Teaching Breakthrough

Last week I was teaching kesa gatame. It was almost an exact replay of teaching kesa back in October, and I still felt like I sucked at teaching, but I at least saw a lot of good progress from where the students (especially newer ones) started the evening and where the finished the evening, so I must have taught something right. Andrew also had a really good question with respect to something Henry Akins showed at a seminar. Unfortunately, I don’t do kesa the same way as Henry Akins so I couldn’t really answer it.

This Wednesday Mike let me show some kesa gatame details and escapes. It was surreal. He stopped me to show people details I didn’t even realize I was doing. For example – the escape I refer to as “the uphill escape” where you bridge into tori and pull your elbow to the mat to escape out the backdoor of kesa (to take tori’s back), I brace my arm against my ribs/hip when I’m creating the frame against tori’s back. I just instinctually do that because it’s what I need to do to generate power. I don’t recall ever being shown to do it. It was really nice being able to show the technique, but have someone with more knowledge about how to teach there to stop and point out which details are the ones people will miss during the demonstration.

So, lessons from the last two times I’ve taught now:

  • I’m way more comfortable teaching when I have the safety net of an actual instructor to add details or correct things I say. I’d like to try to teach more with this kind of a safety net system were I to start trying to become a full fledged instructor.
  • After showing a technique, the 1-2-clap might feel silly, but it serves as a good indication that the demonstration is over and students need to grab a partner. As much as I want to resist this one, I’m giving in and using it.
  • I feel weird having people bow to me, but ceremony at the end of class is a good indication for everyone that class is over. I need to get over feeling weird being on the instructor side of the lineup when I teach. I don’t know why I feel like I need a black belt to be on that side – it’s probably a judo thing.
  • Demonstrate once, show with some details, demonstrate again, ask if anyone needs to see it a fourth time works really well. Breaking a single technique into two iterations of this to show different details might be even better.
  • People need to see transitions just as much as they need to see submissions. It always feels better to show an armbar or some other way to finish the fight, but how and when to enter into a position are arguably more important.
  • 3 “techniques” is about all the time there is in class for. 30 minutes is warming up and introducing the concept we’ll be working on, 30 minutes is rolling, so each technique ends up being about 10 minutes of repetition. Any more than that and people get bored and start doing other stuff. Any less and they don’t really seem to retain it by the end of the night.
  • I really like stretching at the end of class, and other recreationalists seem to enjoy it as well (one student even commenting on how much she liked ending with stretching). Dropping warm-ups where we run and jump and get exhausted in favor of stretching at the end is definitely going to be part of classes I teach. We’ll still warm-up with a drill for the technique or position we’re doing each night, but I think we can skip the running and go right to line drills or partner drills.

Review: Top Rock 2: TURBO

Reilly Bodycomb released a new download series, Top Rock 2: TURBO – a sequel to Top Rock and all-around great Street Fighter reference. You can pick it up on Rdojo, at a phenomenal price of “whatever you feel this download is worth” (I recommend the full $20).

Before we go too far into this, Top Rock felt like it assumed you had watched Sambo Leglocks For Nogi Grappling. I felt like it was a “if you know the locks, here’s how to approach them from the top as part of a passing game”. Traditionally I’ve recommended starting with SLfNG if you’re brand new to leglocks and that message hasn’t really changed here with Top Rock 2; however, Top Rock 2 is presented in a way that doesn’t seem to assume you’ve seen any of Reilly’s other material, rather just that you understand the basic mechanics of each submission. You could get that from SLfNG or from No Kurtka (specifically part 2 if you’re trying to buy minimal material) if you haven’t trained under someone who does leglocks before. He does make a couple of comments about things that have changed since Top Rock. The take away I’ll note about those

With respect to production quality, it looks like a recorded seminar that’s been well edited. The sound quality is a significant improvement over Top Rock and the video is more crisp than SLfNG. However, it still doesn’t feel quite as high a production quality as No Kurtka was. Notably, there is a red dot present in many of the videos which led me to wonder if I had a dead pixel on my monitor (I do not). While I can never unsee the dot, it doesn’t honestly detract from the content in any way.

The download is broken into two files – the first is a sequence to correspond with a leg drag pass. The second is a sequence to correspond to a back-step pass (the primary position from the original Top Rock). While at first blush and even from my below descriptions this may seem like just another set of leglock videos I do want to call out – passing is covered in a good amount of detail and Reilly explicitly shows where/how he would pass rather than going for the legs. In some instances he even describes trying to go for the legs as a trap because when it seems like a good idea it may be giving your opponent the escape and opportunity to smash pass you as a result.

The ankle lock from the leg drag has Reilly addressing a specific problem – if you’re unable to finish it’s probably because you’re just turning instead of extending. The description itself was helpful, but what I noticed in the video fundamentally changed how I think about inside straight ankle locks. When I do a straight ankle lock on the outside I always think about using my shoulder to curl the toes down and roll the ankle slightly to create the pressure that resembles a toe hold or heel hook (toes down and in, heel up). However, on the inside I’ve always had problems accomplishing that do to the angle I turn to to try to line my shoulder up on the foot and so I’ve either had to just crank into the achilles tendon and hope for the best or switch to something else like a Clover Leaf on the other leg. The camera angle during this tip about extension is such that you can really see how Reilly is getting the same roll in the ankle from his shoulder by turning his body, and then the extension keeps the leg in the right place for the pressure to still be there. For someone with more experience using the inside leg control positions, this is probably pretty obvious, but as someone who’s really only done the outside leg controls except for a few of the most obvious inside techniques, this has made the inside positions really viable for me in a way that they previously were not.

I’ve been trying to do the back step and make it work since I watched the first Top Rock video. Against lower belts, the back step from the 3/4 mount position worked awesome. But from standing against upper belts with good open guard games, I would just get swept or have my back taken when I tried to go for it, basing out be damned. The new details about pushing with the hand (Vulcan Death Grip) have been pretty instrumental in fixing my balance problems while back stepping (something I’ve been making up for with speed), and the notion of making sure you face them (now ending up in the High Top position) has also helped ensure that if I do fall I’m in a much better position. Since I already thread the legs for most of my half guard passing, this High Top position felt pretty natural when I tried it. It’s going to be awhile before I’m able to really know how well it will work since for now it’s a novelty, but it’s at least opened up a few ideas for ways I can try to approach this kind of a pass.

In summary, Reilly has again killed it with this download. It’s straight to the point with directly useful details being explicitly called out, but there’s also layers of additional details which are shown but not said. Oh, and you really can’t beat that price.