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