Mount, Kesa, and Armbars


The subtitle should read – “things I’m good at, but struggling with”.

That time off from BJJ was longer than I gave credit. I could still do well in judo ne waza despite so long away from BJJ, but it’s totally different. Let’s be honest, a black belt in judo who focuses on competition judo typically has the equivalent ground skills of a BJJ white belt with a few stripes. Maybe a blue belt depending on your school’s curriculum. They have a few positions they know how to play really well. They know a few submissions. However, the technical proficiency is limited. It’s pretty easy to defend what they’re going for or force a position because they really only know the 1 or 2 ways to escape as opposed to a variety of techniques and core concepts. Training throws and turtle turnovers – even if you add in some serious pinning work – just won’t build or maintain the caliber of ground work that I should have as a purple belt. It makes me sad. I don’t mind tapping to lower belts, but I feel like I should be doing better than I am.

Lately, I’ve been getting caught in dumb places, and often the same shoulder lock. This is partly because my tendonitis means even a mild shoulder lock hurts like crazy, but mostly because I’m getting into dumb positions and not defending correctly. I’ll get caught in an armbar that I’m so used to being loose enough to hitchhiker escape from or pressure and step pass around. Unfortunately, these tactics don’t work against a tight armbar or a guy who rolls with it to keep pressure as you try to step – not unless you’re defending the arm correctly and stacking first. It’s those details that deep down I know, but need to be reminded of, need to practice again, need to re-engrain as muscle memory.

So I’ve been sticking to the gimmicks. I have a tight kesa gatame. Years of judo will do that. I can hold and pin forever if I get the near elbow off the ground – even use my hip to set up the two armbars or my head to switch to kata gatame. It’s a gimmick though – as soon as someone learns the trick to defending that one thing, I’m done. The same thing with the leglocks. Once I isolate the leg I find it’s still pretty easy to set up the control position, but it’s not what I want to do. I have to have a bigger game than kesa and ankle locks. Someone is going to defend the ankle lock and I’m going to need to have a solid sweeping game again.

Lately we’ve been doing mount, and it’s been a great example. It’s a position I can still mostly play because it’s a judo pin, but I’m struggling to set up the submissions without sacrificing the control. It’s just the small details – grip like so on the collar, hold the arm here to keep them from turning in, swipe with your feet when they bridge to remove the base. So on lower belts, my mount is still dominant and I can still escape it, but on advanced blue belts on up it’s still a really bad spot. I’m giving my back trying to get to my side, I’m defending in a way that exposes my arm/neck, I’m getting caught in a choke as soon as I get to half-guard. Hopefully as we work mount over the next couple of weeks details will come back to me, but there is a need to slow things down again and practice what I should already know. It’s frustrating. I feel like I should be able to do this, and I know I used to be able to. Time off ruins so much more than conditioning. Fine details are lost as we become out of practice.

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