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.

Pressure Grappling – Rashguard Review

Today’s review is of Pressure Grappling‘s rashguards. Specifically, the Electrik and Trianglow. Both are the men’s version at a medium size. As of the time of writing this I’m somwhere between 5’11” and 6’0″, 190 lbs.

Before we get too far into this, let’s start with some disclaimers – I am not being paid/compensated by Pressure Grappling for this review. I bought the two rashguards myself with a sale they had on r/bjj because I was in the market for new long-sleeved rashguards. I’m reviewing them for my own purposes. My instructor, upon seeing the rashguard, did note that he knows the founders of the company; however, I personally do not.

Okay, onto the good stuff now. Continue reading

BJJ Collective Review

This is a review of http://www.bjjcollective.com. I was contacted by Stephen Kim of the website in the comments section awhile back. I’m not a member so this is just a quick overview of what you can expect to find and my opinion of the site. It is also just that – my opinion. YMMV.

Layout and Navigation

The site uses a drop-down menu to present you with options to filter videos in case you’re trying to find something specific. For example, you could pick “Sambo” from the stand-up section (and then “Sambo”, and then “Throws”) to see a set of throws from Sambists like Reilly Bodycomb. 

There is a search feature. For fun I compared it to YouTube by searching for “Koepfer”. Rolled-Up Episode 35 pops up which is awesome, but I was hoping to see some of the other videos by SamboSteve. To be fair, there’s not a lot on YouTube for that search term either. You have to know what you’re looking for on YouTube, and the big advantage of BJJ Collective is the ability to look without knowing the term you’re looking for.

The categories and sub-categories (though not sub-sub-categories) have nice pictures, which are great because there’s so much variation in terminology. For example, there’s the picture for “scarf hold” and another for “side forward”, but I would call it “kuzure kesa gatame” and would expect the techniques to be under “scarf hold”. The pictures definitely help you understand what’s going to be in each category.

Content

There’s not actually a lot to say on this. The videos are all from YouTube so there doesn’t seem to be any original content. As noted, the real benefit is the fact that someone else has gone through the work of finding all of the videos for you.

There is the ability to rate and add a breakdown of the video, but no ratings or break downs existed for the videos I psuedo-randomly sampled.

Overall

I like that someone went through the work of finding all of the videos. Normally you’d have to hope that someone shared the video on LockFlow that you could find it in the technique library or know what to search for on YouTube or LapelChoke, but BJJ Collective presents an interface where I can just look in categories to get to what I want without even having to know the terms. The guy held me like that picture, it was this variation, and I want an escape. Now I have four. Awesome. It’s definitely a format I’d recommend for beginners looking to find techniques.

The one big knock I will make is that the UI could use some work. The fact that a drop-down is used, but is not closed when you make a final selection, that I have to click “Wrestling” as a sub-category of “Wrestling”, that there are three different versions of navigation on the page, and the “(Go Back)” link to the right of the category title all feel a bit weird. The page is not responsive so you don’t get an experience optimized for mobile. That’s all very picky though. LockFlow isn’t any better on the responsive web department, and comparing to LapelChoke should probably be cheating since Jesse is, well, Jesse and we would all be disappointed if M3MMA didn’t put out a responsive site.

Review of Reilly Bodycomb – Top Rock

Top Rock is a top-game and leglock instructional video by Reilly Bodycomb released in December 2013. The format is a seminar filmed at NY Combat Sambo with some added clips of the techniques being used in competition. The quality of production isn’t as phenomenal as DVDs explicitly filmed as instructional videos, but as far as filmed seminars go it’s pretty good. You’ll notice times when the audio seems to have a weird effect applied as though Reilly is really far away and some issues when Reilly is facing away from the camera, but there’s no points where you can’t understand what is being said. There’s also aberrant noise because it’s a filmed seminar – at one point there are sirens, for a few minutes someone is taking a phone call that you can hear the conversation, etc. Unlike other filmed seminars which are just direct presentations of 120 minutes of material Reilly does insert title information, so just like Reilly’s other filmed seminar (Sambo Leglocks for Nogi – here to be referred to as SLfN) it’s really easy to find what you’re looking for.

When it comes down to content the video focuses on a few key positions and how to obtain a set of leglocks from them. It begins by discussing passing the guard and the relationship between passing and leglocks. No explicit passes are taught, but rather a basic pass is assumed and used as the basis for all of the scenarios. Next is the quarter-guard and the importance of keeping top quarter-guard in your repertoire of top-game positions. Quarter-guard moves into “vegan mount”, descried as such because “it looks like mount, but it’s not quite it.” Vegan mount then moves into knee-on-belly which Reilly refers to as “the knee ride”. The major technique emphasis tends to be on the “straight” ankle lock, inverted heel hooks, and knee bars. Toe holds are mentioned, but there’s not explicit setup, instead Reilly focuses on the positions which can be modified to perform any leglock. The video wraps up with a Q&A session. In this session you’ll find such gems as the “Admiral Neck-bar” – a sneaky submission/trap from the top of deep half-guard.

Overall I’d say it’s a solid seminar. I would strongly recommend checking out SLfN first to learn the finishing details of the leglocks and to understand the bottom-game Reilly references at the start of the video. Overall SLfN is a much better introduction to leglocking while TR is more of an exploration into using those leglocks you already know from top positions and a discussion about when passing or leglocks are the better option. In any event, there’s no excuse not to check the video out – you get to name your own price for a DRM-free version of Top Rock by picking it up directly from Reilly’s website. The asking price is $30, and if you’re into supporting this style of video I’d say it’s worth it. If you’re on the fence I’d say it’s still worth the $10 or $20 option, but you’ll likely feel compelled to chip in the extra when you start getting knee bars while passing guard like crazy.

*I haven’t seen Dynamic Entry yet to compare it to that DVD or say how you should prioritize it among these two seminars – however, the production quality is likely higher given that it’s a true instructional instead of a seminar.

Gi Review: Fushida MANTIS & KOMODO

I haven’t tried the new Fushida CompGS yet because I still have too many perfectly usable gi’s. Since the KOMODO and MANTIS came out at the same time and were discontinued together I thought it would be nice to give them a shared review. Links thanks to the Way Back Machine

Fushida MANTIS
Weave: Pearl Weave
Price: $90 CAD +
Cut: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Quality: 4 of 5
Comfort: 4 of 5

Fushida KOMODO
Weave: Pearl Weave
Price: $125 CAD +
Cut: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Quality: 4 of 5
Comfort: 4 of 5

Weave

Both kimonos were a pearl weave of similar weight and strength. It’s definitely lighter than the TOURNAMENT, but considerably stronger than the CLUB. The pants were rip-stop. The MANTIS is actually one of the reasons I hate rip-stop so much. Christo, being as awesome as he is, let me order a KOMODO with judo pants the second time I got one.

Fit

The MANTIS had your basic A0-A5 sizing. The KOMODO was the introduction of Fushida’s X-sizing. For example, while I’m normally an A2 or A3 depending on the manufacturer (generally an A3), for my first KOMODO I was able to get an A2X. The A2X is essentially the length of an A3 for the jacket and pants, but the width/body of the A2.

I own an A3 MANTIS, A2X KOMODO, and A3 KOMODO. The A2X does not allow itself to be grabbed – there’s simply no fabric to grab. This is considered a competitive advantage in BJJ, but since I also use the kimonos for judo (AAU allows them), I ended up making the switch to the A3 for more general use.

Quality

The kimonos are of sound quality. The pants are rip-stop.

Story time – my MANTIS kimono did get ripped, but it’s not the fault of the jacket. My gi got washed with a red shirt so it got some lovely pink swirls. In order to remedy this I used bleach. The rip is in one of the areas that used to be pink where too much bleach was probably used so it comes down to the fact that if you don’t take care of the fabric it’s not going to hold up. User error.

Other story – my KOMODO pants got ripped really badly. I was in judo, the gi gives you nothing to hold onto, but judoka have a pretty infamous grip. My coach grabs them to do a turtle turnover and the pull causes a rip about 10cm in length. It continued to grow because of the location (right along the side of the knee) – it turns out that rip-stop does not stop rips. This is the origin story for my distain for rip-stop, that and the fact that it just doesn’t feel as comfortable as drill cotton. Again, the second time I ordered Christo let me get judo pants instead for no extra charge.

Comfort

I would liken wearing either of these kimonos to wearing a TOURNAMENT that’s not going to make you sweat during the summer. They’re essentially the same jacket. I still love to use both the A2X and A3 KOMODO during the summer because it’s so much lighter than my judo gi’s.

Overall the jackets are very comfortable. They were a bit more coarse than a judo gi on the inside, but once I got passed that I loved them. The pants are rip-stop so I find them terribly uncomfortable, but some people love them.

Price

The price point for the KOMODO was the better customization in sizing and color (the MANTIS never got released in blue or black). Other than that they were pretty much the same gi, so unless you really want a colored gi or need the X-sizing I’d recommend just going with a MANTIS if you can still find one laying around. It’s a great gi for the price considering the market for BJJ gi’s is so much more expensive than that of judo gi’s.

Website Review: GiFreak

GiFreak (Tangled Triangle LLC) is a site that lets you search models of gis, reviews of them, and provides a bit of news in the community via a blog.

Design: 2/5
Function: 3/5
Impression: A great idea that’s yet in its infancy. There’s definitely a lot of room to grow in terms of the design, but the basis is awesome. I’d really like to see this set of tools get off the ground. If they can get all 150+ manufacturers to fill in their information and allow for end-user reviews it will truly become one of those sites that everyone in the grappling community knows and uses.

Full review after the cut. Continue reading

Website Reviews: Intro

I’m going to be putting reviews up on here. I’ll be starting with website reviews, but I’ll eventually start branching in gear, videos, books, and even schools. I got a comment on the blog to take a gander at GiFreak and if I felt so inclined, to write up a post about it. Well, I’m working on that, but to start I really felt I needed a meta-post as fair warning about me – I’m critical of just about everything. I’ll be using an out of 5 scale on a bunch of different things depending on what the site provides.

The fact that sites like GiFreak are popping up really speaks to the degree of growth that BJJ has experienced, especially as of late. I think the fact that I got a comment on my blog speaks even more to the fact that anyone with a few years of experience and enough cauliflower can look reputable. I guess both of those facts scare me a bit.

Design

I’ve been spoiled with awesome graphic designs. Twitter brought my attention to M3MMA and TriCoasta a couple years back now, and to be honest, they’ve both really ruined by perceptions that all MMA/BJJ sights had to look like complete crap. Then the Third Heaven and ISI sites really stepped up on appearance and functional form. I mean, let’s be honest, for an association started by two black belts in Wisconsin, that ISI site is very well done. So that’s the standard I’m going to hold web sites to for appearance. If your sight isn’t at least as visually appealing as the single-page shell Jesse put up when M3MMA went down,  you’re going to get a 3 or lower.

Function

A website exists to do something. Generally we use them to provide information, but they also act as store fronts, media players, arenas for discussion, or some other service. The number one thing every site should be ranked on is how well it does what it’s supposed to. There’s not really any compromise on that.