Prep work and blitzkriegs

Tomorrow starts my (relatively) intensive next two weeks of prepping for the test.

If I end up teaching judo, my plan for tomorrow morning is to cover renwaku waza. However, I don’t plan to cover the traditional go-with-the-flow style of combinations I have seen a lot of. I plan to cover imposing your game on the other guy with an all-out blitzkrieg. The difference between the two is that how I’ve traditionally been taught is to do attack 1, and depending on if they do A or B to counter, follow up with 2a or 2b. An example is that you may go in for a hip throw, if they counter by checking your hip with theirs you can switch to an ouchi gari, but if they counter by circling or posting you’re generally in a good position for osoto gari. Instead, I’ll be focusing on a 1 > 2 > 3 approach using a simplified scenario where you can always impose how they need to counter if they’re going to.

Alex, a great wrestler at Fight Prime, worked with me on Tuesday on a really powerful ippon seoi nage from a tight overhook. I plan to teach and incorporate that. I already do a powerful osoto gari and ouchi gari from the tight overhook, and they each afford a drastic simplification over the traditional judo variants – there’s only really one way out. You’re in too close for most of the normal counters to be viable, so stepping out to try to make space is a requirement to not get thrown in these cases. That simplification means we don’t need to focus on having multiple options. We get to focus just on the attacks and the timing of the follow-up without guessing which follow-up will be appropriate.

Uke steps in for ogoshi > step around and sink in the deep overhook (whizzer) > immediately go for osoto gari > [if they step out] immediately go for ouchi gari > [if they step out] immediately switch to ippon seoi nage. It’s a lot of steps, and more throws that we’d normally cover in a single judo class. However, they’re just four basic throws that everyone already knows – even if they come rarely. Obviously if Matt or Tim want to teach something else I’ll defer to their expertise, but this is my plan if I end up covering tomorrow.

After the 1.5 hours of judo will be between 2.5 and 3 hours of BJJ with an explicit focus on the purple belt curriculum. Submissions and transitions from every position is the goal. Thoughtful practice makes for exceptional execution.

Preparing for purple

I’ve talked to Thales and moved my purple belt test up to the beginning of May instead of the end. I’m half nervous about it and half completely cool about it. I definitely know enough techniques from each position that I’m not worried about freezing up and not knowing four different armbars from closed guard or two double-leg takedowns. What I am worried about is making sure the techniques are as technical as possible.

For the next two weeks I’m going to be trying to get as much rolling as possible in. Saturday’s open mat is going to be trying to find anyone going for their blue or purple belt soon to work with (or brown, I don’t discriminate).

Why Do Judo

Today a co-worker asked if I did jujitsu or Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I explained that I do both. He asked the difference and I explained that there wasn’t one – some guy in South America was doing what everyone else was but called it something else. When people ask me for advice about which martial art to do they’re usually looking for some eastern mysticism and hokey concept of structure or discipline. I always make perfectly clear that what I do (judo, BJJ, jujitsu, whatever we call it) is fundamentally the same as wrestling. I grab a guy, go to the ground, and hold him until someone tells me to stop. I don’t practice in environments where there are senseis, dojos, or ritual the way people think of martial arts. In judo we bow and we talk in Japanese, but that’s a simple sign of respect and the use of a universal language to avoid ambiguity. In BJJ we “shake” hands and talk in English for the same reasons.

The co-worker noted that he had been told that BJJ, unlike something like kickboxing, was supposed to be good because you have definitive resolutions. You don’t have to pull your punches to prevent injury – you can move on the ground with the other person at full speed. You can know that the choke will work, that the armbar will work. There is no question about maybe I would have gotten out. They submit or they do get out. That part is true. Unlike boxing or karate, we don’t need to pull our punches (literally or metaphorically) to prevent injury. We just need to be cognizant of the limitations of our and our partners’ bodies. I also clarified that when looking for a kids martial art, BJJ starts younger than most people think because there are no submissions for kids. It’s like a very relaxed wrestling class.

So here’s the thing: knowing that what you do works is great, but it’s not why I’d recommend judo. I’m by no means saying it’s false. I’m just saying that if you work where I work and live where I live it’s grossly unlikely that you’ll actually be in the skirmish where you need to know it works. My ecosystem just doesn’t lend itself to violent encounters. You will however find yourself at a high risk of using judo six months out of the year (more like five, but it sounds more ominous if I say winter is a six-month season here).

I am talking of course about the risk of falling and busting your ass on the ice. We get to freezing temperatures usually between late October and Early November, and heck if it’s not still freezing at night in early April. The difference between knowing ukemi from a combat sport like judo and not knowing ukemi is the difference between your hand really smarting from slapping the concrete and fracturing your tailbone. Trust me, you’d rather your hand hurt for a couple days.

I’m serious though. You’re at a way higher risk of needing falling skills than needing fighting skills, and you should know them. There was a story in the Budo club about a guy getting hit by a car while he was on his bike. His ukemi was so good that the six pack of beer in his backpack was completely in tact (albeit shaken) from the collision because he fell properly. Urban legend or totally this guy that Brant knows? I’m not really sure. The point stands: ukemi comes up. Be it falling down stairs, tripping over the invisible bench that found its way into your walking path (that’s a thing, right?), or slipping on ice you can and will benefit from knowing how to tumble.

If anyone ever says they’re looking for something they can use, that’s my answer. Learn judo, if nothing else you’ll learn how to not break your collar bone when you fall.

This is goodbye.

As you’ve probably noticed, life has gotten in the way of me updating this blog as frequently as I used to; as frequently as I would care to. It’s been a great experience getting to share my opinions with the world at large, and because there’s some stuff on here that I think is really useful (how to build a home mat tutorial, keeping BJJ out of the Olympics, the blog roll, etc.) I’ll be keeping the blog in its current state barring being able to add more often in the future.

This is more than anything an apology for not keeping up with the blog and an official statement that I will not be able to in the foreseeable future..

The grueling week

I wasn’t able to train four days this week due to an unfortunate snowfall and the holiday schedule. I was able to make it to four classes. I did two gi classes, one no-gi class, and wrestling over Thursday and Friday. I am still sore.

Gi is what it is. Meaningless tautologies aside, that means that there were no surprises. I worked out with pretty much the same people I’m used to even though it wasn’t my normal nights (along with a few people I hadn’t met including a brown belt who trains on an opposite schedule). It was productive. One class was attacking the turtle. I always feel overly confident when we do this because of judo. No matter what cool clock choke variant or turn-over we learn I find myself doing the Juan Gonzalez no BS turtle breakdown, the quarter-Nelson turnover, and jigoku jime (hell strangle). They are my go-to moves that judo has instilled as effective. The other class turned into open mat and it was working on a variety of techniques and situational rolling. I just tried to burn through some positions I’m having trouble in but know that I know techniques from. I also used it as an opportunity to try out the Top Rock techniques. I’m really digging vegan mount and plan to play with that more.

No-gi was full of surprises. I didn’t readily recognize anyone in the class and got a royal lesson in humility. All of the sudden my fancy gi-based turtle turn-overs weren’t there and someone of higher skill submitted me time and time again. I got frustrated when I was getting neck cranked, but after just had that moment of clarity about how some days you’re the guy tapping everyone and some days you’re the guy who gets tapped by everyone. Thursday night was my turn to be the guy who gets tapped by everyone. If nothing else I learned some cool ways to take the back as I was giving mine up like I was making money every time someone sunk their hooks in.

Wrestling was the most exhausting class I have done since I used to train for MMA. Every shot, sprawl, and drill felt like doing 10 of the equivalent from judo. That’s not to say wrestling requires more work, but rather that a series of movements that I’m only vaguely used to from judo and which need to be done explosively don’t lend themselves well to someone who’s too far out of shape considering they practice regularly. It was the kind of class where I felt like after a month I could drop maybe 10 pounds and be in great shape. I wish I could make it to the class more, but I’m still at work most Fridays when the class is going. I have to admit – I liked it a lot more than judo classes have been lately for a variety of reasons.

All-in-all it was a fantastic couple of days. I really miss when I could do 2 or more classes every day. Life gets in the way. As an aside I’ve started on my first blog post for BJJ Life. It’s on the matter of why we need to standardize ranks. My basic arguments deal with accidental sandbagging and rank recognition. If we’re going to continue to use ranks we should at least use them meaningfully. Most of the arguments don’t apply to no-gi where competition frequently doesn’t care about rank and when visiting another school no one can see or cares what your rank is. I guess I could have written about why submission wrestling has it right instead.

Semi-Pro Blogging

I was notified today that I’ve been accepted to the BJJ Life Bloggging Team. What that does not mean is the end of this blog. I still plan to keep this blog updated with semi-regular posts as per normal for me. What it does mean is that a great company has given me the opportunity to contribute content to their site. Keep an eye out for posts about training, techniques, and the lifestyle at the BJJ Life Blog and the occasional video on the BJJ Life YouTube channel.

Earlier today I re-read a post by Brendan over at Ok! KimonosThe TLDR of it is that when you’re affiliated with a company it’s important that they represent things you’d want to stand for. I think BJJ Life and Combat Corner represent things I believe in. I started BJJ at a school which was a CC wholesaler, have continued to go to CC for BJJ and MMA equipment over the years because it’s quality gear at a reasonable price, they put on one of the best BJJ tournaments in my area, and I’ve fought Luke on the mats in Fond Du Lac for judo tournaments. That last one’s big to me. Not only is this a company that’s making gear and running tournaments; it’s one where the faces of the company are people that I’ve met, fought, and plan to train with at the occasional seminar.


Review of Reilly Bodycomb – Top Rock

Top Rock is a top-game and leglock instructional video by Reilly Bodycomb released in December 2013. The format is a seminar filmed at NY Combat Sambo with some added clips of the techniques being used in competition. The quality of production isn’t as phenomenal as DVDs explicitly filmed as instructional videos, but as far as filmed seminars go it’s pretty good. You’ll notice times when the audio seems to have a weird effect applied as though Reilly is really far away and some issues when Reilly is facing away from the camera, but there’s no points where you can’t understand what is being said. There’s also aberrant noise because it’s a filmed seminar – at one point there are sirens, for a few minutes someone is taking a phone call that you can hear the conversation, etc. Unlike other filmed seminars which are just direct presentations of 120 minutes of material Reilly does insert title information, so just like Reilly’s other filmed seminar (Sambo Leglocks for Nogi – here to be referred to as SLfN) it’s really easy to find what you’re looking for.

When it comes down to content the video focuses on a few key positions and how to obtain a set of leglocks from them. It begins by discussing passing the guard and the relationship between passing and leglocks. No explicit passes are taught, but rather a basic pass is assumed and used as the basis for all of the scenarios. Next is the quarter-guard and the importance of keeping top quarter-guard in your repertoire of top-game positions. Quarter-guard moves into “vegan mount”, descried as such because “it looks like mount, but it’s not quite it.” Vegan mount then moves into knee-on-belly which Reilly refers to as “the knee ride”. The major technique emphasis tends to be on the “straight” ankle lock, inverted heel hooks, and knee bars. Toe holds are mentioned, but there’s not explicit setup, instead Reilly focuses on the positions which can be modified to perform any leglock. The video wraps up with a Q&A session. In this session you’ll find such gems as the “Admiral Neck-bar” – a sneaky submission/trap from the top of deep half-guard.

Overall I’d say it’s a solid seminar. I would strongly recommend checking out SLfN first to learn the finishing details of the leglocks and to understand the bottom-game Reilly references at the start of the video. Overall SLfN is a much better introduction to leglocking while TR is more of an exploration into using those leglocks you already know from top positions and a discussion about when passing or leglocks are the better option. In any event, there’s no excuse not to check the video out – you get to name your own price for a DRM-free version of Top Rock by picking it up directly from Reilly’s website. The asking price is $30, and if you’re into supporting this style of video I’d say it’s worth it. If you’re on the fence I’d say it’s still worth the $10 or $20 option, but you’ll likely feel compelled to chip in the extra when you start getting knee bars while passing guard like crazy.

*I haven’t seen Dynamic Entry yet to compare it to that DVD or say how you should prioritize it among these two seminars – however, the production quality is likely higher given that it’s a true instructional instead of a seminar.