Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hilarious Self-Defense Video


Not much exciting to blog about except for this funny video that a new friend sent to me on Facebook. Enjoy this hilarious self-defense video!
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Larry, the LTrain

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Royler Gracie-David Adiv Youtube Channel

Hi folks,

I just came across this great resource on Youtube whereby the RGDA headquarters in New Jersey has set up a Youtube Channel for uploading video clips of Professor David Adiv instruction. Click to visit The RGDA YOutube Channel and check it out!

Respectfully Submitted By

Larry, the LTrain

"Which Ultimate Fighter Are You?"

I took a quiz on Facebook this morning: "Which Ultimate Fighter Are You?" The result is both hilarious and amusing considering that my Jiu Jitsu will never be 1/100th the skill level of BJ Penn. The actual quiz result is below, and I would agree that the characteristics in the quiz do describe me fairly well once the Jiu Jitsu skill levels are nullified--enjoy a good laugh, compliments of the LTrain.
"Larry took the Which Ultimate Fighter (UFC) are you? quiz and the result is B.J. "The Prodigy" Penn

If one word could describe you, it would be 'CHILL'. You are laid back and easy going. You love life and make no secret about it. When you're not hitting the beach or chilling, you train like a mad man. You are very competitive and you think that 'impossible is nothing'."

Respectfully Submitted by:

Larry, the LTrain

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The LTrain and Leglocks

Just when I’ve set my own personal record for not posting to my blog, I continue to outdo myself. A fair amount has occurred with my GJJ training since my last post almost a month ago. Before I get started, my short-term goal for the remainder of the summer is to train hard for the “Submissions only” tournament put on by the Ohio Grappling Challenge, September 5, 2009. When I spoke to Darren about this tournament, he mentioned that there are often fewer numbers of competitors who compete in such tournaments because the only way one can win a match is via a submission. I’m not sure about all of the rules yet, but from what I understand, there are no time limits, and I suppose after a while, if nobody gets submitted, the referee could possibly award the match to whomever has the most legitimate submission attempts? But I’m really not sure about the rules at this time. All I know is that such a tournament will really force me to think about “finishing” opponents, and I have a lot of things that I’m working on to refine my current submission skills and implement some new ones, for my goal is to submit people as fast as I can while getting off the mat with all of my limbs attached. It’s not a secret to those who know me that I really hate to “tap”, which has gotten me yelled at on more than one occasion by Darren.

A few weeks ago, I began to focus on hitting leglocks while “rolling”. I’ve drilled leglocks a fair amount over the past few years, primarily “no-Gi”, but got a “wild hair” a about a month ago to begin to open up with them. Primarily, I focus on the straight ankle lock followed by either the Knee-bar or heel-hook. I’ve been somewhat successful catching the straight ankle lock off the guard pass when my opponent tries to defend the knee drive pass, and have caught a few blue belts in the room with some pretty tight ankle locks. When I don’t finish this lock, it’s generally because I’m overanxious and wrap the leg too early with my guillotine part of my wrist too close to the guy’s calf. We’ve made a few adjustments with trapping the leg and not telegraphing this submission so much, for it’s a tight, fast leglock, to be sure.

Without the Gi, I’m catching the knee-bar from the butterfly guard on a number of occasions. I started drilling this a bit in early June. From butterfly guard, one breaks the guy’s posture and elevates him with his legs. He continues by kicking his leg through his opponents legs while keep the tension and the butterfly hook with his other leg. He’s then able to take the guy’s top leg and roll to a knee-bar. It’s definitely a leglock that I’ve begun to work quite a bit, and aim to make the transitions to finishing this submission much smoother.

I’ve always been nervous about drilling heel-hooks with my training partners as well as working them into a rolling session. I’m fearful of getting overanxious and really hurting a friend of mine, so while I’m playing around with the heel-hooks a bit, they don’t have the same priority for me as knee-bars and ankle locks.

Darren showed a rather clever, advanced toehold last night from the standing position where you secure the leg that you wish to toehold, summersault, and secure the person’s other leg either by figure-fouring your legs or by trapping the bottom leg with your leg and then by gripping the person’s toes with one hand while reaching under your wrist and grabbing your wrist with your other hand and turning the heel counterclockwise—the guy’s heel should be in the crook of your elbow of the hand that is grabbing the wrist. It’s really tight, and I bet it looks cooler than the actual skills necessary to execute such a move.

Lastly, I had an epiphany of sorts last night. Often when passing the guard, I have trouble opening the guard when I secure grips on the lapels by the armpits, hop up, and try to get my knee placed in the vicinity of my partner’s asscrack. I learned that especially with individuals who are somewhat tall, if I lengthen my body and really control the grips on the armpits when hopping up, it’s actually a bit easier to position the knee properly as well as ensure that my knee is over my foot for when I sit back to open the guard. This is something that I’ve heard before, but a light went on in my big cavern-like dome last night and it really made sense to me.


Larry, The LTrain

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Excellent Audio-Video Recap of This Year’s Mundials World Championships


I just received an e-mail about this video from my man, Caleb over at The FightWorks Podcast. It’s a video summary of the results of this year’s black belt championship matches held at this year’s Mundials World Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Tournament, June 7, 2009. Caleb does an awesome job providing audio commentary for these outcomes, and while the video cannot capture how it must have felt to have been in attendance, Caleb really did an excellent job bringing the results to life for me as a blind listener to this video. Check out the video below to watch the footage and listen to Caleb’s account of what happened during this action-packed event.
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Larry, the LTrain

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Rant about “McDojos” and Random Thoughts About Training

Last Monday Darren came to class all fired up about something, and waited for class to begin before telling us what was up. He, along with two other Team Evolution teammates, went to visit a “McDojo” before class on Cleveland’s West side that claimed to teach Jiu Jitsu. Now those of you who know me know that I have a lot of respect for traditional Martial Arts, and actually still train in them, for the conditioning and the attention to flexibility and focus has complimented my GJJ game. But one thing that I will never accept is when a “McDojo” dilutes the “Martial Science” that is Jiu Jitsu in an attempt to steal money from students who wish to learn “the gentle art”.

The leader of the “McDojo” had a blackbelt in some sort of martial art and was a blue belt in Jiu Jitsu although he wouldn’t tell Darren where he got it. Needless to say, Darren mounted him with ease and the guy didn’t escape. Either Darren’s a nice guy, I’m an asshole, or both statements may be true, for I would have tapped this guy out in front of his students and exposed him for the fraud that he is. He’s not alone. There are "pretenders" out there who are running Martial Arts academies who are trying to rake in the cash by offering their own brand of grappling and calling it Jiu Jitsu. I had my own “McDojo” experience when I was a 2nd stripe white belt. The “McDojo” owner was trying to brand his own flavor of grappling which has since fizzled, and he couldn’t even pass my white belt guard. The sad thing about these “McDojo” posers is that not only are they stealing money, but they’re teaching things that will get their students really hurt if they try to use them outside the “McDojo” in a real-life situation. I’ll never forget my own experience where the instructor was actually encouraging his students to try for submissions while they were mounted by someone!!!!

I’m all for cross training, and think it’s an awesome idea for traditional martial arts schools to provide Jiu Jitsu as part of their class offerings, but for God sakes, get a solid instructor in there to teach proper technique and principles? I mean, you don’t often see a great Jiu Jitsu fighter teach striking—rather, he defers to instructors whose expertise is striking and the student is best-served by this act of humility!

Enough ranting for this post….Training’s been going well—Andres showed a few more interesting sweeps from Spider Guard last Saturday that I’m beginning to implement when people begin to stand up in my guard. He also showed me a really cool set-up from a scissors sweep into a triangle choke that I’ve really come to like. “Basics” and “self-defense” are on the GJJ menu tonight, and I’ll keep you all posted if I pick up any interesting tidbits, details, etc.

Respectfully Submitted By:

Larry, the LTrain

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

TEAM “EVOLUSH” and the “Ohio Grappling Challenge” #10

It seems like forever and a day since I’ve put something up on the blog. I’ve been training hard, although I had most of last week off due to an out-of-State family reunion in Virginia. Hillbilly reunion jokes are welcomed under the comments section of the blog, although I’m sure you won’t post any joke that I haven’t already heard.

On June 6, Team Royler Gracie-David Adiv, Ohio or “Team Evolush” as we affectionately refer to ourselves, took a contingent of competitors to the Ohio Grappling Challenge #10 held at Cleveland State University.

We all had a blast, and “Team Evolush” let everyone know who was “IN DA HOUSE” that day! Everyone charged super hard, and some of us scored multiple medals at this tournament. Special acknowledgment goes out to our coach, Darren, who always puts it on the line whenever there’s a tournament within driving distance of Cleveland. I totally respect Darren for competing as much as he does, for there’s lots of instructors out there who hide behind their teaching credentials and duck competing in tournaments. I attribute this to the reality that they’re chicken-shits who are afraid of the possibility of losing in front of their students. But Darren’s totally transparent and unassuming about his own GJJ journey, and this gives him tons of credibility as an instructor. Also, my man, Grissom (AKA Clark) brought home two Gold Medals. Clark and i have formed "TEAM APPALACHIA" due to our TN, KY, VA heritages, and we definitely did that Mason-Dixon line proud--LOL!

I can humbly report that the LTrain had a respectable showing in this tournament. I took the Gold Medal as a middle-weight “no-Gi” and the Bronze” with the Gi. This is a bit baffling to me, for I train with the Gi more than I train without it. Here’s a video of my "finals” no-Gi match; originally, I posted the "semi-finals" match as well, but it was a pretty boring match, so I've elected to just post the "finals" match.

OGC CLE - Larry NoGi 2 from EvolutionJJ on Vimeo.

These two matches weren’t my most exciting performances, and I was disappointed that I couldn’t finish the guy in the “finals”. I was happy with my control and my passing, but need to do a lot more work if I expect to compete in the “submissions only” tournament that I plan to compete in this coming September, so I'll be opening up my game a bit more this summer.

Of course, I’m not posting the video where I got swept and finished with an “arm triangle”—smiles-but I’ve already taken measures with Darren to avert such an outcome in the future.

As for my training this week—the few days off were just what the “LTrain Doctor” ordered. I feel great, and went pretty hard on Monday, and am amped up to hit it hard tonight. I’m focusing on smoothing out my transitions as well as further implementing the Della Riva Guard into my game a bit more. I’ll endeavor to blog a bit more frequently for the remainder of this month!


Larry, the LTrain

Thursday, May 21, 2009

LTrain Visits SerraJitsu, East Meadow Location

Hi folks,

As promised, with Matt Serra’s fight happening at UFC 98, I thought it might make sense to blog about my experience visiting Serra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, East Meadow, Long island, NY location. SerraJitsu is a couple of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools ran by brothers Nick and matt Serra, Renzo Gracie’s first black belts in the United States. Many of you are probably familiar with Matt Serra from the UFC.

I had some business to tend to in New York City and actually extended my trip to hang out at SerraJitsu for a couple of days. The experience did not disappoint!

I took three formal classes at SerraJitsu and will summarize each one. For class #1, I arrived Tuesday evening, August 5, 2008 for the “no-Gi” class and was readily met by this guy with a familiar voice who said: “What’s up, bro! I’m Matt.” I was immediately impressed by Serra’s ability to just be a normal guy—here’s a former UFC Welter Weight Champion who holds many world championships in grappling introducing himself to me as Matt. I quickly got acclimated to the facility which was clean and in good condition and got to work. Matt knows both professors David Adiv and Royler Gracie quite well, so I really felt at ease training with him and his guys. It was super hot in the Academy, and my only mild complaint would have been that the mats were a bit slick and when we started sweating on them, it made for a very slippery surface. Matt taught the class and focused specifically on the feet for most of the class. Half the class was spent dropping for heel hooks which is not really part of my current BJJ game, but he had some great set-ups for this from the feet. I’m just a bit nervous about dropping for leg-locks from the feet and Giving the guy a possible advantage while going for these submissions. But my BJJ game will never be what Matt Serra’s is, so who am I to argue. The second half of the class was spent from the guard using an overhook on the top guy’s arm to get back to the feet which I found to be extremely helpful. We also trained fairly hard toward the end of class focusing on either passing the guy’s guard or the guy standing up while the guard passer was attempting to pass. I did OK, but did slip a great deal on the mats. I managed to score a picture with Matt, but it somehow got deleted from my phone, so I regret that I don’t have any photos of the two of us.

The second class was a Gi class taught by Billy Hofacker and was an afternoon class the following day. Billy worked with us quite a bit on transitioning from side control to an arm-bar on the guy’s far arm. This transition depends on underhooking the guy’s far arm and actually using the Gi lapel as a handle to secure the arm. I use this quite a bit actually, and that class especially helped my arm-bars both from side control and mount.

I wanted to come back for the evening class, but only had one Gi, and I was sooooo appreciative of Billy offering to launder my Gi for me—anyone who has trained with me knows that the LTrain can BRING-DA-SWEAT when he’s training hard.

The final class that I attended was taught by Matt’s brother Nick, and if I remember correctly, we focused on breaking the guy down when he turtles. I remember that Nick got there a little late which seems to be a normal, accepted occurrence by the students—smiles! I don’t recall too much from the class except that we trained really hard, and Nick was really a nice guy and a good motivator. Nick gave me another nickname that seems to have stuck with him and his brother, for they refer to me as “Dare Devil” , the Marvel comic book super hero who is blind and whose other senses take over Giving him superhuman abilities. In fact, Matt asked me to refer to myself as “Dare Devil” whenever I come back so that he would remember me.

I found the training at SerraJitsu to be top-notch, and I found the guys there to be relatively friendly, as well as pretty focused on competing and winning. Aside from the great instruction for a fair mat fee, the entertainment value in Matt’s class was priceless. I remember just starting to laugh really hard while I was rolling with one of his guys, for Matt was coaching me by yelling from the side of the mat, and he sounded exactly like he sounds on TV. When he told me to “keep breathing” I just lost it—LOL!

I wish Matt a successful UFC 98, and a few of my friends and I will be rabidly cheering from the LTrain’s “CRIB” for him when he fights Matt Hughes this coming Saturday; here’s hoping for a VIOLENT end to Matt Hughes’ career! He and his staff are knowledgeable Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners and great guys, and I look forward to being able to get back there some day soon.


Larry, the LTrain

Monday, May 18, 2009

Professor David Adiv Weighs in on the Swine Flu Hype

Hi folks,

The following comes directly from the Royler Gracie-David Adiv website. I can't tell you how sick i am of hearing about "Swine Flu" or whatever the hell the media is calling it this week. Below is Professor David Adiv's take on the situation, and I agree with his sentiments, and they're worth noting below:

Gracie Jiu Jitsu NJ Academy: training to combat the Swine Flu epidemic
May 1st, 2009

Approached by a few students concerned with the swine flu epidemic that has hit Mexico, USA and several other countries, Professor Adiv was asked if and how we should train Gracie Jiu Jitsu in these times that we are been swamped by alarming news that suggest us to avoid close contact with each other and therefore avoid getting sick.

First and foremost Professor Adiv advises us to learn about the facts and not to be alienated by the media. He also encourages us to take all precautions to maintain proper personal hygiene and health, including washing our hands often and seeking medical help when not feeling well. However he gives emphasis to the actions we can take to completely eradicate this and many other issues that have been affecting our physical and emotional health.

Professor Adiv says that “This is the time for us to use all the tools we have to boost our immune system and keep it working well. Rather than breaking apart from each other, now it is the time to go to the academy and train.” It might sound a bit contradictory, however those who knows the benefits of training Gracie Jiu Jitsu will promptly understand and those who are not familiar with it yet, are encouraged to give it a try. Training Gracie Jiu Jitsu provides us with the whole package for great fitness and wellness.

The benefits are measured by a functional body capable of defending itself from the big bullies on the streets as well as from the microscopic threats around us. Professor Adiv mentions that "there won’t be masks strong enough to block these micro organisms from harming us if we don’t help each other to be strong from within."

Gracie Jiu Jitsu and the natural breathing exercises we often practice during our training sessions promote great cardiovascular health, and it is worth to note here that even though the swine flu is a big threat on its own, cardiovascular diseases have been the number one killer in America for the past decade. The natural breathing required when we are training or practiced as part of our warm up increases our lung capacity, the flow of oxygen to all our system and cells, facilitates the exchange of gases in our respiratory system and promotes natural detoxification of our bodies.

Training with a group of supportive friends brings up good feelings and help us to keep our mental and emotional health in check as well. And it is no novelty that good emotional health is a key component to boost our immune system.

So, now it is time to take Professor Adiv advice and pack up our gis and head to the academy.

Have a great training everyone!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gi Vs. No-Gi

Hi Folks,

Check out this “MMA In The Morning” podcast on Gi Vs. No-Gi, and interview with Billy Hofacker, a brown belt under Matt and nick Serra, and Operations Manager/instructor at Serrajitsu’s East Meadow, Long island location. I met Billy last August when I had the opportunity to train a few days at Serra Jitsu, and he’s a pretty cool guy with lots of fitness and BJJ knowledge. He also taught when of the classes while I was there. With Matt Serra’s highly anticipated fight with Matt Hughes happening next weekend, I’ll blog about my training experience at Serrajitsu some time next week. These podcasts are updated regularly, so this direct link may take you to the most recent podcast as they are added, but you should still be able to find this podcast regardless of when you click on the link above.

Suffice to say, this podcast dispels a lot of the myths floating around about Gi training not really being relevant for those training for Mixed Martial Arts. Check it out and form your own opinions. As for me, I’m happy with what the Gi offers me in regard to technique and control, and prefer to mix a day or two of “no-Gi” training per week in order to focus on “changing the handles (grips)” while preserving the technique learned with the Gi.


Larry, the LTrain

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Team Andres In Da House!

Hi folks,

Here's a short blog post dedicated to Andres whose classes I've blogged about in previous posts. This highlight reel of Andres submissions is up on youtube. Click here to watch ANDRES BRING THE PAIN!!!
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Having rolled with Andres a fair amount, I can tell you that it's a humbling, yet educational experience, to be sure.


Larry, The LTrain

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Passing While Standing

Today, I had a private lesson and was fortunate enough to use one of my training partners, Mike, as an extra body to train with while Darren conducted the private lesson. Mike’s the guy who I blogged about a couple of months ago who trains with his eyes closed.

The absolute WORST aspect of my Jiu Jitsu game is defending the “pass” when someone stands up in my guard. I totally just shut down when someone stands and begins to either disconnect or control the grips. We focused on a game plan for fixing this glaring weakness in my game, and will follow up with some additional reinforcement next Tuesday. Here's what I learned today:

1. When I have someone in my closed guard, control the grips. If he’s got my lapels and is trying to put both hands in my armpits while driving towards the mat, bring my elbows in and break the grip. If someone has my sleeve, pummel for the dominant grip, and lock my hands behind my head to distract them and get them to reach and extend for my sleeves.
2. Now, SHIT does happen and sometimes the guy stands up, so I learned how to comfortably transition to the “spider guard” that I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.
3. We focused a bit on the “De La Riva Guard”, popularized by Ricardo De La Riva. This open guard is often used while transitioning from the spider guard and involves controlling the standing guy’s sleeve while hooking his ankle with your other hand and threading your leg through his leg that is being controlled at the ankle by your hand. I’ve drilled this guard before but never in a private lesson situation where I really got to work on drilling it as well as using it to try to stop Mike from passing.
4. Lastly, Darren reviewed with me how to take the back from this guard. Here’s a pretty decent video of this move being demonstrated, and no, it’s not Darren and I doing the demonstrating, but it will paint a picture for you, and the audio description is pretty decent for us blind guys. Taking the Back from the De La Riva Guard

I at least understand where I need to really tighten things up and by the end of the lesson, I was rolling a little better in these positions. I guess I just mentally kinda shut down when someone stands, and freeze for a few costly seconds. But I’m aware of it now, and am really committed to tighten up this grossly loose aspect of my GJJ game.

I’m off to Nashville to conduct some business later this week and will be hopefully getting some mat time in at Nashville MMA, Lloyd Irvine’s Jiu Jitsu school in Music City and will let you all know how that goes. One of our blue belts, Clark, trains there when he goes home, and says the guys are fairly solid and keep a pretty rigorous pace, so I’m looking forward to taking in the blue belt Gi class and perhaps the beginner no-Gi class as well. Will keep you posted.


Larry, the LTrain

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Open Mat At Relson Gracie, Columbus

Yesterday, Darren, chuck (another Team Evolution student) and yours truly took a bit of a road trip to our State Capital, Columbus Ohio. The Relson Gracie, Columbus, OH Chapter is located in down-town Columbus and his headed up by Relson Gracie black belt, Jeff Hudson. Every Friday afternoon, Mr. Hudson and some of his guys hold an “open mat” training session for those who wish to hone their grappling skills in a fairly intensive, yet chilled-out environment. So, I played a bit of “hooky” yesterday and went down to their Academy to check it out.

I feel pretty good this week, and was really looking forward to rolling hard with some fresh bodies down there, and the guys there did not disappoint. We arrived, and warmed up a bit, and then it was pretty much “full go” as much or as little as you wanted. They have a timer running six minute intervals throughout the training session which I discovered part way into the training. The first blue belt I was rolling with abruptly quit rolling at the sound of the first six minute buzzer, and I was slightly pissed about this since I had passed his guard and was working my top game. But Darren explained to me that some of these guys want fresh partners every six minutes, so “it’s all good”, for sure.

I got about seven or eight hard rolls in over about a 90 minute time period and some of the rolls didn’t adhere to the six minute timer. I did fairly decent against the blue belts, but really got “owned” by a couple of the Relson “brown belts”. Darren reminded me that at this stage of my journey, it’s natural for this to happen to me, but the redneck part of me really felt like a BITCH getting mounted and dominated so handily. There’s this one guy who’s name is Tommy Fister, and he really brings the pressure when he rolls—he’s only about 185 lbs—about 10 pounds lighter than me, but feels like he weighs over 3 bills. We started and he had me start in side control—we rolled around a bit some until he recovered guard, swept me, and mounted me. He really stuck to me, and bumping and elbow escaping were such a chore! I think I got to half guard once or twice, but basically, my Jiu Jitsu was defensive, survival mode Jiu Jitsu against this guy. He’s a really nice guy and I appreciated getting to roll with him.

On a more positive note, I had a number of arm-bar finishes, and my guard was pretty solid against guys more in line with my skill level. I’ve also been working on my posture within the guard, and my passing felt pretty good. I scored a couple of sweeps from the half-guard and saw the back a few times (so to speak) and took it once from this position. These guys play a lot of open, butterfly guard, and I need to work on my pressure when grabbing the inner portions of their Gi pants to work the butterfly pass.

Everybody was pretty cool about the blind thing, as they are in most academies where I visit. Another brown belt, when I asked him where he wanted to start, tip-toed away and jumped on my back, which was actually pretty funny and got some laughs—LOL!

All in all, it was time well spent. Mat fees for this open mat are $20 per session, and there’s a few brown and black belts who are there to answer questions and give advice if you roll with them. So, while it’s not like a private lesson or formal class, many questions are answered, and many opportunities exist for those who participate to hone their skills.
The LTrain does have to work for a living, and can’t get down there every Friday, but my goal is to try to go down maybe once a month and bring along my laptop on days when I need to get some work done on the 280 mile round trip drive. I’d like to thank Mr. Hudson and his crew for having us, and for giving us the work-out that we were after, and recommend that those of you who have the time, and who are interested in getting in some quality mat time, to check out this open mat that starts around 12:30 p.m. every Friday.


Larry, the LTrain

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Focusing on the “spider Guard

Last night, Andres taught class for Darren, and he focused on the SPIDER GUARD. This is a pretty foreign guard for me, so I was keen to absorb as much of it as I can. For those of you who are not familiar with this position, what was shown last night was fairly Gi dependent. It’s a type of open guard where the guy on bottom controls both sleeves with the grips while using his feet on the opponents, thighs, hips, and biceps. We started by working a pretty cool sweep from this position where one guy has Spider Guard while the other guy is on his knees. This guard requires lots of tension with the Gi grips, and for this sweep, you need to pick a side where your leg is extended and you’re really creating tension with the same side Gi grip. The other leg is used on the partner's opposite leg from the side with tension to sweep the leg while pulling in with the other Gi grip. It’s definitely a cool sweep, for sure, and the challenging aspect about this sweep is to maintain the grips while coming up in full mount.

We then transitioned to Andres’s specialty, catching the triangle from this open guard—pretty straightforward for me when the guy’s on his knees, but a little harder for me to catch when the guy is standing in my Spider Guard, for I was having trouble locating his head with my legs from this distance.

Lastly, we worked two different sweeps from this guard while the training partner was standing. We picked a side, took a cross-grip on the Gi while grabbing the same side ankle, pushing the hip, and hooking behind the guy’s knee with the off-leg. That sweep was pretty easy for me. The second sweep is a bit more trickier, for if the guy steps his leg back—the leg controlled by the Guard player’s hand, then one must switch their feet, push with the opposite foot while creating momentum with the other leg while sweeping out the leg not controlled by the guard player’s hand. This doesn’t make a great deal of sense, I’m sure, but I don’t know how best to describe it.

We then concluded by going two five minute matches at about 25% to work these positions. I did OK when my partner was on his knees, but am struggling staying connected and keeping good tension when he would stand up. Defending my guard while my partner/opponent is standing is undoubtedly the worst part of my Jiu Jitsu game. So, I’m open to any suggestions, comments, etc regarding:

1. A Non-visual way of locating the guy’s head when I’m trying to catch the triangle choke from Spider Guard while the guy’s standing, and
2. Locating the guy’s biceps with my feet quickly and smoothly. I have problems doing this depending on my partner’s dimensions. For instance, I kept putting my feet nearer to my partners shoulders last night.

I suppose this will get better with lots of drilling, but I really am up for advice on locating the guy’s head as I pull him into the triangle from this guard while he’s standing.

My transition to chokes are feeling better, and I’m starting to catch more of our blue belts with them while rolling, so I’m happy with this progress. Spring time’s just starting to hit here, and I’m pretty amped up to train hard during the warmer months. Unfortunately, I’m gonna miss a few days of training due to work commitments this week, but I’ve managed to get a private lesson with Darren under my belt this week to make up for the light training schedule.

In June, the Ohio Grappling Challenge makes its way to Cleveland, and if I’m healthy, I want to use that opportunity to REALLY go HARD in a tournament. I’m planning a few trips down to Columbus with Darren and a few guys over the coming weeks—every Friday afternoon, the Relson Gracie school down there hosts an open mat for guys to just come and train, and I’m interested in rolling hard with some purple, brown, and black belts who will SMASH me and really push me super hard.


Larry, the LTrain

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Training Outside the Box

It’s been about 9 days since I last blogged about expanding my game into “the land of Darce chokes”. Unfortunately, I haven’t done much Darcing since that time, but what that class illustrated to me is that I need to start focusing on a number of weaknesses in my Jiu Jitsu game rather than constantly gravitating toward what comes easy for me. Probably the most glaring of these weaknesses is my ability to “finish” with chokes, especially with the Gi—I seem to sink in chokes much easier when the Gi material isn’t present, for oftentimes, (as a result of poor technique, I’m sure) the Gi material gets in my way.

So, I’ve been focusing pretty hard on working chokes from a variety of positions—from drilling to live rolling. While the progress isn’t fast enough, I am noting definite progress.

To make myself focus on my goal of expanding my submission game, (with the exception of competitions), I’m taking arm-bar finishes out of my arsenal for a while unless someone just leaves their arm out there, or something.

This has been very hard for me—using the arm-bar positions to set up chokes, but I’m learning how not to take a quick submission and focusing on these other areas that need improving. It’s almost like training without one of one’s senses, as I’ve discussed in prior posts. For in order to properly train this way, one has to accept that he may in fact lose a desired position on top or on bottom when relying on areas of weakness when rolling with team-mates. Last night, I got my guard passed by two white belts who have never passed my guard before, and it’s because I’m trying to open up and get my body used to moving in some ways that require lots more repetition for me. This is a good “ego checker” for me, for I do hate to give up positions—it’s totally stupid for me to feel this way, and has been a hindrance to my Jiu Jitsu game at times. I recognize this and am working on it.

As for how the chokes are coming: some of our more advanced blue belts are still difficult for me to “tap” with these chokes, but I’m actually beginning to tap the white belts and a couple of newer blue belts with submissions that I’ve never used before. I’m beginning to like taking a “triangle choke” from side control and am experiencing moderate success with it. “baseball bat” and “breadcutter” chokes are also beginning to play into my side-mount position. And, last week, I learned and actually used a choke that Darren calls the “Rambo choke” from the North-South position. I guess he calls it the “Rambo choke” because you actually loosen your own Gi lapel, put the end in your mouth, hide it from the guy on the bottom as you hand it off into your off-hand which is underneath and on the other side of the guy.

After securing the grip on your own Gi, you move to North-South and finish the choke like a North-South guillotine choke. It’s actually pretty cool, and pretty clever if one doesn’t telegraph what he’s doing. Clark, a blue belt on our team who has amazing conditioning caught me with this last week and I thought my head was going to explode. I literally “didn’t see it coming”, and it was pretty brutal.

I plan to spend the remainder of April training in this manner and assess how my chokes are coming in early May—I may need to do this for some time.


Larry, the LTrain

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Starting to Work the Darce Choke

Yesterday marked another "first" of sorts for the LTrain. For those of you who train with me, you know that I’m a big fan of arm-bars for finishes, but that I’m expanding more into the realm of chokes and beginning to focus on working my control of my opponent’s back in order to expand my submission game.

Andres, and a couple of other guys on Team Evolution like the Darce choke, a compression choke that one can catch often from “side mount” or from “knee on belly”. I’ve been playing with this choke a bit, and yesterday began to feel comfortable with it while rolling. To view a fairly detailed description of the Darce Choke being applied with great audio cues for those of us who are blind, visit Darce Choke from “Submissions 101”

As always when I’m keen to try something new, I start with a white belt who’s not brand new to the game, but someone with a few months under his belt. Yesterday I got my opportunity with a newer guy who is always rushing to lock in the Darce before he really has control of my body. So after his third attempt, I decided to catch it from side mount, and it actually went fairly smoothly. I guess it was kind of a prickish thing to do to choke this guy out with a move he’s been trying to get to work for him for some time, but it was still pretty funny! I haven’t drilled the Darce as much as other chokes, but I’m usually underhooking the far arm anyway when in side control, and it is starting to feel natural to me to just take this choke from this position. I’m excited to try it some more in my “no-Gi” class later this afternoon on some more advanced guys and to get some feedback from Darren, Andres, and Ulric, another Darce aficionado. Will let you all know how it goes for me, even if it’s a BUST! LOL


Larry, The LTrain

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Three Variations of A Shoulder Lock

Last night, Andres, an 18-year-old purple belt on Team Evolution taught class. Darren plans on letting him teach on Mondays, and I’m very happy about this. Darren’s an awesome teacher, for sure, but I think it will also be good for me to be exposed to Andres’s sick submission game. The kid has a heart of a lion, and amazing technique to back it up.

Last night, Andres showed three variations of a shoulder lock while taking the overhook from the closed guard:

Variation 1: Take the overhook, get to your side, and grab your top knee and lock down on your opponent’s shoulder. From here, one can take the Kimura grip and finish with the Kimura. It’s amazing how tight this submission is when the shoulder is totally isolated.

Variation 2: Repeat the afore-mentioned overhook sequence, but instead of taking the Kimura-grip, thread the same side leg as the overhooked arm across the neck and work for the Uma Plata. Andres showed an excellent way of gripping both of your knees and using your top leg as a lever either to break down your opponent or lift him up if he’s too heavy on the bottom leg. He also has a very cool technique where, once he shifts his hips and grabs the opponent’s belt, he uses a rocking chair motion to break the guy down and isolate the shoulder in order to quickly finish the Uma Plata.

Variation 3: This involves an Uma Plata set-up, but imagine the opponent stepping over your far leg to defend against the Uma Plata. Andres showed how to straighten this far leg and hook the opponent behind his knee. He then switched to the Kimura-lock while trapping this leg. Again, it was a very tight submission.

Aside from the three techniques, Andres showed me from the Uma Plata setup how he innerlocks his hands and grips his opponents head, providing he can sneak his shin across the throat, and finish with the Gogo Plata. If you've never felt this submission, it's NASTY with a capital N!

All three submissions play well into my game, for I take this overhook quite a bit from the closed guard anyway. The techniques were very helpful, and gave me a fresh perspective on the overhook position, isolating the shoulder, and adjusting my opponent’s body position to keep my nips mobile. More importantly, all three finishes require little to no exertion by the one performing them, and further reminds me that submissions do not require vast amounts of strength to be affective. Andres is approximately 5 foot 11 and weighs around 150 lbs. and dominates everyone in the room. He even gives Darren problems from time to time.


Larry, the LTrain

Friday, March 27, 2009

The LTrain Visits “10th Planet Jiu Jitsu”

Hi folks,

Well, it’s been about a week or so since I visited 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu located in Legends Mixed Martial Arts Gym in Hollywood, CA. For those readers who are not familiar with 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, it is the Jiu Jitsu style both founded and refined by globally acclaimed competitor and instructor, Mr. Eddie Bravo . I visited 10th Planet last Thursday, March 19, 2009, and I did so for a couple of reasons:
1. Bravo’s Jiu Jitsu style is fairly foreign to me—aside from playing around with “Mission Control”, the starting point for his unorthodox, yet affective Rubber Guard , I know very little about Bravo’s techniques and the rationale behind them.
2. I only train without the “Gi” once per week, and while I’m by no means ready to forsake my “Gi” training, I definitely want to bolster my “no-Gi” training.

So I arrived a few minutes before class, signed my wavers, and paid my mat fee of $30—an excellent “bang for the buck” in this part of the country when one considers the world-class training that he is receiving. I got changed and walked out to the mats which were surrounded by a cage. This was my first opportunity to train within a cage, and I must admit that although we used the cage very little, it was pretty cool to be inside of one!

Bravo arrived and I introduced myself to him. He shook my hand and I let him know that I was totally blind, but had been training for some time; as long as I had a partner who was capable of performing on me the moves that he was showing the class, I would be fine. Bravo’s initial response pissed me off, for he exclaimed: “How are you going to do this?” I reassured him that everything would be fine, and within a few minutes of class commencing, he seemed more at ease. This was the first time that I’ve ever run into any sort of question or doubt regarding my participation in any Jiu Jitsu Gym. To be fair, it turned out to be a very good experience. I think that its simply Bravo’s style to be very candid, forthright, and honest. I’m sure that I was the first blind guy who had probably come in to train at 10th Planet, and for all I know, was the first blind guy that Eddie Bravo had ever met. So I can appreciate his candor and concerns, and he made up for his initial impression that he made upon me by providing a first-rate training session for all.

He paired me up with a brown belt on his team named Brent who is one of his instructors. This was awesome because it was almost like getting a “semi-private” class. Brent really knew his stuff, and had a great way of pointing out details while we drilled. He also took his reps like anyone else, so I was pretty happy that he was able to use me to get some training in.

One thing that Bravo does that I really like is that he, according to his students, takes a couple of weeks and focuses specifically on three or four moves that you constantly drill, drill, drill. Repetition develops muscle memory as well as the likelihood of one actually incorporating perfect execution of these moves in a rolling session. The three moves that we worked on in this class (and I’ll try to describe them as best I can) were:

1. Opening the half-guard when the guy on the bottom has your leg locked down, and then passing to side control;
2. Taking a calf compression from “butterfly guard” either from the bottom or by sweeping your opponent and finishing the compression while you are on top; and,
3. Taking the back while on top in “quarter guard” and finishing with an arm-bar from the “spider web” position.

The first two techniques were pretty easy for me to assimilate but the third technique was quite involved because, if you haven’t done it before, you’re flipping around in lots of different crazy positions, and you’re ending up switching from your partner’s back into an arm-bar while maintaining a couple of different grips that were a little foreign to me. They also cross their feet while finishing the arm-bar, and Bravo explained to me why they do this as well as why it’s important to cross one’s feet a specific way when doing this.

Brent made it all make sense to me, and I understand the rationale behind these movements. I’ve actually started to use the opening of the half-guard technique in my live rolling this week.

We then concluded class by rolling. I rolled with a couple of Bravo’s lower belts and did OK, but did have some trouble dealing with passing their “rubber guards”. Brent gave me some pointers on accomplishing this. I did have some success recovering guard while rolling with them. I rolled with Brent as my last roll, and he was a definite handful. I’m sure he wasn’t going full go, but he has a nasty Uma Plata. He took it once and I tried to roll through, and he finished with a straight arm-bar that I tried to escape and thought I had actually popped my elbow—no doubt, I stayed in it way too long. Bravo’s boys keep up a very intense pace, and I definitely got in a solid work-out.

At the end of class, I got to meet Joe Rogan, TV personality/stand-up comic/color commentator for the UFC. Here’s a couple of pics of the LTrain and Joe:

He’s a brown belt under Bravo, and by all accounts, a very good grappler. I really liked how Joe just blended into class—no entourage, nothing like that. I didn’t even know he was there until the end of class. My arm was really bothering me for I was having problems extending it, so I didn’t really feel like rolling with him, but he did chat with me a bit. I told him how he really made the Ultimate Fighting Championship easy for me to follow, for his meticulous descriptions of positioning, etc really makes the fights “come alive” for me. He genuinely seemed touched by the compliment. Again, he’s a pretty normal guy—very cool for me to have the opportunity just to be able to meet him and hang out for a few minutes.

In closing, I want to say that I learned a great deal while training at 10th Planet, and it’s made me conscious of the reality that I do need to “up” my “no-Gi” game. But I’m not ready to forsake the “Gi” like many of Bravo’s students have done, for I feel that there’s definitely a place for both “Gi” and “no-Gi” training. Professor David Adiv puts it all in perspective by stating that training with the Gi verses training with no Gi is as simple as “changing the handles” or the “grips” and discerning what those grips are and when to switch to a specific grip. I don’t think that an extreme position on either end of the spectrum is a healthy approach for me. Lastly, Bravo pays specific attention to flexibility and to perform many of his moves, one needs to acquire a certain level of flexibility. I feel that stretching is an often overlooked aspect within Jiu Jitsu training, and I’m only as flexible as I am because I’ve done a fair amount of stretching while training Tae Kwon Do. And my flexibility could still be improved, to be sure. I’ll be addressing this issue of flexibility in a future post.

I’d definitely go back to 10th Planet should the opportunity arise, and want to thank Eddie Bravo, Brent, Joe Rogan, and the rest of the guys for giving me the opportunity to train with them.

Larry The LTrain

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Homecoming Of Sorts

Greetings, and sorry that things have gone quiet on the blog front. I’ve had a few technical writing projects on which I’ve been diligently working for a couple of clients, and between work and training along with the other humdrum responsibilities of life, I’ve been pretty negligent on the blogging front.

But here I am in the City of Angels, and I wanted to blog about last night’s training session at the Gracie Academy. I’m here in Los Angeles for the week, and it made sense to revisit the birthplace of Jiu Jitsu, the same place I visited a couple of years ago just six months into my GJJ Journey.
A great deal has changed for me and my developing GJJ game since my last visit. I’m now able to participate in the “advanced” classes as well as the “Gracie Combatives” classes which everyone may take.

So despite having a MOTHER of a sinus headache along with just finishing conducting a seven hour day-long workshop, I got my worn-out ass together last night and made the 25 minute trip over to Torrance.

The Academy had relocated since my last visit, and the new facility was quite decent, spacious, and appeared to be relatively clean. I paid my mat fee of $40—that’s right—the Gracies haven’t amassed their wealth by cutting blind guys breaks on mat fees, and I went to go get changed and warm up before class.

I my way back to the locker room, I met Ryron Gracie, Rener Gracie’s older brother, and Rorian Gracie’s eldest son. Ryron was on his way out to go teach somewhere in West LA, I think, but he took a few minutes to chill, and talk to me a bit. He’s a nice guy but seems kind of nervous. He walked with me back to the locker room and has an interesting way of offering sighted guide to blind people. In ordinary circumstances, his methods wouldn’t fly with me, for he pretty much grabbed me by the shoulder and neck and pushed me down the long corridor to the locker room. When I tried to correct this unorthodox way of guiding his response was something along the lines of: “I know how to do it right, bro, but I’m a terrible guide, and this is how I do it.” Well, how could I respond to that logic—it isn’t as if I was going to kick his ass or something!

There was a blind guy who was waiting for a ride there, who I guess trains there, although I couldn’t get any specifics out of him, and Ryron introduced me to some blind kid who’s training there with the kids class which was just wrapping up when I arrived, so it’s nice to see that this Academy has a few blind students. I was disappointed that I missed meeting Rorian Gracie by minutes for he was leaving the Academy as I was arriving.

Rener taught the advanced class last night. I reintroduced myself to him before class, and he actually remembered me. We spent a few minutes catching up, for he seems to have a great deal of regard for David Adiv and Royler Gracie—so he was happy to have me participate in the “advanced class”.

People pretty much warmed up on their own, and when Rener got on the mat, he just started class. We spent the class working on positions maintaining the “side mount”. Rener explained and demonstrated in great detail all of the aspects of shifting one’s hips and changing one’s hand and knee positions to adjust when someone tries to escape your side mount and either go to his knees or recover guard. The three scenarios were:
1. Guy tries to bridge into you and buck you off.
2. Guy tries to wedge his knee in front of your hip to recover guard, and
3. Guy turns into you completely to create space.

I learned from Rener that the best way to diffuse a guy taking the underhook while you’re on top is to neutralize the underhook by hooking his far leg. Conversely, when the guy turns into you, switch your hand positions, and underhook the leg closest to you as well as grabbing his shoulder and head as a handle to flatten him back out. He also showed, if the shoulder isn’t an option, how to cup the chin with your hand, almost like a guillotine to turn the person and make them flat.

He also offered some good defenses for avoiding triangles and arm-bars from when the guy tries to recover guard, but isn’t quite there yet. I really appreciated his details, and he really focuses on staying tight and bringing some serious pressure without being muscley at all.

The last part of class was devoted to “rolling”. I rolled with two of his blue-belts from the feet and did OK, although they kept up a pretty decent pace, to be sure. Both were shorter than me, and one was a bit lighter than me—probably by about 20 pounds. I finished one guy with an arm-bar, and then got caught in a really tight triangle choke from the second guy—we went again, and I caught him in a kimura from side mount. I did leave the Academy knowing that I’d been in a work-out—that’s for sure. Everybody there was pretty cool—even the one guy who I almost walked in on while taking a shower was a good sport about the interruption—LOL!

I have a pretty full “dance card” this week, and I’m not sure that I’ll be able to get over to “10th Planet Jiu Jitsu” like I had hoped, but I do plan to go back to the Gracie Academy tomorrow, and possibly Thursday. I’ll post about tomorrow, probably some time tomorrow night.


Larry, the LTrain

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Judo Camp for Blind Athletes

Hi folks,

Just a short blog posting to share a cool video with you. Click To Watch Video
Its footage of a Judo Camp held for blind Judo players out in colorado last weekend. No, this isn't Gracie Jiu Jitsu, but both David Adiv and Royler Gracie have very solid Judo games, to be sure.

I actuallly thought about attending this camp, but my schedule wouldn't permit it. Too bad, for my Judo does kind of suck, and lately, I've been working really hard on the feet to tighten up my grips, throws, and takedown defenses.

This video really manifests the philosophy of this blog--that being, a Martial Art like Judo or Gracie Jiu Jitsu really does put those of us who are blind on an equal playing field with our sighted training partners and opponents. Enjoy the video!


Larry The LTrain

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Training Last Night

Last night’s training was very basic, but good. We worked on a couple of straightforward arm-bars and a choke from the “north-south” position, and I was able to get some questions answered about “pummeling” while on the mat as well as some proper adjustments to my “Gi” grips.

What really impacted me last night was some things that happened during our “rolling” sessions. I rolled with a few people for the first time—one guy is fairly new and a wrestler with good base, and the other guy has trained for a few years. He was training with our team when I began my GJJ training but moved away and trains out of the Akron Area. So I was quite stoked to train with him for a bit.

Regarding the new guy who is a wrestler, I’ve found that wrestlers often present me with some difficulties when they’re in my guard—a wrestler with a good base is fairly tough for me to sweep, so I’m always angling for the submission. But last night, I was pleased that I was able to sweep the wrestler and take his back with both hooks in.

Along that same vein, when training with the gentleman who has trained for a while, I hit a “star sweep” as he stood up in my guard, moved to side control, and submitted him with an arm-lock. I was SOOOOOOO happy about hitting that “star sweep”—a sweep that I’ve drilled a fair amount, but have never hit it “live”! For those readers who aren’t familiar with this sweep, it’s a sweep executed from your guard as your opponent stands to pass the guard. Simply pick a side, hook his ankle hooking from the inside, and use your opposite hand to assist you in backward rolling over the same side shoulder of your arm that has the leg hooked. In the past, my mistake has been that I lose my connection with the guy’s leg and either botch the sweep completely or end up in his guard. Last night, I was able to stay connected and keep the pressure on while advancing to side control where I got the “tap”.

Thirdly, I rolled with a blue belt on our team and was able to actually work in some techniques that we worked on in a class a few weeks ago where we open up the guy’s Gi when he’s in the closed guard and use the bottom edge of the Gi to secure some pretty tight chokes. I was able to control him in this position, but couldn’t finish him with the choke, but I did trap his arm with his Gi and finish with an arm-bar.

On a less positive note, I did a few stupid things yesterday where my guard got passed a few times--mistakes that were innane, and I do find that I'm starting to really get upset with myself when I get myself into predicaments due to carelessness and simply not adhering to the principles that I've learned. I suppose that getting upset doesn't really help me, but as I say "old habits die hard".

It’s finally beginning to sink in with me to really relax, not be so amped up and rigid, and try many of the riskier things that I’ve been drilling. I’ve really had to overcome the whole idea of putting myself into potentially risky situations to try new moves and series of moves with my partners because I really do hate to “tap”. I’m getting a bit better about tapping when I get caught while trying something new or untested by me, although old “redneck” habits do die hard! I feel that I’m beginning to understand the difference between Jiu Jitsu and just “grappling”, and am excited to try a few new tricks tonight. I still haven’t nailed that “monoplata” from the mount yet, but you can be damn sure that it’s coming!


Larry, the LTrain

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Training With The Eyes Closed

I’m borrowing this blog title from a Roger Gracie Brown Belt out of London who wrote an interesting entry to his blog last year about “Training with the Eyes Closed” to improve his own BjJ game. The blog appears to have been discontinued or I’d share his direct thoughts with you. In short, he finds it very helpful to train with his eyes closed, but runs into problems when some of his “rolling partners” feel a bit disrespected when they catch him closing his eyes while rolling with them.

A couple of weeks ago, Darren, our GjJ coach made us all “roll” while handicapping ourselves. This exercise was intended to force us to think about our respective Jiu Jitsu game, and how we might compensate in a specific situation. During a couple of the “rolls”, he made everyone train with their eyes closed. This invoked a fair amount of laughter aimed in my direction from my training partners, and, to be sure, I contributed a bit to the jesting. I think for one of the “rolls”, I didn’t use my right hand for grips, but for the other matches, I just basked in the reality that training without vision comes so naturally for me.

One of our training partners, Mike Martin (AKA “Black Mike” or Mikey) is one of my favorite guys to train with. He’s been training a little bit longer than “yours truly”; he’s about 5 foot 10 and is a fairly solid, athletic 200 lbs—a great size and skill level for me to train with. I’m probably a little bit stronger and a little more “cardio-minded” than Mike, while he has the edge on speed and experience. Lately, Mike and I have had some marathon “rolling” sessions where it has taken us up to 30-45 minutes to “tap” the other.

That night, “Mikey” trained with me with his eyes closed, and it was truly amazing for me to observe how much he relied on his vision when training GJJ. He did very well adjusting to the lack of vision, but I could tell that he was really struggling that night.

Since that time, “Mikey” and I have “rolled” a number of times, and he insists on closing his eyes when “rolling” with me. He says that it helps him really think about “being smooth” with his techniques, and relying on how things “feel” as he works his GJJ game. The other day, he moved so well, that I didn’t believe him at first when he said his eyes were closed, but I have no reason to doubt him.

This whole exercise really gave me a perspective on my own blindness and Jiu Jitsu. I stated early on in my blog that I didn’t view my blindness as a disability. That was a rather “off the cuff” statement which I still believe, but the reality is that anything can handicap a Jiu Jitsu player if he doesn’t use the principles of Jiu Jitsu to help him strategize as to how to solve a given problem. For instance, someone who is not very tall or who doesn’t have very long limbs isn’t going to just automatically develop a good triangle choke without making some necessary adjustments to accommodate his body’s dimensions. Someone who is lighter may prefer to minimize his use of a “stack pass” and focus on more affective ways of passing.

I’ve been thinking about my own game and identifying characteristics of my style that serve as a reflection of my visual impairment. I know that I HAVE TO stay super tight and connected to my opponent without relying on strength. I really like “stacking”, “knee driving”, or “thread passing” to pass the guard, and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a series that focuses on transitioning through a succession of arm-locks from side control, a series that Donald Park showed me last April. Last week, Andres, our 18 year old phenom, showed me a pretty sick “monoplata” from the mount that also plays into my game, and I'm going to try like hell to hit this submission during a "live roll".

So in conclusion, this whole business of “training with the eyes closed” has helped me to identify strengths in my GJJ style as well as some glaring weaknesses, not specific to my lack of sight. I’ve really appreciated being both a participant as well as an interested observer of others throughout this exercise, and have gained even more respect for “Mikey” who is still voluntarily continuing to train with his eyes closed when we train together. It demonstrates a level of humility and a true willingness to learn that many Jiu Jitsu players (including yours truly) would be best served to emulate.


Larry, The LTrain

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The LTrain Gets “Gracied”

Every March, I travel to Los Angeles to both attend and work an International Trade show relevant to my line of work, and this year will be no different. The other day, I was thinking about my trip to Los Angeles next month, and where I might train while visiting the “Left Coast”, for I’ll be out there for about a week. This caused me to think about March 26, 2007, the day I visited the Gracie Academy in Torrance, CA founded by Rorian Gracie.
Prior to my trip to the birthplace of Gracie Jiu Jitsu in the U.S., I had decided that I had to visit this academy, if nothing else, for the experience of meeting some of the Gracies who teach there, to get some invaluable instruction, and to pick up a few souvenirs.

So I made a point to visit, I extended my trip over the weekend, hung out on the beach in Santa Monica on Sunday, and bright and early Monday Morning, March 26, I arrived at the Gracie Academy.

I arrived at approximately 8:30 and the Academy was still locked. In about five minutes this fairly tall kid, probably in his early 20s walked up to the front door, gave me a hearty slap across the back, and welcomed me to the Gracie Academy. Rener Gracie, one of Rorian’s sons, is one of the instructors at the Academy. Rener’s really well known for his technical approach to the Jiu Jitsu game, and I hear he has some pretty nasty foot and leg locks to go with an amazing triangle choke which I soon experienced. I had arranged to take a private lesson with Rener prior to taking a class with students. Once again, I did this primarily for the experience of being taught one on one by a Gracie. To be honest with you, private lessons with a Gracie at this Academy will run you about $300 and up. He’s an excellent teacher, but at that stage of my BJJ journey, I could have been taught by a blue belt and learned just as much as I learned with Rener. But I threw down the cash for this amazing experience.

The lesson was Gi oriented, and we spend probably the first 30 minutes with him showing me four fundamental positions for defending strikes from one’s full guard. At the time, I had never worked this self-defense series from my back, and was amazed how affective these series of movements are for the guy on the bottom. Within 30 minutes, Rener was raining down some pretty decent shots and changing his positions making me work the four different positions that he had shown me. The most difficult of these positions was when someone stands up in your guard, and this is still a weakness in my game today.
The next 20 minutes was spent by Rener helping me to properly adjust my angle when throwing up a triangle choke, and shifting my body to finish the choke. Rener’s got fairly long limbs and can lock down a pretty sick triangle—to be sure, my ears were ringing a little bit during this part of the lesson. We conclude by rolling a bit, and I finally asked him to “smash me” at a blackbelt level so that I could experience it. He asked me if I was sure, and absolutely wrecked me—I’m sure he was still holding back. This was the first time that I’d rolled with a world-class blackbelt, and it was (and I’m sure still would be) entirely overwhelming. We ended the private lesson with this photo session of Rener sinking in the rear naked choke—check it out! If all worked out well, you should see the photo on this page, but I warned you all in my first blog posting not to expect too much out of a blind guy trying to post photos!

At the conclusion of the private lesson, I went to a class taught by Rener. Class was good; I went to a beginner’s class where we worked some basic self-defense. The one thing that I do remember about the class was making the mistake of not “standing up in base” while on the mats. As I stood up, Rener walked by and as I was in the process of standing up, he unceremoniously shoved me to the mat and exclaimed: “What’s up with that, bro? What if you’re in a park somewhere and you’re trying to stand up while some punk is trying to smash you!!!!?” He was mildly upset that I didn’t stand up in base without prompting, and I took his correction to heart and always, out of habit, try to stand up in base in class, and sometimes, just whenever I’m getting up off the floor at home, etc.

I concluded my visit by visiting the gift shop picking up some shirts. It was really a great time there—the facilities were clean and the staff (including Rener) were all very nice and helpful. I’m a bit torn as to what I should do next month—last year, I was a bit tied up and couldn’t train anywhere in Los Angeles, but this year, I’ll have some time to do so; there’s so many decent places to train in that part of the country. I’m actually interested in maybe taking one day and visiting 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu where Eddie Bravo teaches his “rubber guard”, a style that is fairly foreign to me, but is something that I’m interested in gaining more exposure. I’ll report back on what I decide to do, probably after I’ve trained out there, the week of March 16.


Larry the LTrain

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tapped By A Woman!

As I’ve continued blogging, I’ve decided to steer away from my original intent which was to chronologically blog about past and current events occurring throughout my GJJ Journey. I think that it’s good for me to take a much less organized approach to this blog and simply blog about issues that I’m thinking about, or events that I can vividly recall. So allow me to share with you a rather humbling event that occurred about six months into my training.

As I’ve mentioned, I travel a fair amount for business, and I really do try to find decent academies where I can train when I’m on a business trip. There was a time when I focused all of my energies working in my hotel room every spare moment, and while I may have been productive in the short-term, let me tell you that it’s a sure way for anyone to burn themselves out when they don’t have any sort of outlet to relieve the day to day pressures of work life.

This particular trip took me back to the birthplace of the LTrain, Chicago Illinois. Donald Park, a brown belt under RGDA, and founder of Evolution Jiu Jitsu in Cleveland, was living in Chicago at the time, and encouraged me to check out POW! Mixed Martial Arts, located in Chicago’s West Loop, This is an excellent facility which teaches a variety of Martial Arts. The staff are friendly and the facility is clean. Their Jiu Jitsu program is headed up by Dino Costeas who received his purple belt from Rickson Gracie a number of years ago. While I prefer a little more “gi” in my training, Dino runs a great class, and I was very appreciative for Donald allowing me to “drop” his name so that I could train there, for this Academy doesn’t seem to advertise “mat fees” for visitors to drop in and occasionally train.

So I arrived at the gym and after warming up, I rolled a bit with Dino and a couple of his blue belts. Instruction was light that evening with an emphasis on “rolling”. I remember that we worked a few straight arm-bars from a few different angles, and I was quite impressed at the pace Dino and his team kept. I’ve heard others talk about the conditioning of grapplers in the Midwest and how their cardio is off the charts. Well, Dino’s team proved to be no exception to this rule. He was very helpful to me and offered lots of suggestions to me relating to controlling one’s hips and passing one’s guard. But enough about that, what was really etched in my memory happened after Dino and I were finished.

I was approached by this young lady named Jamie. She’s a Jiu Jitsu player who, at the time, had been training for approximately four years and I believe had either just received her purple belt, or was about to receive it. I would guess her to be in her mid 20s, and she was keeping up with that relentless pace that the rest of the team was setting. She asked me if I wanted to “roll”. I was really taken aback, for I’d never rolled with a woman before, and found the situation quite awkward. She didn’t give me much time to think about it or respond. She just sat to guard as she pulled me down by the arm exclaiming “Come on! Let’s GO!” So here I am in the full guard of a young woman who smelled great, and by all sighted accounts, looked as good as she smelled. I am a huge fan of the opposite sex, and had really never given much thought about training with women. But here I was, in the thick of it with someone who had a very active guard, and, as I ascertained rather quickly, wasn’t there to play games. Within seconds, she had broken my posture and was controlling my right arm. As I tried to posture up, she threw up her hips and extended my arm.

“HOLY SHIT!” I thought to myself. I’m really in trouble here. Jamie just slowly raised her hips, and it was “tap” or get my arm broken. I reluctantly tapped. We rolled again, and by this time, I was quickly forgetting that I was rolling with a woman. I passed to half-guard briefly before she recovered guard and swept me taking side control. I was able to regain guard, but she was able to pass at will. We rolled for about fifteen minutes and I think she tapped me another time or to. Needless to say, the experience was an enlightening one.

I learned a great deal from this experience. The first thing that I learned is that when I step on the mat, I want to be perceived as just a Jiu Jitsu player. I’ve had to really go hard with certain assholes outside of Team Evolution, and even a couple of visitors to our academy, who feel that they need to go easy on me because I’m blind. Respect is very important to me, and disrespect isn’t tolerated by me. I didn’t extend this respect and courtesy to Jamie until she tapped it out of me. To me, she was just a very attractive woman who needed to be handled as such. I really disrespected her as an fellow BJJ player, and I was quite sorry about that. I’ve trained with a number of female BJJ players since then, and have really learned my lesson well, for when I’m on the mat with them, I basically put it out of my mind that I’m training with a woman. My main focus is being the best training partner that I can be for them as well as learning whatever I can from them. Jiu Jitsu really has a way of breaking down some serious stereotypes, for the principles of this art really lend themselves to serving women well because leverage and technique definitely supersede strength and power. In the rare event that she ever reads this blog entry, I’d like to thank Jamie for adding to my growth and maturity as a BJJ student, and apologize for initially disrespecting her


Larry the LTrain

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Killing “Cavejitsu”!

Sorry for the delay in blogging. Last week I got hit with a pesky winter cold which derailed “The Train’s” training schedule, and business for me has been a little bit crazy as of late.

In the wake of Helio Gracie’s passing, I’ve been fortunate to have listened to some interviews on-line by people who actually knew, and trained with Professor Gracie. One of the underlying themes of these interviews has been Helio’s great attention toward developing an art that is solely based on technique whereby much smaller individuals can survive against much larger opponents. This sounds good to all of us, but I was struck by how profound this philosophy is while training with Darren Branch, my Jiu Jitsu coach this week. Darren’s really been on me to be much more fluid and less rigid when “rolling”. Darren and I have a pretty good relationship, and he knows that I respond well to harsh criticism at times, and this is often hard for him to give.

Darren and I had a private training session yesterday where I spent some time working some half-guard positions that I have wanted to review as well as a sweep from the “butterfly guard”. Of course, we had a spirited “roll” for about the last 30 minutes of the private lesson. He stopped me a few minutes into the “roll” and was pretty emphatic about me “breathing”, “relaxing”, and being more fluid with all of my movements. I’m generally pretty loose when I’m doing well in a sparring session, but at the first sign of trouble, I tense up, and as I like to call it, I “caveman” through the problem. “Cavemanning”, as defined by the LTrain, is the process of throwing all of what I have learned out the window and relying on brute strength to muscle through a predicament. In one of the interviews that I listened to, the interviewee was pretty adamant about Helio’s dislike for such an alternative, going as far as saying that “relying on one’s physical strength is not what I develop or teach”.

Those words coupled with Darren’s mild annoyance with me really helped drive that point home yesterday, and so I tried it—I just relaxed and focused on thinking about Jiu Jitsu principles and movements rather than “not tapping”. The result was an excellent “roll” with one of my favorite training partners. Ironically, I didn’t feel gassed at all after the “session”. My cardio is pretty good, and I generally can hang in there longer than a lot of folks who are quite a bit younger than me, but I really felt different yesterday. I totally felt as if I could go a lot longer, for I didn’t feel like I spent a great deal of energy or strength at all. Of course, I still had a good “LTrain sweat” going—but it felt so different yesterday. I’m out of town today, which is why I worked in the private lesson, but I can’t wait to really “tune up the band” tomorrow night and really start throwing all caution to the wind and focus on more fluidity, movement, and overall BJJ activity no matter what position I’m playing. As much as it pains me sometimes, the days of “Cavejitsu” are coming to an end—they have to if I expect to advance my overall GJJ game.

Larry, the LTrain

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Tribute To The "Gracie Way"

Well, by now, all of you probably know that yesterday morning, Professor Helio Gracie died at the age of 95 at his home in Brazil. I actually didn’t find this out until our training session last night. At first, I took the news in stride. After all, Helio was 95 years old, and led a full life. But as I thought about this news during and after class, I began to feel both sad and grateful—sad for Helio’s family, for the Gracies have lost their patriarch who has made immeasurable contributions to the world of Martial Arts. I felt a sense of gratitude for this man bringing to us Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Without Helio, Jiu Jitsu as we know it today would not have defined and permeated mixed Martial Arts or vale tudo fighting. Without Helio’s brand of Jiu Jitsu, there would be a lot more victims in this violent world.. And without the philosophies evident in the Jiu Jitsu he created, the familial-like comradery that is prevalent between Jiu Jitsu teams and their members who ordinarily wouldn’t hang out with each other, wouldn’t exist. So I’ll add my voice to the “thank-yous” that are echoing around the Martial Arts world to the man who has given to us all so much. I’d also like to express my deepest sympathies to his family, and hope that time coupled with lots of good Helio memories might dull the pain that they must feel. Visit the Gracie Academy. on-line to read about Helio’s passing, and to read a decent tribute by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, visit

Needless to say, we didn’t stick to the ordinary class format last night. Darren taught a couple of sweeps from the open guard which can be executed when somebody stands up to pass your guard. This is my most obvious, glaring weakness in my BjJ game. I absolutely HATE defending the pass when people stand up, and usually deal with it with a couple of sweeps while keeping my guard locked. I felt OK with the first sweep he showed, a tripod sweep that I’ve drilled before, but had a great deal of difficulty with the second sweep. I know that I need to work diligently on parts of my game that are my weakness, so I’ll blog about this second sweep after I execute it successfully at least 50 more times!

At 10:00 p.m. last night, we had a moment of silence in honor of Helio. It was the first time that I’ve heard Darren not speak for 60 seconds while awake—LOL—so I know that Helio’s passing had a profound affect on him as well.

We then split the class into two teams and had matches. I won my match, but I wasn’t happy with my rather shitty rolling performance last night. I don’t know if I was just tired, or the news about Helio was bothering me, but my Jiu Jitsu was at about a C Grade level—I just couldn’t get moving, or put things together—don’t ask me why, but I was beginning to rely on my brand of "caveman jiu-jitsu" and muscle through things too much. So as a self-imposed punishment, I forced myself to roll for a while with Andres, our team’s 18 year old phenom who, (and here comes an LTrain prediction) will be a black belt world champion by the age of 21.

At the risk of embarrassing her (which is not my intent, for she reads this blog from time to time),I was extremely impressed with one of our female students, Aekam, who had a hell of a match last night. Aekam’s been training for around 7 months, I believe, and she had a match against a blue belt who’s been training over twice as long as her, and who outweighs her by about 25 pounds. Aekam really hung tough for the entire match using Jiu Jitsu principles to keep herself safe and stay in the match. I really haven’t paid much attention to her rolling up until last night, but I have to say that she really exemplified what Gracie Jiu Jitsu was all about in her match. Without technique, Aekam wouldn’t have been able to control someone that much bigger and stronger than her, and that is what Helio Gracie’s brand of Jiu Jitsu is all about. It was only fitting that she had such a good showing on the day that he died.



Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another Great Internet Resource, And Musings About 01/26/2009’s Gi Class

The other day, I received an e-mail from my friend, Billy Hofacker, Operations Manager and one of the lead instructors at Serra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Matt serra’s School in Long Island. I’ve had the good fortune to have trained at Serra-Jitsu a few days last summer while in NY City on business.

Along with being an excellent BJJ player, Billy’s really into fitness, conditioning, and nutrition. He sent along this website that I wanted to post on my blog, “Training for MMA Fitness”

It’s a great website full of interesting facts and strategies for improving one’s fitness, cardio, strength training, nutrition, etc. There’s even a few free self-assessment tools that you can use to help modify or create a fitness plan for yourself. While I realize that GJJ prides itself on a smaller, weaker individual being able to defeat a larger, stronger opponent, I still think it’s important to compliment my own Jiu Jitsu training with a decent fitness program as well as pay attention to what I eat and drink. I still have my membership to my local gym although I go there quite a bit less than I would go prior to beginning my BJJ Journey. But I still go. I focus heavily on cardio exercises, and I have changed up my strength training a bit to sustain leaner, more durable muscle mass. I also stay away from a lot of pushing exercises like the bench press for I have a bad habit of trying to “muscle” back to guard when somebody has me in side control rather than relying on technique. I stick more to pulling exercises like rowing and lat pulldowns and incorporate exercises that will also improve my grip strength.

Now, regarding class last Monday: Darren taught a very basic, yet extremely detailed class on pulling open guard with the gi. I’ve done this a fair amount in the past, but have never felt real comfortable doing it. But Monday felt different. I’ve been working very hard to immediately pick a side to turn to when achieving any form of open or closed guard, for I have a habit of being TOO FLAT. Monday felt really good—I’m fairly comfortable with the gi grips and the mechanics of pulling open guard, and I’m creating decent tension with my partners while doing so. We worked triangle chokes and arm bar set-ups from this position. I need to work on elevating my hips when I don’t break down my partner when taking an arm bar. The triangle felt a little better to me. But I really have to focus on better hip movement from the open guard. I’ve been trying to open the guard more while rolling in an attempt to expand my submission game, and Monday’s class was extremely helpful to me. No class last night due to inclement weather—yes, Darren’s developing a bit of common sense—smiles! So I'm really antsy to have a good class and to roll really hard tonight!


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Defending A Somewhat Bold Statement

In my second blog post, I made a statement that I have since been thinking about quite a bit. I now realize that without a bit of explanation, the statement could seem rather brash and arrogant—this was not my intent, so here comes the statement followed by the explanation:

I said: “Leverage, technique, and focusing on the principles of Jiu Jitsu vs. just learning individual moves makes this Art the most affective fighting system to which I have ever been exposed.” Who am I to make such a claim, and why do I believe that the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Art is the “most” affective” fighting system?

Firstly, you should know that I have a great respect for traditional Martial Arts. I actually have earned a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo—an accomplishment that I’m very proud of. While this is a Jiu Jitsu blog, here comes a few photos of this accomplishment. Click any to enlarge.

Photo of the LTrain at his TKD Black Belt Testing using his right fist to smash through a stack of wood on bricks in order to get to the Black Belt that had been placed underneath the boards.

Photo of 6th Degree Master Rick Morad tying on the LTrain's Black Belt for the very first time.

Photo of the LTrain adjusting the fit of his new Black Belt.

Photo of the LTrain bowing to 6th Degree Master Rick Morad after receiving his TKD Black Belt.

I believe that many of the striking arts have a number of valuable skills that one can learn, and I’m actually a big proponent of the physical fitness benefits of such disciplines.

But we’re talking about a “fighting system” here, and what techniques serve as the best means of defending oneself. I’ll base my assertions on some of the altercations in which I’ve been involved in the past as well as what I have learned thus far on the GJJ self-defense front. What are the primary goals when engaged in a physical confrontation? In my estimation these are, but may not be limited to the following:
1. Keep yourself safe! All of the fancy, flashy strikes in the world aren’t going to help you if you end up looking like the one who lost the fight. The best way that I know how to keep myself safe is to: “Close the distance” between me and my assailant, one of the first things taught in the self-defense element of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, and a life-saver if you are blind!
2. Control the tempo of the fight: Let your assailant determine how the fight is finished. Prior to beginning my journey in Gracie Jiu Jitsu, my immediate reaction would be to totally wreck somebody if it came down to a physical confrontation. The self-defense aspect of GJJ allows you to confidently allow your opponent to determine whether the fight ends peacefully, or badly for him.
3. End the confrontation: Depending on how your assailant responds to point number 2, you can “finish” the fight accordingly. I’ve heard Professor David Adiv state on more than one occasion that choking somebody out is the most humane way to end a confrontation. You don’t bust up your hands, and you don’t break your attackers bones, knock out their teeth, etc. You just put them out for a little while and walk away unscathed.

Below are links to two videos on YouTube that support the above three assertions. The first is a video of Royce Gracie fighting a Kung-fu expert.

Obviously, this is not a street fight, but the principles of Gracie Jiu Jitsu self-defense are exemplified in this video; and Rorian Gracie’s narrative describes what is happening throughout this fight extremely well for readers who are vision impaired.

The second video which is also posted on Youtube is less descriptive for persons who are vision impaired.

In this video, brothers Rickson and Royler Gracie walk through the various self-defense moves principles, and strategies prevalent in Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

From a BjJ player’s perspective, I realize that the self-defense aspect of GJJ might become a bit tedious and boring for some who wish to improve their sport BjJ game. But I’m committed in my own BjJ game to always remember and practice the basics of this art form and to not forget why I started studying GJJ in the first place. Renner Gracie often concludes his instructional video clips by saying: "Keep it real! And Keep it Gracie." To me, that statement sums up the essence of this post.


Larry, the LTrain

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Referencing An Internet Resource, And Thoughts About A Rolling Concept Recently Introduced To Me

Many of you who have been around the BjJ game for some time are probably aware of this wonderful internet resource, but maybe it has evaded you. And, if you’re new to the game, or somebody who is interested in BJJ, then this resource will be a great place for you to start.

The Fightworks Podcast is a website whereby a couple of BjJ players post a weekly podcast that is posted every Sunday, and these downloads are chock full of great interviews as well as the latest BJJ news and happenings. There’s a very solid interview with Royler Gracie on the November 23,2008 download discussing his relocation to the U.S., which is a great thing for those of us who train with RGDA. I strongly encourage you, if you have not subscribed to these podcasts and e-mail news alerts to DO IT, for it’s definitely worth your time. If nothing else, this past Sunday’s podcast made my hour run at the gym go a lot quicker the other day—LOL!

Speaking of the January 18 download, the Fightworks team interviewed Ryan Hall, a brown belt who used to train with Lloyd Irvine’s team, but is opening up his own academy in Arlington, VA. Hall has the distinction of having over 200 triangle submissions in competitions, and sounds like a very knowledgeable guy. He talked about a concept which really hit home for me. He equated the Art of grappling to the discipline of learning a language. This was particularly interesting for me, for I have a background in educational and of Master of Arts in English. He continues by musing that words in and of themselves mean nothing, and a string of words mean nothing—much like a string of moves that don’t really flow don’t really mean anything on the mat, and will generally lead to one getting smashed.

He continues by illustrating this by putting words that don’t adhere to the rules of English together as a string of words, and then goes into greater detail as to how some moves might or might not work in a particular series. Team RGDA focuses a great deal on learning principles of BJJ in conjunction with the moves that comprise these principles, and hearing Mr. Hall articulate this philosophy using something as basic as human language really hit home for me. Now, if I could just make my body always do what my head wants me to do…

He also had some good tips for stretching and improving one’s flexibility. He can even supposedly put himself in a triangle, which I’m sure goes over very well at parties! The interview in its entirety is definitely worth a listen.

With Much Respect

Monday, January 19, 2009

LTrain’s Introduction to Gracie Jiu Jitsu—Day 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, I began my formal journey in Gracie Jiu Jitsu on November 4, 2006. I should back up, though, and mentioned that a week prior to this introduction, I walked into the Academy while Professor David Adiv, one of Royler Gracie’s U.S. Representatives was conducting a seminar for Team Evolution under team Royler Gracie-David Adiv (RGDA), the team with whom I train. I remember walking in while David was in the middle of meticulously explaining something, and I felt pretty sheepish walking in, so I quickly turned to leave. Before I could turn around I felt a hand on my shoulder, and this young man, who I at first thought was a kid, stopped me and pulled me over to the side. “So what’s going on, bro?” he asks, and I tell him why I’m there. This was my first encounter with Darren Branch, a purple belt under RGDA. Darren’s about 5 foot 6 and weighs about 140 pounds, fully clothed, and is a prime example of how affective Gracie Jiu Jitsu can be. For those readers who are unaware of the Gracie Family and its founding of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you can read more about its origins by visiting for I don’t want to waste blog space giving a historical run-down of this Art and how it came to be. Nevertheless, the philosophy which undergirds GJJ is that through leverage and technique, a smaller individual can affectively defend himself against a much larger and stronger opponent/assailant.

Darren encouraged me to hang out and listen to the seminar, but I felt a little out of place. I did promise him that I’d come back, though, and he gave me his word that he’d be there ready to help me. I asked him if he thought that my blindness would present any problems for me learning GJJ, and his response was: “Nah, bro—it’ll be easy!” This guy, who I had never met, then hugged me and told me that he was “really happy that I came by”! I was a little wigged out about this at first never having met the guy before—is he coming onto me, or does he really love GJJ that much???? I was relieved to have quickly discovered that it was indeed the latter. Darren lives and breathes Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

I arrived at Team Evolution’s Academy wearing a pair of sweats and a T-shirt. I'm about 6 feet tall, and at the time, I was weighing in at about 225 lbs. I’ve since shed approximately 30 pounds as a result of the Jiu Jitsu workouts, some diet modifications, and changing up my strength training program a bit. My first class was an amazing experience. We didn’t work on anything too difficult—just some basic drills working arm bars from the guard as well as a little bit of pummeling and takedown defense from the feet. The two concepts I came away with from that class were “posture” and “base”. What struck me about the class was how helpful everyone was, and how much everyone enjoyed being there. I was, and still am, always impressed with Darren’s attention to describing moves and techniques in such great detail, that even if you can’t see him perform a given technique, his teaching style lends itself to understanding what he is showing. And, he was so great about coming over to me after each technique and personally showing me what he was doing. I’ve taken classes from some black belts who don’t pay attention to a fraction of the detail that Darren shows.

As if the formal learning part of the class wasn’t enough of a work-out, the “rolling” portion was even more invigorating, and somewhat painful. So, you need to understand that at this point, I’m still not quite a believer in this Gracie Jiu Jitsu thing. Darren must of sensed this because he walked over to me and asked me if I wanted to roll (spar) a bit. At this point I’m thinking to myself: “I’m really gonna smash this little shit.” Well, it didn’t exactly go down that way. We both lock up on the feet and Darren lets me take him down. He immediately wraps his legs around me in the “full guard” position and chokes me out—it was either “tap out” (submit) or fall asleep in this small man’s lap! We engage a 2nd time. This time, Darren took me down rather unceremoniously, quickly gained a dominant position in “side control” and arm barred me. What I lack in technique, I do make up for in persistence, so I come back for a third time. This time, Darren was quite a bit more forceful with the takedown, got a full mount, and arm barred me again. At this point, I’m both amazed and a little bit dejected that this guy who I outweighed by over 70 pounds was owning me on the mat. He walks up to me afterward and puts his arm across my shoulder and I say: “That didn’t go so well.” What Darren said next totally made me feel better and set the tone for my participation in future classes. “It’s not that it didn’t go so well. You’re just a big, tough guy who doesn’t know anything!” This really made me laugh, and drove home what Gracie Jiu Jitsu means to me. Leverage, technique, and focusing on the principles of Jiu Jitsu vs. just learning individual moves makes this Art the most affective fighting system to which I have ever been exposed. It was a great day, and one that will be forever etched into my memory. The greatest thing about it was, when I stepped onto the mat for the first time, my blindness didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I was there to learn, and had a great group of guys to help me learn. I work very hard now to make any new guy who comes to the Academy feel like I felt that first day, and do whatever I can to make them comfortable and help them learn. That’s what Royler Gracie-David Adiv Jiu Jitsu is all about. To learn more about RGDA on the web, visit To visit Team Evolution on the web, go to
Larry, The LTrain