I’ve removed last night’s post.

I’m still bitter. Tanner got his nose checked out: it’s a confirmed hair-line fracture on the bridge. I’ve suffered a minor sprain to the wrist and a tweaked trapezius that kept me up all of last night. We’ll both heal. Injuries are a part of the sport. This is why I train my neck.

It’s hard to not take it personally. It feels like all my past experience and hard work is belittled. I couldn’t care less what my rank is, but I feel it should be relative to those in the same club. I do care that I got outranked with the pretense of past experience. My past experience and cross-training netted two ranks, not four. Everyone has complimented me on how much my ground game has progressed since going back to BJJ. I get my recognition verbally from training partners.

Instead of being upset and feeling slighted I should probably feel happy. Last night was a night of huge accomplishments. I finally got a good yama arashi. I’ve been working for that throw for two years. Tim explained foot sweeps in a way that instantly connected. For the last five years I’ve been cheating foot sweeps and always doing them as hooks (gari vs. gake in judo). It was probably the thing that made my style most like wrestling, and being able to do both will make my style more “judo” than anything else. I’ll be focusing on foot-sweeps for stand-up for the next couple of months to work on the skill. It’ll be rough leaving sacrifice throws, arm throws, and hip throws at the door for a month or two to improve my judo instead of my wrestling.

Techniques for March: ko uchi gari, o uchi gari, o soto gari, ko soto gari, de ashi harai, okuri ashi harai, ashi guruma, o guruma, yama arashi.

Breakdown (Part I): Positions – The Top

I’m breaking down my style this week. It’s more of a goal at this point. I’m starting by trying to list out my favorites for each position. The game is a lot more complicated than the moves you do from each position. As Mark used to say, the jujitsu is what happens in the transition, not what you do once you get there. Some of these are just the terms I know, or small statements to remind me of a movement which doesn’t have a simple name.

The top:


Sweep 1

Sweep 2

Escape 1

Escape 2

Sub 1

Sub 2


Bridge > Kesa

Arm trap > Kata

Bridge and Roll


“Classic” Armbar

Ezekiel Choke

Kata Gatame



Back shoulder roll

Shrimp > back take

Arm Triangle

Neck crank

Kesa Gatame

Bridge > Mount

Side control

Bridge and Roll


Keylock (Legs)

Ezekiel Choke

Kazure Kesa



Bridge and Roll


Step-over armbar

Elbow crush




Pendulum to HG

Gator roll

Loop armbar

Circle choke

Side control



Shrimp > Reguard


Keylock (Arms)

Kimura (Arms)

Reverse Mount

Reverse KoB

Side Mount

Shimp and push

Gator roll to back

Knee bar

Toe hold


Juan Gonzalez

Quarter Nelson

Arm-trap roll

Shoulder roll

Clock Choke







Rear Naked Choke


The Future

I used to train eight times per week. I’m down to three.

When I started judo I wanted to compete at least four times per year. I’m missing tournaments right and left for work and wedding preparations.

I have no aspirations to be one of the greatest grapplers. I don’t even care to be National level good. I’d just like to be good enough.

The minimum time in rank for blue to purple is two years, purple to brown is 1.5, brown to black is one. Given that the minimum time in rank for white to blue is one year and it took me 3.5 but I also have a jujitsu, judo, and wrestling background chances are pretty good I’ll get to purple in 2-2.5 years. I can expect to be ready for a black belt in maybe 6-10 years…

The minimum time in rank for judo is a lot smaller, but again, I’ve met minimum total time for nikkyu already. I hope to get sankyu this spring. I could hope to be ready for black in another 3 years.

Anytime someone gets their black belt the first thing I’m always asked by guys who don’t know them is, “Are they really a black belt though?”. The guys who get their BJJ black in six years usually aren’t (I have met exceptions, I’m training under one). Those who get their judo black in six years usually are.

The requirements are different. The expected skill level is different. When I think of the level of skill people expect from a “legit” BJJ black belt it’s the level you’d really expect from a nidan or sandan in judo. When I think of the guys who have their black belt in judo, they don’t really bother testing for nidan or sandan. Minimum time for a shodan (1st black) is 4.5 years. Minimum time for a nidan (2nd black) is 7.5 years. Minimum time for a sandan is 11.5 years. My judo instructor has been training jujitsu/judo since 1987. I wasn’t even born then. He’s still a shodan (1st black). He’s been a blue belt in BJJ as long as I’ve been training with him (2.5 years).

Time is relative. My judo coach got his first black belt (jujitsu) in 1993. The head of my BJJ Association got his BJJ black belt in 1999. Rank is silly.

Kesa Gatame: My Home, My Hero.

There’s been a lot I’ve wanted to blog about lately. Working with people brand new to grappling. Working with experienced grapplers who are new to submissions. How excited I am that after Wade’s gym moves to Lodi we’ll be gaining one of the best guys I know for wrestling (if I remember correctly he was 88-5-0 in three years of high school wrestling). It’s hard to come down to one topic.

Saturday we had a purple belt visit. His name is Ed. He’s two weight classes above me with a strong wrestling background. To me he represents how BJJ takes someone who’s so naturally a top-game player and turns them into a guard-game player. He has a great guard. He doesn’t have great flexibility or speed, but he plays very well off his back. Ed schooled me. Having said that, kesa is so sweet.

When I talk to most BJJ guys about kesa they think I mean kazure kesa gatame (underhooking the far  arm). I do not. I mean kesa gatame (head-lock variation of the scarf hold). I gave up kazure kesa for kesa against Ed. He made note of it. I didn’t lose the position by doing it. Most BJJ practitioners would call it crazy. If anyone tells you one is better, here’s the breakdown: Kazure is easier to hold initially and it’s considered harder to escape. Kazure offers more armlocks. The headlock form of kesa applies more pressure to your opponent, to the degree that if you learn to sink the pin in on two levels they will lose the ability to breath. This headlock form also allows for quick chokes and a switch to the arm-triangle (kata gatame). Even if they escape their arm, with their head I can trap them and transition to one of my grip variations. This weekend was an experiment in the keylock variation where you hold an Americana on the arm with your arm still trapping their head. It seemed to work well.

The trick to a solid (headlock) kesa is to know how to transition. I used to do drills where when someone bridged I’d go to mount, and if they bridged again I’d go to kesa (a great defense against the “umpa”). If they bridge too well or defend the mount you just keep switching sides of kesa. Your grips get funny but it’s not too hard to do (kazure works well for this drill until you learn the grip switches). I should do these drills more. Have your partner lay down, take kesa, have them slowly bridge you, switch your hip and jump to mount or the other side. Slowly ramp up the pace/intensity of the bridging. It will only work if they bridge earnestly. You shouldn’t have to work other than the hip switch (they will lift and bump you over them). If they go backdoor, know how to switch to side-control. If you can do both of those transitions, kesa is golden.

The Toe Hold – The second greatest way to disqualification.

Although I have never formally wrestled, I love to wrestle. Standing, my judo can better be described as wrestling (and has been). On the ground I am never fully comfortable on my back with a more experienced player. I like to be on top. I like to shoot. I love the huge throws I’ve picked up from Greco-Roman.

This gets me in trouble in judo. As of 2010 the competition rules say I can’t grab the legs. Three of my trustiest throws are Te guruma, Kata guruma, and Sukui nage (this is te guruma, this is sukui nage, I don’t know why all the leg attacks from judo get confused – it’s a common problem even with the two types of single-leg takedowns… the Kodokan has a book of the official names with pictures…).

As a blue belt in BJJ my leg attacks are limited (kind of). CombatCorner is pretty indicative of the rules for gi and no-gi in my area. For gi I’m limited to knee bars and straight ankle locks. This means I can also do my Achilles crush. This means I cannot do my toe hold. For no-gi I can do anything from the crucifix to the twister to cow catchers to heel hooks so long as I don’t do single-digit manipulation or put my fingers where they don’t belong. The one big difference between CC and other BJJ tournaments around me is kani basami. CC is cool with it.

So last night I’m on the ground with Anders. He’s good. He better be, he’s a 3rd degree black belt in jujitsu, a black belt in judo, and a blue belt in BJJ, and has been as long as I’ve known him (2.5 years now). I’ve recently started using an escape for the omo plata that I picked up from Catch. You can relieve the pressure by turning your body to use the same structure to apply a hip-lock to them. You won’t finish the hip-lock, their legs are a figure-four so you’re trying to fight both legs – not a winning battle. What it does do is let me limp-arm very easily when they try to change the angle upon realizing I can’t be tapped from that position. It also lets me do a simple escape to reverse mount. Anders got an omo plata. I got reverse mount.

Reverse mount is exactly what you’re thinking. I’m sitting on your stomach/chest, but I’m facing your legs. By the judo definition, this is not a pin. You can’t escape it super easily (you can squirm and pull your legs out, but it’s possible to grapevine on your arms/head and if I sit on your chest with my legs forward it’s just all my bodyweight on your solar plexus), especially not if I underhook either leg, but I’m not facing you, so it’s not a pin. This is where I start getting in trouble. Reverse mount is great for one thing (and pretty much one thing only) and that’s harvesting legs. From the reverse mount I have my options of leg-locks as long as I grab a leg before the person squirms out.

Attacking the turtle is another one. I found this cherry attack on the turtle (Plate 151). Pull them forward, foot tight behind their arm, roll into the half-nelson, take their foot, toe hold, profit. You know who turtles? Judoka. You know when you’re not allowed to do toe holds? Judo.

In case you’re wondering about the single greatest way to get disqualified in judo: Flying Armbar (3:19) I’ve gotten much better at it since then, but it’s still not allowed. I now prefer the “Chaotic” as Dave Camarillo calls it, it meshes well with my wrestling-style judo.

“Dirty Jiu-Jitsu”

I’m trying to corral Tanner into going to BJJ or catching some time at judo to video some of my/our favorite wrist locks. This was easier in college when we had open mat time (and when we were teaching on those days). I’ve spent some time thinking, and I’d like to video some of the better “bottom-drawer” techniques too.

Mark taught us a lot of brutal things to do to a person. Among the worst submissions I was shown were toe holds, heel hooks, neck cranks, spine locks, and the use of pressure points while grappling. When I think “dirty jiu-jitsu” I don’t really think wrist-locks. I think finger-locks to break grips, neck cranks from chokes, and other questionably legal maneuvers.

Finger-locking Good: Have your partner grab a lapel grip with his right hand. Grab his right wrist with your left hand (so that he can’t pull it away – for now). Grab “your collar” such that your palm is at the base of the second knuckle of his fingers (like you’re S-gripping him) and then slide your fingers over the tips of his. Squeeze. This puts a lot of compression directly into the first knuckle of all four fingers. I can close a 200-lb. hand gripper so I assume it’s probably somewhere on the order of 200-lbs pushing directly into that joint. It’s not pleasant, it’s not strictly legal, but no ref is going to see it, and in general they will try to let go of your lapel, use that wrist grip to force their hand down and take your Russian-tie/Arm-drag/what-have-you. That is dirty jiu jitsu.

Neck Crank: All I can ever think of with this one is ripping a stubborn cork out of a bottle of wine. Take your partner’s back with the seat-belt control (over-unders for those of us who don’t need metaphorical names). You go for an RNC, but their chin is just too far down, their hands are protecting their neck, boooooooooooo! Do the RNC to their face. You don’t have to pinch hard, you’re just trying to get a nice pinch on the head for what’s about to happen. Lifting your elbow, turn their head with this arm (towards the side the arm is… right arm choking? twist their head right). This does two things:

  1. Their chin rises up for you to get the choke you really wanted.
  2. It is a neck crank. You could just keep twisting here in no-gi to finish.

Bridge and Roll: Everyone probably knows the bridge and roll or “umpa” escape from mount. Your partner has mounted you. You grab their back to hold them from simply riding out the bridge, pop them forward, trap the arm, and roll. Our variant has couple of notable differences. Lift your arm. Do it. Take one or two fingers on your other hand and starting at your arm pit push in. Move down and keep pushing. You should find a very painful spot 1-2 ribs below your armpit. Money. So you have your hands on their side with your fingers on their lats so they can’t just hip in and lean back. Your thumbs go into that painful spot. Squeeze to put some pressure there and bump hard. If you’ve hit it right your partner will have to base out farther than normal. You shouldn’t be able to reach their arm to grab it if you’ve bumped hard enough and applied enough push into the ribs. Doesn’t matter. Just roll. For added effect you can push them harder to one side than the other to make them base out at a funny angle then roll into the gap you’ve created where there is no base. It’s not as technically sound as trapping the arm, but damn if it doesn’t work.

Twenty Times Better

Over the last four years (well, let’s call it five, it will be soon enough) I’ve found my throws. Last night I nailed a cross-grip tai otoshi that felt just right. When you land a perfect or near perfect throw, you feel it. Junior commented it was “20 times better” than my throws have been recently. He even noted that I should do that throw as my first attempt at my next tournament. It’s nice when the black belts give you advice about which throws are competition grade.

The problem with knowing my throws is that I also know the exact number of throws I don’t know well enough yet. I have a veritable library of judo, wrestling, and BJJ books on topics from strategy to technique to history. I have an exact list of all of the throws recognized in judo, I can name and describe them, even demonstrate most of them, but there’s still this 1/3 or so of the list that I don’t think I could do without further instruction. I know people’s throws change as they grow. I guess I’m more nervous about kata than anything. Side note: we’re doing nage no kata. To me, knowing the whole kata is part of brown belt. Being able to do it well is what you work on for black. It’s nice to go through. Relaxing even. I’ve found my uchi mata has gotten much better since starting it. I’m comfortable with the hand, hip, and sacrifice throws in the kata. Now if only I didn’t suck at the foot sweeps…