's over!"  Classic.   I really didn't expect to stick with it.  But, amazingly, I did.  And my life hasn't been the same.  

So, why have I been able to train BJJ when I was unable to maintain a regular/simple workout schedule? The only explanation I can offer is that BJJ challenges the entire body and does not involve hundreds of identical repetitions like swimming, running, or cycling.  BJJ is dynamic and the push/pull variation allowed my joints to strengthen over time.  In the past, repetition quickly wore down my joints and forced me to take time off before I could build any significant protective muscle.  Now my joints are strong enough that I can swim and jog occasionally without the hip or knee injuries.  

Although my overall health and fitness is better now than it was at any point in my 20s, I don't know how long I'll be able to continue my journey.  Degenerative joint disease is very common among those with EDS.  It's already destroyed my neck (two herniated far) and will likely take its toll on my back (herniated discs and/or sciatica) and hands (arthritis).  I'll eventually need a two-level ACDF (fusion) on my neck.  I'm not sure how to avoid that. And I'm not sure how long I'll want to put up with nagging neck issues; especially when an episode can lay me out, unexpectedly, for up to two weeks in bed on morphine like it did last December.   

Time to wrap this up.  I can't thank my training partners and professors enough.  It's been a great journey thus far and I'll take it one day at a time and not take my next training session for granted.  Never know when it will be my last.  

 Where it All Started: NOLA BJJ - April 14, 2010

First Tourney - Gracie Barra Compnet 2010

With Professor Matthias at Gracie Barra Compnet 2010

 Visiting Teak HK, Honolulu HI, Nov 2010

Awarded by Professors Matthias Meister, 
Marco Macera, and Doc Eddie - December 2010

Jiu Jitsu University - March 2011

Aaron gets his Purple - Spring 2011

 Mike, Matthias, and Aaron - Spring 2011

 Post-train NY Pizza with (L-R) visitor, Professor Matthias, 
Alex (Purple), his son (White), me, and Matt (Blue) 

With Steve (aka Nemesis) at 
Louisiana State Championships - Spring 2011

Silver in division and absolute - Spring 2011

Some of the NOLA BJJ medal winners - Spring 2011

NOLA BJJ Crawfish Boil - Spring 2011
L-R: Jorge (Blue), Andrew (Brown), Andrew (Purple), 
Nemesis (Blue), Richard (Purple), Chris (Blue), and Mike (Blue)

New Mats at NOLA BJJ!  Late Spring 2011

With the Murray Brothers - Late Spring 2011
L-R: Gavin (now Brown) and Collin (Brown)

The University - Summer 2011

 Training at UNIJJ - Summer 2011
Master Saulo and Sensei Lizumi in the backround

 More training at UNIJJ - Summer 2011
With Daryl (now Purple)

More training at UNIJJ - Summer 2011
With Daryl (now Purple)

EDS flexibility! - Summer 2011 

Summer 2011 

 UNIJJ - Summer 2011

 The worst bruise I've had to date - Fall 2011

Pans 2012 

RJJA Family Photo - Pans 2012