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.

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3 thoughts on “Losing My Touch

  1. Gotta disagree with you about this– “We wouldn’t push on the butt to escape an arm-bar. It’s structurally the same finish.” I hear this concept bandied about a lot by people who do a lot of leg locks and I think it’s really confusing for people who are new to the technique– knee bars and arm bars are different, and they should be approached differently. True, they are both ball and socket joints, but to do most arm bars (for the sake of simplicity, let’s talk from the top) it is most effective to do the arm-bar at a 90-degree angle from the body. At this angle, with the butt flat on the floor, it makes no sense to try to push the butt.

    With a knee-bar, depending on your personal preference, your head is either at an acute angle or an obtuse angle with your opponent’s head.This changes the game significantly (just like doing the angled arm bar from the top changes the escapes that are possible). You’re also dealing with a limb that is capable of a LOT more power.

    Just my take on it.

    • To discuss the top-position arm-bar we should compare it to the top-position knee-bar. From reverse knee on belly when you take a knee bar you should extend the leg toward uke’s head first. This will take a lot of their ability to withstand the straightening out. From here pushing on the butt isn’t possible because it’s pretty flat on the floor (or at least sitting flat on their hip). In that same vein I do armbars at an acute angle towards the head. The shoulder can’t fight you as well in that direction making the submission easier. The general escape from there is to turn the thumb down and try to roll. The hip switch I do there to turn their escape into a shoulder lock is the same I do when someone tries to roll out of a knee-bar and I take the toe-hold instead. They’ve bent the arm for me, it’s just a matter of trapping their chest and applying rotational force on the ulna/radius. To escape this knee-bar people seem to instinctively do a couple of good things: they figure four their legs (just like grabbing their arm in the arm-bar), and they try to sit-up (like trying to stack for the arm-bar).

      The knee-bar position where they push on your butt is more analogous to the arm-bar from guard or a stacked arm-bar when they’ve successfully rolled up onto you. Pushing on the butt and pulling the leg out would be the same as pushing on their butt to try to pull the arm out in the stacked arm-bar. It works decently in no-gi when you’re super sweaty, but it’s not something I’d like to rely on.

      The similarity concept has more to do with my structure as tori than the actual structure of an arm/leg. Let’s be honest, an elbow doesn’t have a patella and the ankle doesn’t have the same range of motion as a wrist. My structure as tori is always the same no matter what position I’m in for juji gatame. I’m pinching my legs on the humerus, sliding a force up the radius, and applying a force into the elbow with my hips. For the knee-bar I’m pinching my legs on the femur, sliding a force up the fibula, and applying a force into the knee with my hips. My body is in the same position and I’m applying forces in the same way for both. The reason it’s bandied about by people who do a lot of leg-locks is because it’s what works for them. In every gym I go to we operate under the phrase “the arms are legs and the legs are arms”. Because it’s so important to learn to control with your feet as well as your hands the phrase gets put a lot of places, but I feel it applies just about anywhere.

      There are still a couple of points I’m simplifying away here. One is the nearby structures. With the arm-bar if it’s not working I can switch to a shoulder lock or a wrist lock, but I also have the triangle choke. The legs don’t have a neck between them so all I really have are hip and ankle locks if the knee-bar is failing. The second is orientation. Since for all attacks I’m going towards the head that means they have body behind me when I do a knee-bar (and so there’s the risk for a back-take). With the arm-bar at the same angle I’m on the top of their body so it would be quite a trick for them to have the identical response of climbing up my back. Third is arm-bars and knee-bars which aren’t in the juji gatame style such as ude hishigi te gatame. Because of the strength of the leg there are a lot of arm-bar variations that just aren’t practical below the waist.

      • My grasp of the Japanese terminology for all of this is limited, but I’m pretty sure I know what you mean.

        When I teach the arm-bar from top to white belts, I teach them a right angle from the body because it is generally an arm bar that is much more difficult to escape. The acute-angle arm bar is better suited to a quick finish, I think, because it does carry with it the danger of that roll out. Because the right-angle arm bar is considered the “default” for many lower-level players (white belts in our gym learn leg attacks early) for me to say “now do the same thing on the leg” doesn’t make much sense, and they get frustrated.

        I understand the similarities between the two movements, but I think of them more as analogous movements/submissions than similar ones, and that’s why I like to teach them as very separate movements rather than “the same thing but lower on the body.”

        As for the foot to butt escape, there are different levels of every submission, and different escapes appropriate to different levels of submission. If the knee-bar isn’t tight, then the foot-butt escape can be effective and low-risk.

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