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