Other Updates

I wanted a separate post for these. They’re not directly related to my current training.

  1. Tanner took first on Saturday at Stevens Point and did really well last weekend at the Welcome Mat Open (won two, lost one). Those are two of the larger Wisconsin judo tournaments. I definitely think he’ll be ready to rock AAU Nationals this summer. Our club has a good history of AAU National Champions. It’d be really cool to see him take a National title or two over the next couple of years. It’d be nice to get one myself, but that’s less likely.
  2. I took dance lessons for my wedding yesterday. The entirety of the foxtrot is just set-up for foot sweeps.

Saturday Blues

Sometimes it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I know a LOT of techniques. What’s even weirder is knowing so many techniques, but using so few. Saturday made this pretty apparent. Because of judo and jujitsu I’ve been exposed to a lot of things Wade hasn’t. That’s not to say I know nearly as much as Wade or that I’m nearly as good at grappling, but it comes in handy some times.

Ken was our Saturday visitor (who hopefully becomes a Saturday regular). Wade did this choke to finish Ken. I of course called it out as it was happening and then after I got to demonstrate the variations of jigoku jime (“hell strangle” / “hell choke”). There are two variations from guard.

  1. Omo plata variation: So I’m shooting for an omo plata on their right arm (my left side). I’m pretty sure everyone knows how to do the basic omo plata from closed guard so here’s how you modify it – grab the collar. That’s it. My right hand goes thumb in on the same-side collar (so that my wrist goes across the windpipe). I shoot the omo plata but can’t turn all the way, use my leg on the back of their head/neck to force them into the choking hand. It really is that simple. Try it if you don’t believe me.
  2. Arm-bar variation: The traditional arm-bar from guard is called juji-gatame. If you’re not sure which arm-bar I’m talking about Google juji-gatame. I guarantee you know this. I’m again attacking the right arm, but now we’re going to choke in a more complex manner (and a super sweet set-up). I trap the arm with my right arm and grab the cross-collar with my left to pull Uke down so I can arm-bar (this prevents him from diving his head). I’m not tight enough. He pulls his arm out. Switch collar grips so that your left wrist is in his throat, and kick your left leg over the head.

Those are both technically inverted. Traditionally hell choke is done from the Crucifix position. I ended up showing a third variation from guard which is a lot more complex and ends up with both your ankle and your wrist doing what’s essentially a cross-collar choke (but I still consider jigoku because of the hand and leg placement trapping them). It’s a bit odd. It ended up with the realization – I know this technique. I know it well. Why don’t I use it more often? When I roll I feel like I use like 10% of what I know and that’s if it comes up. A good 1-5% of what I know is just the basic positional stuff which ends up being what I do 98% of the time – escape side control, get kesa, turtle roll, re-guard. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be though. Maybe 98% of your time should be spent on 2% of what you know. Still, I should start swapping out my submissions for other, less-simple follow-up attacks instead of the reliable chain everyone knows and can counter.

Then we did Berimbolo. We played with the position and a few sweeps and variations. None of us are familiar with it. I’m not going to lie. Wade and I know it from videos. It’s not something we’ve seen even as a De La Riva lineage school. So we played. There’s that one sweep everyone shows. It works. It’s pretty much the same as the “helicopter sweep” we do from DLR. I don’t know what the universal name is. If you look up “helicopter sweep” on YouTube you’re going to get a lot of stuff that isn’t it. The big difference is where we come up on the leg we pass to side control while the Berimbolo sweep takes the back.

So, just like stopping everything else from the DLR, I took my heel hook hold and just sat my weight back. You don’t apply the heel hook mind you, but by holding it the leg can’t turn. Well, the leg can turn, but it has to do so independently of the foot and ankle. Until some structure is seriously damaged that’s not really an option. So we just sat. They can’t spin without the leg being able to push and turn. I can’t escape or follow up without them trying to do something about it. When they try to I gained the ability to pass and to shoot directly into a toe hold, but since the normal counter to the DLR is a rolling toe hold or a rolling calf-crusher (depending on which leg we’re going to attack) it didn’t surprise me that the toe hold was there. It’s nifty – they play fancy-ass guard, you grab a leg and just wait. When they try their sweep anyway you get the leg-lock. When they realize they’re in trouble and try to break the hold you use it as an opportunity to pass. Life is good. I think we’re going to keep playing with the Berimbolo and this counter. Saturdays are officially lab days.

“Clearly a wrestler.”

Classes are picking up. We now have a solid core group that’s larger than the Madison class ever was. It’s a bit odd being the big fish since everyone else is new save the MACP guy, who apparently used to wrestle. I’m doing better about not over-correcting them. We’ll roll and they’ll stop and say “I don’t know what to do here.” I’ll walk them through an escape or a sweep and we’ll keep going. I’ve also told them “Any time you’re somewhere that you’re not sure where you are or what to do it’s generally pretty safe to get back to full guard. At least for now.” The MACP guy is confident. It’s good. He does a few things that make me cringe like feeding one arm through the guard to try to open it and pass. I keep wanting to yell BOTH IN OR BOTH OUT! Wade was also nervous about him doing neck cranks. To be honest, if we’re not in the gi, I don’t care. As long as I’m wearing a mouth guard I’ll tap if it hurts. I hate being cross-faced without a mouth guard.

All-in-all I think it’s a good group. People are picking stuff up every class. Every class every individual is getting in at least 1-2 rolls. In a few months I’ll probably have to stop holding back with them and start wrestling instead of just playing from the guard and climbing them. It’s currently April, so they’ll all be up for their first stripe when I go for my stripe on the blue.

Also, per a conversation I had last night with Wade: it feels like everyone and their mother has a blue belt these days. It’s like the karate black belt ten years ago. There’s such variation. Some blue belts will rip your head off without trying, and others could get tapped by a newbie who has two weeks but learned the right stuff. Eric was the first Alliance guy that I’ve rolled with that I was truly impressed by the skill of. He was also the first Alliance purple belt I had rolled with. The variation among blue belts is something that I wished wasn’t there. It’s a bit silly to have some schools giving the blue out after a year like a belt factory and others holding it back for years until you show that you have the level of skill necessary. The argument that we need a NGB is strong and easy to make.

But That’s Illegal…

“Illegal” is a hard term for me in the grappling world. I understand banning certain things due to safety risks. I also understand that rules will always be politically driven (what’s good for the gander is good for the flock mentality). I’ll even describe something myself as “not allowed” or “illegal”, but when I stop and think about it, none of the techniques are really illegal. You can’t do heel hooks in judo competition because the rules ban any joint lock which does not attack the elbow as the primary joint (and then for political reasons we consider certain shoulder locks as “elbow locks”). Then when you say “there are no leg locks in judo” one of the black belts inevitably says “judo has leg locks, but they’re not allowed in competition.” So then, leg locks aren’t illegal, there’s just a context we’ve agreed to not do them in. If they really do exist in judo, why don’t we practice them?

Notions like this are hard for me to swallow. It’s especially hard in BJJ for me because the rules for no-gi are pretty much NHB, but the rules in the gi are myriad. There are heel hooks in BJJ. There is reaping the knee. Neither are allowed in competition in the gi, but since they are allowed in no-gi, how should we practice?

That’s the question I’m having now. Leg locks work well for me, but they’re not allowed in judo competition at all and I won’t be able to do more than knee-bars, straight ankle locks, and Achilles crushes in gi. Should I keep training the toe-hold with knowledge that I will gain it as a weapon in competition at purple because I can still hit the knee-bar at blue (and I use the same setup for both), or do I just focus on my chokes and arm-bars because they’re allowed in all competitions? It’s probably a silly question, I have a ton of other basics I need to work on which will be occupying my time. Still, what is “illegal” and should I preclude those techniques from being added to my game? I’ve already learned spine locks and heel hooks. I don’t use either in rolling though I know how. It’s clearly possible to learn things but not use them. Should I start stripping the stuff that can’t be used until purple though?

A Welcome Guest

Today we had a visiting purple belt, Eric Markov – I need to tell Junior he says hi. Eric has a solid game. I enjoy the visiting purple belts because they push me. If you want to be the guy who wins all the time, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time being the guy who loses all the time first. It’s important to me to lose to a lot of different games. It’s important to me to learn a lot of different games. Wade is a Marcello black belt, Junior is an LCCT black belt, Eric’s under Alliance. I feel pretty privileged to get to work with three different associations.

We also got some interest after class today. A young man who just got back from basic is looking to increase his grappling knowledge because he’s done some MACP. Seems like a good guy. I’m digging how much faster Lodi is growing than Madison was.

Notes from rolling:

  • I need to figure out how to not get in the wrong end of side control or how to better get out. One of the two.
  • Putting my knee up might keep me safe from the triangle and arm-bar, but Eric was hitting the scissor sweep like crazy. A better base is needed on my part.
  • The turtle is not the safe haven I’m so used to it being. Eric demolished it.

Losing My Touch

My guard game is getting immensely better. I can control, sweep, submit better than I have ever been able. My top game is starting to wane. My leg-locks are… glorious.

Our newest member does not have a gi yet. He is larger/stronger than I am. This convolutes things. I am in a gi. He is not. I do not have an opening against no-gi if the other person doesn’t want to engage. With the gi I can hold them in place. I am adamant about my sleeve and lapel grip from judo and I typically do a modified judo throw on the ground to get them onto their back or pass the guard right away. Against no-gi this grip is not an option. Standing we have takedowns and throws. If I get my collar and elbow and they disengage I can shoot immediately or turn the corner. These are not possible on the knees.

About the bottom: I’m finding myself in the guard more. I’ve gotten better at reguarding and general control. I’d like to get even better at guard recovery and stopping passes.

About the top: Home is where the sub is. I can still pin very well, but I’ve been losing the position when trying to attack from the top. This could just be context, but it feels like my top game is regressing back to just pins.

About the legs: Last night I decided to use leg-locks. Not just to pass and sweep but as a definitive means of submission. There is an evil in it. I’ve been doing leg-locks so long that I can pretty well predict what people will do. If they do the right thing I switch my hips because if you’re isolating a leg you can easily regain a control position by knowing where to go. If they do the wrong thing but still get out of my first sub, I switch to the second. So last night I got a knee-bar on Wade. He started rolling out and pushing my butt with his leg. I simply switched to the toe-hold to finish. I’ll never understand why we advocate pushing on the butt to escape a knee-bar. We wouldn’t push on the butt to escape an arm-bar. It’s structurally the same finish. If you spin one way I get the toe-hold. The other way is a heel-hook… I’m not allowed to finish the heel-hook in BJJ competition so you’ll get out, but at what cost? I’m finding the rotational knee-locks more and more. Mentally I know they’re no more dangerous than a kimura. Physically I feel the knee tightening up and I just let go. I can’t do that to someone I like. You feel their leg stressing as they flail to get out because they’re not used to the sub. We should spend a weekend doing leg-locks and defenses so that we can more safely practice with them.

“Bad Judo” – Revisited

On Fitocracy someone shared Dr. Annmaria DeMars blog. It’s on my blogroll now and you should check it out. In case you’re not in the know: she’s Rowdy Ronda Rousey’s mom and won the Pan Ams in 1984.

If you’ve been following along you probably know by now: I’m a terrible judo player as far as judo is concerned. My natural tendencies towards wrestling techniques and leg-locks don’t bode well in an environment where both of those get you disqualified. As a result I’ve been trying to learn judo for the sake of learning judo, hoping beyond hope that some day ashi waza will just click and I’ll be a perfect upright player capable of winning by throw instead of pinning and submitting everyone.

Time away has definitely caused me to look at my game again. I need to get stronger and faster, not have better throws. At the end of the day an ippon is an ippon be it from 25 seconds of entangling someone in purgatory, harvesting arms like October corn, or smashing people onto their back and shoulders. Likewise since I’ll be stood up if I try to take the back I shouldn’t even bother – do the turn over and slap their shoulders down for North-South. From there I can arm-lock or choke if they start escaping.

I will practice technique in class and when it’s ready it will work for me, but I will no longer dilute my grappling for the pursuit of a better judo. The best judo is the judo that works, no matter how much the textbook says it’s wrong.

At some point I’m going to have to put on my big-boy pants and realize: my style is Neil Adams, not Mike Swain. I can try to learn ashi waza all I want, but it’s pretty pointless when I have something most American judoka lack – a VERY solid ground game. Likewise I’m not Prof. De La Riva – I am a top player. My DLR guard is passable thanks to Justin and Wade, but my kesa is inescapable thanks to Anders and Tanner.

Big-boy pants. Accept what I’m good at. Don’t stop working on what I’m lacking, but definitely milk my strengths.