Where we’re at: Blue tore the meniscus in his right knee while trying to spin out of a leg entanglement, and then it got way worse when he was rolling with Purple after. His knee is jammed and surgery isn’t scheduled right now until later in the month. White hasn’t been able to train as much, so Purple and I have really just been training with each other the last few sessions.
Purple’s A-Game is based around the Kimura Trap. He uses it as a defense against passing by allowing you into the half guard and trying to get the far arm, a defense against the back take by Sakuraba-ing and threatening the Kimura as he forces his shoulders up which prevents climbing the back to recover it without the gi, and as an attack from top side or N/S. He’s really good at it, but after rolling together for years I’ve also managed a fairly reasonable Kimura defense, so more often than not it’s a useful tool for positional stalling but not necessarily a submission that will get finished. He’s been focusing on guillotine variants as means of passing and preventing wrestling up, which was shutting down a lot of what I was doing our first few sessions since I so adamantly like to wrestle up as a solution to guard. I’d say his guillotine and D’Arce system is a solid B-Game at this point and he seems to have developed it really rapidly. He’s effectively spamming it as a means of trying to headlock pass or to force me to retreat back to the bottom if I don’t more assertively fight it earlier.
Because I’ve been unable to wrestle up without having to deal with the choke it’s been easier to play a more down game which has meant a lot more back-side 50/50, trying to play deep half guard, and trying for back-takes from the bottom. Closed guard seems to be the antithesis of Purple’s passing right now so we’ve ended up in triangle positions a lot. Due to the flexibility of his shoulders and general comfort being choked it’s really difficult to finish a triangle on him when he’s resisting even when it feels clean; invariably it ends up transitioning into some kind of wrist or arm lock from the triangle position. Honestly, I’m okay with that. I don’t care to finish someone with one submission come hell or high water if it’s just not there.
After a lot of drilling, positional rounds, and general rolling I just don’t feel like we’re making progress anymore. I feel like without a wider pool of folks we’re just getting into the grooves we know the other person will form.
Purple wants to work stand-up and passing so we start standing and I’ll force him into some form of turtle or he’ll get in on a single and I’ll defend it by pushing on his head until I can do some silly positional transition. Even when he finishes a takedown, I just end up turtling until I can reverse the position or recover guard. Or we start from seated guard and Purple is working passing but when I can’t maintain I end up turtling and until I can reverse the position or recover guard. When I’m attacking on bottom it’s a lot of leg locks and Purple, while comfortable with the base defenses, gives me time to get into a complex entanglement where his defense just gives me a different attack.
When roles are reversed and I’m on top Purple will force a half guard position and I’ll try to keep my left arm safe in various ways trying to pass and he’ll insert his left leg as a butterfly hook to try to mitigate the pass or he’ll successfully get a Kimura grip on the left arm and I’ll have to deal with that.
We’ve been working out together since at least 2015. We know each other’s patterns. We know when we fuck up how the other person will catch us. We can try small adjustments to get around the known issues, but ultimately it’s a pretty straightforward arms race focused on just a couple of areas because we’re both experienced enough to adapt between and across sessions.
So long story short I feel like I’m plateauing and all the stuff I’d normally do – brand new game, different focus, teach new things; they’re not here right now because of the pandemic. There’s not a pool of less experienced folks for me to build up a different game against. There’s not a new area we’ll end up because we’re both good at forcing exchanges into areas we’re strong so even if I try to go off the rails he’s still a purple belt who’s on the verge of brown and can force it back to an area he can play his game.
It’s not a lack of a challenge or that rolling is unenjoyable, and I think that’s the hardest part to convey to people. It’s not just restrict yourself to some arbitrary win condition or add a blindfold, it’s that progress, even if it’s happening, stops being visible when you’re only working with the same small group who adapts to you as you adapt to them. I’m not really interested in going out and finding the competitions that are happening despite the pandemic, going to the schools that are in flagrant violation of the county order, or pulling in another pod to double the available folks. Having said that, a larger pool of folks is what I know to leverage to deal with this kind of stuff. It’s just a matter of staying motivated until we can train in big groups again.