Sunday, July 31, 2011

Guard passing thoughts

There are many different approaches/styles to guard passing. Most of the time, they fall into the three following categories:

1) Over the guard
2) Under the guard
3) Around the guard

Alternating between these three types of passes makes it hard for the bottom person to stop, and is what most high level players do.

Guard and passing the guard can be viewed as an arms race, where new types of guards/moves are developed and new passes are also developed to counter them. A particular guard may be popular because a lot of people are not yet familiar with how to deal with it (the 50/50 for example) but as time goes on, the focus may shift to a different position. Also as a response, the corresponding guard passes also shift in popularity.

Now a great classic between Reuben Corbinha Charles and Ryan Hall

Friday, July 29, 2011

What is MMA (today)

This weekend, one of the greatest legends in MMA, Fedor Emeliankenko, is putting it all on the line and is fighting Dan Henderson. Although not directly related to BJJ, this match up should be an interesting one for all. MMA today is not just a single art and truly has become a hybrid style. This is evident when watching these fighters.

Both have really strong grappling, especially from the top position, and both are also heavy handed. In my opinion, the one factor that will play a huge part is the size difference. I view the fight going in a very similar direction to Matt Lindland's fight against Fedor.

Nowadays, you can see BJJ in most high level MMA fights in a modified fashion of course. I feel that there is a threshold of skill necessary to apply it in an MMA fight as well from the bottom position. Unfortunately I also feel that Fedor and Henderson are not the strongest in that position, and the person who is able to control the takedowns will most likely win.

Now a video of Fedor training for the fight.

what is brazilian jiu jitsu to you

For some, BJJ is a way of life. But in terms of goals and how it is applied, things can vary greatly. As my coach says, BJJ is necessary for MMA but not the other way around. And personally I am fine with that. Some enjoy BJJ as a pure art, just for the competition. Others, use it as a tool to help them fight in the cage.

If you never claim that it is more or less than what it truly is (i.e. being honest) then I feel that nobody can really say anything bad regarding that.

However, if you solely train BJJ but act like you are an accomplished MMA fighter... then you are just deluding yourself. This applies really to anything else really... such as Taekwondo, Kung Fu, Judo, wrestling, etc.

The "base" argument from where this stemmed from was years ago when relatively unskilled people fought each other just using ONE style. When that happened, then yes the BJJ guys most certainly dominated.

But again, nowadays people know better and mix up the styles.

Now a slick submission by Jordan Schultz

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cobrinha guard pass into back take (gi)

Here is just a good video I came across. Although the guy is not actually Cobrinha, it is indeed a move done by him.

The guard pass goes straight into the back mount, which is something I noticed that is very common amongst high level athletes. (In any grappling art).

i recall reading one time in an article written by Lloyd Irvin that transitions are something that can be practiced to the point where someone with less experience can beat a far more experienced person simply because he is beating them with transitions.

Now the video:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Learning in context

Something that can be difficult as a student is when you learn techniques that may not be usable right away. What I mean by this is that either you are too much of a novice to apply an advanced technique in a live match. A large part of this is the instructors responsibility to teach appropriate moves for everyone, but at the same time it is difficult to cater to all of the students.

One thing that makes a big difference is attendance. This actually may single handedly be the most important part of training, because you are forced to gain so much experience and exposure to the techniques that more and more of them become relevant to your own game.

The second thing that makes a big difference is to study applicable moves for your game outside of class. This easily hastens progress and fills holes quicker than waiting for your instructor to teach the right move to you, if ever.

Now a great highlight of Felipe Pena (world champ)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Styles revisited: wrestling

One thing I've been told many times was that "styles make fights". This was mainly regarding MMA, but I believe the same applies in BJJ. Although at the highest levels of elite BJJ, right now the athletes are strong from essentially everywhere... differences in styles can be more apparent when people are coming up in the ranks.

One very glaring difference is the difference between a novice with wrestling experience, and one without.

When faced against each other, almost always the beginner with the wrestling will assume the top position, and the other will play guard.

Now, what is interesting is that the non-wrestler will get crushed almost every time if he attempts to use sweeps that eventually turn into wrestling take-downs because he is out-matched in that area severely. (whereas the wrestler is able to turn sweeps into wrestling take-downs at will against inferior wrestlers).

What eventually happens?

The wrestler continues to derive success from turning pretty much everything into a wrestling take-down or a scramble, whereas the non-wrestler begins to rely on more technical guard work to dominate position against anybody regardless.

Not that either approach is wrong, but just an observation I've made.

Now a very exciting match featuring Justin Rader

Monday, July 25, 2011

Drilling vs Rolling

Depending on the school you train at, different amounts of emphasis may be placed on drilling and rolling. Although this is subject to debate, both have great merits.

The way I look at it is like this:

Rolling is only effective once you actually know what you are doing. If you are so brand new that you can't even demonstrate a move with accuracy against a drilling partner, then drilling is more beneficial.

Drilling is the precursor to rolling, and a considerable amount of time should be spent getting the techniques clean.

When a teacher shows a technique, often times it is like playing a game of telephone, where the students only retain some of the details.

A good practice would be to remember the technique you learned in class, and then look it up online later to catch details that you may have missed.

Now a back take from the de la riva guard.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"A" game camping

WHen you roll with people that are less experienced than yourself, it is very easy to become overly concerned with just "winning" the roll instead of focusing on drilling/practicing new movements.

Some examples would be:

1) A guy who is awesome at guillotines doing nothing but tapping all of the white belts with that one move.
2) A guy with a very strong wrestling background spazzing out and only playing his top game against all of the white belts.
3) A guy with a super deadly guard game only playing bottom against all of the white belts.

I call this "A" game camping, where you only practice your best moves.

Rolling like this has its place, but most of the time it is not the right way to practice.

The short term benefit is that you will be better at playing your own game. However in the long run, your game will not evolve and you will have a very tough time beating anyone who is more advanced.

So remember, open your game up and don't be afraid to lose to your training partners, even if they are less experienced!

A repost, but the mendes brothers doing their leg drag pass

Friday, July 22, 2011

BJJ for mma

Nobody can deny that MMA is the reason why BJJ became popular at first. Royce Gracie shocked the world in the early 90s by beating a lot of dudes using submissions. However, nowadays it is very common for people to just enjoy the sport for what it is, even with no interest in fighting MMA.

The same applies for boxing, wrestling, muay thai, etc.

But what if you do want do venture into the cage? Do you have to train any differently?

The answer is most certainly yes. Regardless of what it is you train, preparing for MMA requires a different approach to the craft. There are a lot of positions in all of the sports I just listed that are simply not optimal for the cage, and should be practiced accordingly.

The best athletes for each sport, move in ways that are optimal for their specific sport. So remember, while you can train everything individually, putting it all together and picking and choosing techniques is the hard part.

now a highlight video of George St. Pierre, arguably the best athlete ever to fight in MMA

Thursday, July 21, 2011

gi vs no gi

When it comes down to gi vs no gi training/competition... people seem very polarized in opinion. Marcelo Garcia says that to get good at no gi, you must master the gi. Eddie Bravo on the other hand would say the exact opposite.

In my opinion, a large amount of techniques are actually shared between the two. And since both are pretty important parts of BJJ, training should be divided roughly 50/50 % between the two.

I feel that in no gi, the skill disparity between two people is not as evident as with the gi on, simply because of the amount of available moves that are taken away.

Now here is the "classic sweep" or "shaolin sweep" done by world champion Robson Moura

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Leg locks in training

Some academies look down upon beginners training leg locks. This is because certain leg locks (heel hooks in particular) can cause damage much faster than a normal submission. Most beginners will crank the heel hook a little too hard and the person getting submitted won't even feel the pain until it is too late.

This is fine if you are simply training for your own skill level in the gi. However certain tournaments allow leg locks in no gi very early on in skill level.

To ease into it, I believe they can slowly be drilled to feel out the pain thresh-hold and can be applied SOFTLY during rolling. There should be a mutual understanding between training partners where you know that the person who is applying it is not doing it full force.

And tapping early to the leg locks in training at least is encouraged (until you get more advanced).

Now another slick submission by Davi Ramos

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Changing it up

Although consistency is amazing for improvement in pretty much anything, not having enough variation can definitely take its toll.

Whether it be rolling with the same person over and over again, or having the same type of drills/rolling patterns... changing it up every so often makes the training fresh and also challenges the body in different ways.

This can be anything from changing the length of the rounds, to changing the number of people you roll with each class.

Even bringing in a guest instructor to see a perspective from a different style can make a world of a difference.

So remember, if you feel that your training is getting too repetitive in one aspect or another, don't be afraid to ask your instructor after class for some variation.

Now a recent match between Joao Assis and Davi Ramos

Monday, July 18, 2011

Measuring sticks

It is very common to use your training partners or other people at different gyms as measuring sticks.

Perhaps someone was promoted to the next belt before you, or you feel that you can beat someone at your own gym consistently.

Unfortunately, BJJ does not have unified standards, but several that depend entirely on the instructor. This does place a heavy emphasis on the instructor's competence when it comes to the promotions, as well as possible discrepancies amongst different practitioners.

In the end, just remember that your improvement is much better measured as a statistic (many many tournament matches against people your own skill/weight).

Now one of the most important guard passes, the X-pass by Saulo Ribiero.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Spider guard techniques

Today I bring you a few techniques from Caio Terra and friends for the spider guard. It is a position that is much more effective with the gi on, and one that can be uncomfortable to get used to at first. However, the concepts that are used to produce effective pressure from here are ones that can be carried over to many other positions in guard, and should be studied!

Even if this is not a position you currently are comfortable using yet, at least understanding how the attacks come from here help a good amount in defending against it.

Now on to the video!

Friday, July 15, 2011

What I learned at each belt level so far

Looking back on my BJJ progression, it is interesting to note what I picked up at each belt level. Not that this is the end all be all for everyone, but just to provide a glimpse of perspective:

White belt: Aside from basics (escapes and a simple move from everywhere), I learned how to do the straight ankle lock and practiced it a very large number of times. In addition to this, I picked up one half guard sweep that was pretty reliable that also set up the foot lock. 100% of my tournament victories at this level were probably because of these 2 moves.

Blue Belt: I began adding a chain of moves from each position, so regardless of which position it was, I had about 3 go to moves I could rely on. In terms of sweeping, I added a butterfly sweep, and the x-guard that I felt very comfortable utilizing. Also, I spent a considerable time rolling with training partners that were far bigger, so my game was shaped around dealing with that problem. Towards the end, I began working on de la riva and deep half.

Purple belt: This is a belt that I've had for a long time now, and I feel that my game began to truly feel like it was "fleshing out" at this point. I've had countless hours to practice de la riva, reverse de la riva, deep half guard, 3-5 moves from each, FULL guard and set ups from there, takedowns, and guard passing. In addition to that, I've focused a good amount on actual submission finishes and transitions for them as well. Although it seems like I learned a lot before I got to this point, I might even go as far as to say I've learned more at this level than I have in the previous levels combined.

now a great video from Robson Moura

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to roll with beginners

Always crushing your training partners during rolls may help build up a game plan for yourself for upcoming tournaments, but that kind of practice should not always be the norm.

When you do this, your less experienced training partners may not have an opportunity to learn/improve their mistakes.

It is important to first correct any bad habits they are doing (such as trying to complete a guillotine choke even when their guard is passed), and forcing them to drill/use a good technical movement from the position.

The rolls with novices can also be used to practice parts of YOUR game that you are uncomfortable with, because even if you make a mistake you probably won't get punished too badly.

Now an amazing sweep combination from Andre Galvao

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Conditioning/working out

I've said this briefly before, but when two athletes of similar skill compete against each other, the one that is more conditioned/stronger will most likely win most of the time. Some people approach this by spending all of their time just trying to get more and more technical. Whereas others, either try to compensate greatly with strength/conditioning. Clearly at the highest level of BJJ, there is a good balance between the two. You will sometimes get an exception to the rule, but for the most part this applies.

So long story short: whether you are doing this seriously or casually, finding time to lift/condition yourself is always beneficial. Don't limit yourself!

Now a great match between JT Torres and Dan Simmler

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Novice habits

It is a confusing time to be a brand new white belt. Often times, you are told not to "spazz" out, yet when you go too easy, you are encouraged to be aggressive. The ultimate goal is to become more technical, and you should always remember to practice what you KNOW to be technically sound moves.

If you do not know what to do from a position, and/or get stuck in a position, it is always better to ask someone more experienced what to do. Practicing the WRONG thing over and over and over will only develop bad habits that will be hard to break later on.

Finally, remember that even the most basic of technique that may appear to be 3 steps can be broken down into 20+ by a more advanced practitioner. Ask a lot of questions! It helps!

Now some de la riva sweeps from the mendes brothers. A display of the highest possible level of technique in my opinion.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel

When you train with the same people all the time, it becomes easy to lose sight of what your full potential could be. It may be due to the fact that you just can't beat one of your training partners, or maybe because you are too used to everyone's style (and they are also used to yours). That is when it helps to look at the best in your weight class and see how their techniques and style differ from yours. To me, this is the light at the end of the tunnel: I see what my full potential could look like and have some direction.

A good example of possibly the highest level of technique seen in a match:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Champions do it differently

When you watch videos online of champions rolling, they execute a lot of the basic moves as well as advanced moves with ease. But there are very subtle differences between them and an average athlete that may be hard to pick up.

A few noticeable differences:

1) Their selection of moves
2) The set ups for these particular moves
3) The number of steps involved in each move

As the sport of BJJ evolves, so do the moves and more and more of the top players begin to add the same moves to their repertoire. This is not by accident, and should be noted.

Watch this following video by one of the best lightweights Augusto Tanquinho Mendes and see the high level of detail in it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Training intensity

One thing that tends to happen the more experienced you get, is that you tend to go "easy" on your less experienced partners. While this is beneficial to both people at times, it also develops some bad habits and in addition creates plateaus. Specifically, in tournaments, you may be so conditioned on taking it easy that you may play too lazy or lack intensity/use too little strength/speed when necessary against a similarly skilled opponent.

A good way to circumvent this problem is to have tournament specific training especially when the date of a competition draws near. Remember to keep the intensity up and not be afraid to gas out in training (so it doesn't happen when it really matters)

Now a great video on guillotines by Kenny Florian

Friday, July 8, 2011

History lesson: BJJ edition

So at one point or another, most people who practice BJJ wonder where it came from. I would first recommend doing a thorough google search to read the whole detailed history. But in a nutshell, here it is:

1532: First time "Jiu Jitsu" term was used (Japanese). Originally meant for the battlefield
~1870: Judo was developed from Jiu Jitsu by Jigoro Kano
1915: "Count Koma" introduces Jiu-Jitsu to the Gracie family in Brazil
1925: Carlos Gracie opens up his Jiu Jitsu school and with the help of his brothers (most notably Helio Gracie) develops BJJ into the sport/martial art as we know it today.

1993: The first UFC takes place, and Royce Gracie defeats all opponents by submission regardless of weight

Now a highlight of Royce back in the day

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Strength in competition

Due to the nature of the divisions separated by weight classes in tournaments, strength plays a huge part in the outcome of matches. Assuming all things are equal skill-wise, the athlete who is stronger and better conditioned will most likely win.

But sometimes, even high level athletes develop a very strength dependent style. They are stronger than their opponents the majority of the time, and use that to their advantage (utilizing moves that may not normally work otherwise).

Assuming that they are indeed stronger than their opponents MOST of the time, they will indeed win MOST of their matches. However, it would be foolish to assume that someone more powerful won't come along. Case in point, this following match:

Rustam Chsiev vs Tom Malenksi.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


How we deal with criticism has a huge impact on our improvement.

Most of the time, you will see beginners not very receptive to it. You say one thing they can improve on, but they respond with everything that they claim they were doing "right".

When you look at the more advanced athletes, no matter how good they are, they simply acknowledge that there was something they could have done better and work on it.

So remember, nobody is perfect and the only way to avoid plateaus is to embrace criticism!

now a highlight of my coach that I just made

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pass the guard

From what I've seen through the years, it seems like sweeping is the skill that is much easier to develop than guard passing. A lot of blue/purple belts are really good at sweeps, but not so comfortable passing high level guards.

This may be due to the fact that in a tournament, you can win on sweeps alone (and defense afterwards). If you do not pass the guard but are still up on points, there is no pressure to pass.

Keeping this mentality will only slow down progression though, so especially in training... guard passing should be a focus after sweeps have been mastered.

Now a very technical pass from Marcelo Garcia

Monday, July 4, 2011

De la riva guard: The little details

One annoying/effective guard in BJJ is the De La Riva guard (named after professor De La Riva). It is a form of open guard that creates a very tangled "weave" of the legs, and provides a large number of sweeping/back taking options.

Because of the entangled nature of this position, it is more difficult to pass (especially in the gi) than a lot of other guards.

Although the grips vary depending on who you watch use the guard, some principles always remain the same.

i.e. The person using DLR guard always wants to be at an angle to the person on top, and controls distance using BOTH feet.

Here is an amazing video featuring Shawn Williams showing a very methodical way to pass this guard.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

small improvements

If ever there is a goal each class, it should be to improve at just one small thing minimum. Losing the same exact way for a long period of time causes plateaus to happen, but small improvements over a long period of time results in good progression.

Even for the most basic techniques, a lot of beginners may not see all of the minute details. And as an instructor, it sometimes is frustrating demonstrating/teaching when the students just can't absorb all of it at once.

But through little steps, this is possible! Rome was not built in a day... lol.

now an awesome "smash" pass by Rafael Lovato Jr.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The guard and why it is important

Most BJJ instructors tell their students that the guard is the heart and soul of Jiu Jitsu. This is true, but why?

If you look at the matches that beginners lose in tournaments, and examine the most statistically accurate reason why they lose... it all comes down to preparing for the worst case scenario.

The majority of the time, they are not good enough at escapes... and for those who are... they are not good enough at guard work.

Once proficiency develops for the guard, the % of matches that are won at the beginner level increase by a large number. (This is referring to students with NO prior grappling experience.)

Now a match between two awesome guard players: JT Torres, and Michael Langhi

Friday, July 1, 2011

For the diligent, time is their best friend

Just a short post today, for some extra motivation.

Let's say you develop a habit of skipping a certain day each week from training for no good reason. Sure maybe once or twice it won't really hurt that much. But a habit by very definition is something that is repeated. Over the course of years (let's say 10) how many training hours have been skipped because of this?

Now if you take another example of someone who took advantage of this extra time to train, the difference between the two individuals would be like night and day.

So stay consistent, train hard, and make it a habit!

Now an amazing match between Justin Rader and Ary Farias.