Monday, February 21, 2011

The LTrain, Choked Out

Greetings BJJ Family,

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front—what else is new? It’s been a crappy winter in Cleveland—again, what else is new? I’ve been training pretty hard, and it looks like, barring no injuries or last minute business that pulls me out of town, I’ll be competing in the Arnolds Classic on March 5. I’m pretty excited about this. It will be my first competition as a purple belt, and I’ve really been working my ass off. I‘m going into this tourney to win; I’m not going for the experience or anything else but to win. If I don’t I will have given my best, and will except the heartbreak.

There’s no need to advertise my gameplan, here. My A. game is being on top; my B. game is my guard which I’ve been working really hard to improve. My C. game is the scramble, and because I’m working with some tough wrestlers, I’m ending up on top a bit more out of the scramble. We’ll see what happens. Physically, I feel great. Mentally, I feel confident, yet realistic about my own holes in my game.

This morning, I had something happen to me for the first time ever; I’m not sure it will be the last, but maybe so. I was rolling some matches with a great friend and training partner of mine, and it was pretty spirited. I got caught in a triangle choke, was defending with the clock winding down, and got choked out cold. I don’t really remember when I lost consciousness, but it really freaked my partner out. I guess I was convulsing, twitching, and making a gurgling noise. He sat me up and got the blood flowing. I didn’t know where I was or who he was at first, but within about 15-20 second, the fog lifted, I walked it off, and we rolled two more matches. It was such a crazy feeling, and I’m able to laugh about the whole thing now; he took an armbar off the triangle, and I honestly don’t remember the armbar; the best way to describe it was like the slow motion scenes in the Rocky movies. I kind of felt like I was coming out of surgery—that kind of disorientation.

In a way, I feel like I got a monkey off my back. I’ve been knocked out on a couple of occasions, and now I’ve been choked out. I’ve always struggled with the concept of tapping out, and still don’t know why I hold out for so long. It’s been so ingrained into me from an early age not to ever quit or give up. But, I realize that the “gentle art” has a way of being not so gentle at times, and I’m getting a bit more balanced about the whole concept of tapping—especially in the room.

I’m none the worse for wear, and will be back after it tomorrow. Again, the experience made for some good laughs after the fact, and I am decreeing February 21, 2011 and each February 21 from this point forward, as international “Choke A Blind Guy Out” Day!

With much Respect,
Larry, the LTrain

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Color Purple


I haven’t laid down a blog post in quite some time—primarily, because I’ve been in the throws of a lot of technical writing for a few consulting gigs that I’ve picked up. So, the last thing I want to do is associate something that feels like work with something that I love, that being Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; for the “Gentle Art” does mean so much to me. The mats have really been a source of refuge for me during some somewhat stressful times over the past few months.

My training has been going well, with a lot of attention being placed on making my guard more and more active. I feel like my closed guard, especially a high closed guard, has improved a bit. My open guard is still my most vulnerable position off my back. My half-guard has probably been my most improved position this year, and sometimes I slip to it just because I’m really getting comfortable playing sweeps and taking the back from this position.

A few days ago, I received a bit of a surprise. In the wake of this surprise, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, and really feel the sense of urgency to dial up my training even more. Professor Ricardo put a purple belt on me. Truth be told, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with my blue belt, and was thinking that maybe next summer I’d be in a position to start pondering the purple. But he disagreed with me, and told me it was time. I told him that it was “too early”, but he said “I know what I’m doing, Larry.” So he put it on me. I was pretty humbled by this. I started my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey a little over 4 years ago. It’s truly changed my life, and how I handle day to day issues off the mat. I owe so much to what this Martial Science has done for me, and I really want to represent its principles the best I can.

Right now, I think I’d get destroyed on the national competition scene, and I have a lot of growing to do to really grow into the belt, but I’m committed to making it happen. I’ve been pretty “happy go lucky” about my training over the past few months, and this promotion has really sobered me up to the reality that I have a lot of work to do.

I’ve heard it said that only 15% of people who begin Brazilian Jiu Jitsu actually make it to the purple belt. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’m committed to upholding the standards of this belt to the best of my ability. I’ve got a pretty tough core group of guys who I train with, and guarantee them that they’ll get the best of the LTrain in 2011, and we’ll get better together. I’ll try to get another post or two in before the end of the year, but will take this opportunity to wish anyone who reads this post a Merry Christmas, and a Happy Holiday Season.

With much respect,

Larry, the LTrain

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hot Summer Training

My lack of blogging hasn’t been due to a lack of training. I’m making time for a minimum of four to five Jiu Jitsu classes per week and have been tearing it up with my man, Ulric most Sunday mornings, although we had to miss our session this morning due to Ulric’s work schedule. Ulric and I have unofficially formed the two man team, “Blind Jalapeño”, and have loosely kicked around a few T-Shirt designs—my favorite being a caricature of a jalapeño wearing sun glasses with a white cane! So, if we go ahead and do this, I’m expecting my Jiu Jitsu friends to show us a little bit of love and part with some coin and buy the damn T-shirt!

We've started 7:30 a.m. classes twice per week for our summer schedule. I must say that while it's tough to get to the gym, it's awesome to train hard in the morning and have the whole day ahead of me! Professor Ze is still down in Brazil sorting out a few things with his visa, and I must say that in his absence, Ricardo’s really beginning to change things up. We’re playing lots of open guard working on a number of sweeps and he’s also working us through a few different open guard passes. I’m still faced with that ever-growing challenge that keeps dogging me—that being my transitions between closed and open guards as well as tying my submissions together as I transition between these two guards. Sweeps are feeling better, and I’m using the Gi a bit more aggressively to create tension when my partner is either kneeling or standing. We played some open guard no-gi the other day and my game totally sucks without the Gi grips.

Ricardo showed a reverse scissors sweep that is very basic and can be taken even from the feet. The trick is to keep on your side and create tension on the same side Gi sleeve as you pick a side, use your same side leg to hook inside the same side as your partner while using your opposite leg to scissor the outside of the leg that is being hooked.

I’m actually planning to cash in on two private lessons that Ze owes me when he returns and we’ll be focusing specifically on tightening up the most glaring weakness in my Jiu Jitsu game. One exercise that I’ve been drilling from the feet that is helping me tremendously is working with Ulric where we take turns with one of us pulling guard while the other guy pushes for the takedown. This really gets tiring when you drill this for an extended amount of time, but it’s really been helping me to defend against a Jiu Jitsu guy who might want to pull guard as well as boosting my confidence in pulling guard if I feel that I can’t take down a Judo player or wrestler who has better takedowns than me.

I’m really starting to feel much more confident on the feet when wearing the Gi. I’ve been working a great deal on breaking my partner’s Gi grips and establishing more dominant grips. My takedowns have always been fairly decent, but I’m really trying to take them to another level with the Gi. When I go from the feet no-Gi, I feel pretty good on the feet. I wrestled in high school back in the State of Iowa when Dan Gable was every high school wrestler’s hero, but I can always improve these takedowns as well.

I have a pretty busy work schedule this week, but still aim to get a minimum of three to four sessions in along with my Sunday morning work-out in with Mr. Jalapeño.

With Much Respect
Larry, the LTrain

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getting My Head Around the “100 kilos”

Firstly, June’s been pretty uneventful since my return from Vegas. Upon my departure, Gabriel Kitober undoubtedly gave me worst black belt beatdowns that I’ve ever had in my life—and I’ve rolled with a fair number of black belts. I mean, he really put it on me the last class I attended at Throw-Down MMA, and he laughed and provided color commentary in his broken, Brazilian English for the entire roll. My ribs and sternum were actually pretty sore for almost a week. I guess he lives by that adage that sometimes you gotta hurt the ones you love! Seriously, my time spent with him was great and his tweaks to my game have been paying dividends since I returned to Cleveland.

I’ve gotten a bit more aggressive with my open guard while recognizing the necessity for me to stay connected and stick to my gameplan when opening the guard.

This week we’re going over a series from side control that was the first series that I ever witnessed Ricardo teaching. Last Fall, when I wisely made the decision to visit RPBjJ he showed a series of side control positions based off of a position called the “100 kilos”. It’s a position perfected by his instructor, Aswaldo Alves, one of the pioneers of BJJ who is still based in Rio.

Some might say that this position is a “big man’s game”, but it’s really not—I’ve been around when 170 lb guys have tapped bigger guys just from the pressure of this position.

The “100 kilos” is established after passing the guard and moving to side control. It involves trapping both arms while placing the bone of your hip just beyond the guy’s sternum. You then keep your body straight and slide across the guy’s body whereby your bottom rib is driving into his diaphragm. If you do it properly, the guy is completely helpless, you are controlling him without even using your hands, and he can’t even speak. You can then use your hands to work a series of submissions.

This position is very “feel” oriented, which works great for me. This morning while training, it was if a light went off in my big head and I really began to feel the mechanics of this move. I feel like I got just a glimpse of what Rickson Gracie refers to as the “invisible Jiu Jitsu”. I need lots of work with this position, but I really dominated a couple of big guys with this position for I purposely worked it while rolling today. I’m so amped up about my progress with this position, for I like lots of arm-bars and shoulder locks from side control, and this “100 kilos” position plays right into guys putting themselves in immediate danger of being submitted.

I really wish I could explain how awful the position feels. Ricardo uses me as a dummy for much of the class—partly because I’m blind, but he also knows that I can take the pain. And when he lays that position on me it feels like I’ve been hit by an 18-wheeler that decides to stop right on top of me! It’s so nasty, man!!!!

Anyway, more work on this for the rest of the week, and then there’s the 4th of July weekend. I typically work a trade show for a couple of clients of mine over this holiday weekend, but not this year! So there’ll be much fun for the train this weekend, and then I really kick things into gear for July. I’m pondering doing a couple of fairly big tournaments this Fall—one of which is the “NO-Gi Pan-Ams” but much depends on my travel schedule and work load. But if I can swing it, I’d like to medal in one of these international events before I get too much older and beaten up to do so! Anyway, in the event that I don’t make another post this week, have an awesome, yet safe 4th of July, and amongst all the partying, remember what a wonderful country those of us in the US are fortunate enough to call our home and for all of those who have laid down their lives to make it happen for us!!!

With Much Respect

Larry, the LTrain

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Training in Las Vegas

(Note: Check out the photo of UFC fighters Matt Riddle, Mike Pile, and the LTrain horsing around after a no-gi work-out at “Throw Down MMA”!)

As some of you know, I’ve been in Vegas on business since last Tuesday. While the glits and glamour of Vegas isn’t my scene, it’s an awesome place to be if you enjoy training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, submission wrestling, or for that matter, any of the mixed martial arts. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve set up shop at “Throw Down MMA” where Gabriel Kitober, one of Ricardo Pires’ guys, another Aswaldo black belt runs the Jiu Jitsu and submission fighting program. I visited there back in January. Gabriel’s an awesome teacher, but I didn’t find the guys to really push me as much as they are doing now. Some of the guys have gotten better, and new guys have joined on. We’ve been experiencing 100+ temperatures for most of my stay here, and I have to tell you that this dry heat can really take a great deal out of you. The upside is that my diet here has been pretty good (aside from those awesome garlic fries last night!), and I’m feeling terrific! I trained very hard four times last week and am on pace to train another four times this week.

Gabriel has a really tight, mean game much like his instructor’s. He’s about my size—perhaps a bit leaner, and he’s been showing lots of basic ways to control via side mount as well as transitioning to the mount. He’s also tightened up my game as it relates to taking the arm-bar from side control, transitioning to the opposite arm for the arm-bar when the guy defends, and transitioning to the back when the arm is not a viable option.

We roll an average of four to five matches, and I’m enjoying rolling with the unfamiliar bodies in this gym. I’m faring pretty well, for the most part, but really got taken to the limit last night by a blue belt about my size who took the gold medal in the tournament sponsored by the UFC and Grapplers Quest (I believe) two weekends ago. He’s a tough guy, and an awesome training partner for the train. His name is Chance, and he’s becoming a friend as well.

Last Saturday, Gabriel went to California to take in the BJJ World Championships, so I used this opportunity to do something that I thought I would never have done a number of months ago. I went to visit Marc Laimon’s Cobra Kai Jiu Jitsu. I was pretty turned off by Marc Laimon on the Ultimate Fighter season 4 TV show with all of the Gracie bashing, and really enjoyed Matt Serra talking him down in front of a room foul of fighters on one particular episode. However, as I’ve trained with more and more Jiu Jitsu players, I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to stay out of the politics of Jiu Jitsu and just focus on my own training. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Laimon’s school, and while he wasn’t there for this particular class, I had a great time training with his guys last Saturday. Some brown belt named Aqeel taught the class, and taught some really awesome back defense techniques. He showed us how to use our head to control the guy’s head who has our back by bridging back with our head under his chin. He also showed how to transition for the escape by placing our head on the mat next to our opponent’s head and turning into the guy. It was really helpful for me. He and a few of the purple belts made it clear when I arrived that they were pretty a tight-knit group and that I’d need to earn my props there. They really made me feel unwelcomed at first—it probably didn’t help that I went in there wearing Ricardo Pires gear, for Cobra Kai’s dislike for the Brazilians is well documented. But once we started training, they warmed up to me. All the guys were really tough and technical, and I really had a great time there. I may actually try to go back one more time, but really enjoy Gabriel’s teaching, so I’m a bit torn right now. But I would recommend Laimon’s school for anyone who doesn’t mind an old-school gym with a fairly rough group of guys who will push you to your limit. I must have made an OK impression there, for I was invited back at the end of class, and considering that they really gave me the cold shoulder at first, I feel pretty good about this invite.

Well, it’s a few more days here, and then back to Cleveland. I’ll jump back on this blog if anything else noteworthy happens this week. Until then, train hard and be safe.
With Much Respect,

Larry the LTrain

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Fantastic Idea!

While I really can’t directly benefit from this idea, it’s still a great one. A few days ago, Professor Pires had a live webcam at the Academy and had a live internet feed of the entire advanced class for Professor ZE and others to watch down in Brazil. He did this for the entire duration of the class and the technical training after class. The plan is for all RPBJJ students under contract to have a log-in to an Url that will give them on-line access to instruction when they can’t make it to class. I really think it’s a clever idea and a nice touch to an already excellent BJJ experience. These classes will not be recorded nor archived, but will be viewable as they occur. I’m often Ricardo’s demonstration dummy, so those of you who will have access to these live feeds can watch the LTrain get twisted and smashed quite often!

Well, it’s off to Las Vegas for me next week, for I have some business there. I’m looking forward to getting some good training in while I’m there. I’ll be spending most of my time training with Gabriel Kitober, one of Ricardo’s guys who runs the BjJ program at the Warrior Training Center, home to a number of UFC fighters; who knows, maybe I’ll tap one of them-smiles—if I do, I’ll be sure to let you know. I’ll also try to spice up the blog with some photos and videos while I’m there. Until then, have a safe Memorial Day weekend.

With Much Respect,

Larry, the LTrain

Monday, May 24, 2010

Feeling Better About My Open Guard

Quite often on Sundays I train with my training partner, Ulric. Ulric and I started training BJJ around the same time; he’s about 170 pounds—25 to 30 pounds lighter than yours truly, but is incredibly strong for his size, and has a very solid understanding of the BJJ game. We have access to a bit of private mat space where we drill whatever we feel we need to work on, and then roll a fair amount. Ulric also trains in Judo, so we spend a fair amount of time working takedowns, and he’s really helped me gain a better understanding of the importance of grip fighting and obtaining and maintaining dominant grips.

One aspect of my game that I’ve been focusing on while training with Ulric is my transitions from closed to open guard. When I joined RPBjJ, I had a somewhat OK understanding of both guards, but have been struggling with transitioning from closed to open guard when someone stands up in my guard to pass. Ricardo’s done an awesome job with helping me become more aggressive with my closed guard by controlling the guy’s posture and working towards either a sweep or submission. However, there are times when people get pretty far along when standing to pass my guard, and he even concedes that when this happens, switch to open guard.
Part of my problems with open guard are psychological because I can’t see my opponent, and I often freeze up, lose my open guard connection with my opponent, and either transition to half-guard (which isn’t the end of the world) or get my guard passed (which sucks!!!!) I’ve really been thinking about when to transition to either Della Riva or Spider Guard once a fair amount of tension is placed on my open guard. A few weeks ago we worked a series of sweeps from the Della Riva Guard, and the timing of these drills was fantastic for what I have been needing to improve.

Rule number one for me when transitioning to an open guard is to stay connected by maintaining a dominant grip on one of my opponent’s Gi sleeves while creating tension by stretching him out by placing one foot on the hip. This gives me room to slide in the Della Riva hook on the opposite side from the hip on which my foot is placed. About 15-18 months ago, I had a hard time putting this hook in, for my leg would cramp up for some reason. I think the added work on my flexibility bending my leg in this manner has paid off because I feel really strong with this hook and am able to really affect my opponent’s balance by moving him around. Maybe it’s also the extra bananas in the LTrain’s diet to up the potassium level-just call me “LTrain, the blind monkey-boy”—LOL!!!!!

My second strategy is to really create tension with this hook by turning my same side hip that has the hook towards my opponent’s leg. I also try to ensure that my butt is sitting practically on my opponent’s foot of the leg that is hooked; to be fair, I have to credit my prior coach’s instruction on this last detail to really being an important way for me to keep a tight connection when playing this guard.

There’s a number of sweeps that can happen from this position. Yesterday, when rolling with Ulric, I really shocked myself from hitting a sweep by this guard whereby I went to this guard when he stood up, trapped his leg and moved my far leg from his hip to behind his knee and completed the sweep. I actually thought he gave the sweep to me, but he assures me that he didn’t. Ulric’s got a great base, probably because of his Judo training, and I really surprised myself by transitioning so smoothly to this guard and hitting the sweep. To be sure, I really need to work harder on these transitions, but yesterday was a turning point for me where I plan to really open up these transitions and playing a much more aggressive open guard.

With Much Respect,

Larry, The LTrain