Friday, 21 December 2007

Too easy being "Anonymous"

I thought my previous post was going to be my last for a short while, but then today I noticed I'd got a comment on my "face the final curtain" post.

"Cool" I thought - always good to see what people think and nice to know someone's reading.

I wasn't going to allow this comment as it's junk, but you know what? Here it is in all its brave glory.

From "Anonymous":

LOL WHAT A JOKE , U AINT GOT A CLUE HAHAHA!cHEERS 4 MAKIN ME LAUGH THO :)

Now, I write what I think. Noone has to like it or agree with me. I don't set myself up as an authority on anything - just a guy that tries his best and likes to train.

I'm not entirely clear what "joke" my anonymous friend is referring to, or what I "AINT GOT A CLUE" about.

The internet's great isn't it? If you're an illiterate troll, you can wander on to any site and make retarded comments and not expect any comebacks. And I guess you're right. But not the bravest of acts is it?

So, if I've said something that you disagree with, fine, let's talk, but let's at least be on named terms. Maybe I've said something that has touched a nerve - your problem, not mine.

My ego isn't so big that I expect many people actually read this blog, so if I know you, then that's even worse. Grow a pair and talk to me like an adult.

Whoever you are "Anonymous", please enlighten me (in grown up words, not your retarded teen text talk) as to what the joke is and what I have no clue about, then maybe we can all have a laugh, or perhaps we can just figure WTF you are on about.

In the meantime, I'll still be training, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and hopefully making progress.

Peace.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Bring the noise!

So this is my last post before Christmas. I’ll start with this week’s news.

Firstly a big CONGRATULATIONS to Neil and his wife Jen on the birth of their Daughter! Really chuffed for you mate. Enjoy the ride and the months of sleepless nights! It really is the greatest privilege ever to be bestowed on a person.

On Sunday, having had limited training last week and also looking forward to this, I went along to Tonbridge on Sunday.. I’m not sure what they put into the water over that way, but there seemed to be a lot of big guys down there at the moment! Anyway, Muttley kicked off the session in typical Carlson’s style with a hellish phys session. After what seemed like an age of “duck walking”, my legs had all but given up on me.

A bit of practise on breaking guard – this is where you really see the focus on basics being sooo fundamental. It was winner stays on and I was on my back. My objective – keep guard and/or sweep/submit the opponent. I was there forever, choking, sweeping and just holding guard all day – all on my terms. This sounds big headed, but at one point I just felt like there was little point in me being in that position any more and I let one guy pass just to be able to switch up. There was a certain pleasure in doing this – all on my terms. I’m not telling you this to come across as arrogant, I’m just really chuffed that in this session, I had so much control over my opponents that I was able to dictate how the game went – a far cry from rolling with Si and Dean!

We then went on to some positional stuff from cross side – winner stays on again . I started off on the bottom. Cross side is so hard, but all the training paid off – I was escaping very easily, rolling guys off, scooting out, the works – really chuffed. The objective for the guy on top was to mount or submit. There was one guy – clearly a very powerful chap who seemed to have missed this point and just laid on top of me with some kind of headlock/facebar combo. I’m not sure if he was just trying to stay secure in cross side or thought that he was executing a submission, but he just lay there squeezing my head. It was pretty uncomfortable to be sure and I’ve now got a nice “Cheesegrater” effect on one cheek from his Gi, but, man, I ain’t goin’ out like that! Squeeze all you want big boy, but unless it’s breaking something or choking me, I ain’t tapping. I worked on the back of his elbow and the harder he squeezed the easier it was to just pop his arm off and I came out the back and took his back. Easy. Don’t get me wrong – he was a really nice guy but he was either quite inexperienced or over confident in his strength.

We then did some rolling, but this was with the objective of scoring ten points under tournament rules before you could submit your opponent. This was really interesting. I’ve said before that the guys at Carlson’s do well in tournaments and they train very hard for them and this showed in this drill. The guy I rolled with (a blue belt) was all over me – cross side, knee on stomach, mount, cross side – he soon racked up his points and there was little I could do about it. Just as I was about to deal with one position, he was on to his next. Very fluid. However, and here is the major difference with how I’ve trained to date – at no time was there any actual threat to me – it was all about the positions. It’s actually pretty hard to do anything to an opponent who is not doing anything to you except scoring points. Once the submission game kicked in, it was a different story. He tried to take my back and I bridged out of it (the drill we’d trained a week or two ago) drove into him, managed to take his back, hooks in and tapped him out with a Gi choke. And herein lies the difference with competition Jiu Jitsu. Give me some gaps, mistakes, overbalances, an arm or whatever and I can turn it around and get my submission – a submission cancels out any points anyone scores, but my worry, as with the tournament I entered, is that if the opponent plays an “anti” Jiu Jitsu game and just scores points all day, I could effectively lose without having been threatened once. Is that right? Dem’s da rules, but it just doesn’t feel like real Jiu Jitsu to me.

Rolling with Dave (main guy at Tonbridge - Blue Belt) was a different story and I think expresses his understanding of combat and Jiu Jitsu clearly. He was able to score his points with ease. I did get a few points, probably due to my size advantage but Dave was easily out-manoeuvring me. He was also able to translate his dominance into a submission when the time came and was very adaptable in his execution. It felt entirely different – like he was in total control, could take his points at leisure and still get his submission in a controlled fashion when he chose. There’s a huge difference in skill here. To be able to get a dominant position and hold it without making any threat of a submission is actually pretty easy, regardless of your level. I’ve seen white belts hold cross side forever with a mix of weight, strength and tenacity – very little skill involved in that.

I’m not meaning to be judgemental – each person will take Jiu Jitsu in his or her own way and make a style unique to his/her attributes. That’s how it should be. It’s just that I judge my ability on being able to gain dominant position, maintain it and then submit. It has to work that way for me otherwise there’s little to be gained in my opinion.

Anyway, some good food for thought, a confidence boost, and a hellish workout. As always, thanks guys. I suspect I may be training at Tonbridge a whole lot more in 08, and I look forward to it – have a great Christmas guys and lots of success in 2008! Oss!

Wednesday was our last session of the year, but much like any other – just me, Si and Dean. We just rolled in rotation in 5 minute bouts. I rolled with mixed success, holding out sometimes, tapped very quickly others, but I did pull off a few escapes that I was very happy with – much better movement and far more of a “plan” behind what I was doing. I think mindset has a lot to do with it. Certainly my “successes” at Tonbridge helped me to realise that I’m not doing all that bad and this confidence is a great help in feeling like you can do stuff, that you do have options. I was mainly tapped with armbars and kimura’s and I knew they were coming – I’m leaving my arms all over the place – something I need to be more aware of.

In my last roll of the evening, Dean told me to take my belt of and he gave me his blue belt to wear (only just fitted!). He said it was for the effort and commitment I’ve given this year – a really kind gesture and one that I appreciated. It was also a timely reminder of the goals that I’ve set myself. Cheers mate. None of the belt’s “power” rubbed off on me though – maybe the batteries needed replacing, as Dean tapped me out three times in five minutes, giving me one of his running commentaries as we were rolling. He was, as we say, “bringing the noise”…except that the noise was literal and carried noxious gas right in my ear! Ahhh…the perfect end to another BJJ year! LOL :D.

So, 2007. I’ve come a long way this year. My Jiu Jitsu is far better and my understanding is far improved. I have a clear vision of what I want and what I need to do to get there and most of that is due to Simon and Big Dean. A HUGE thanks to you both for your time, patience and friendship – it’s been a pleasure. Thanks also to Rick. His observations have been well timed and incisive and have mad a big contribution to my learning this year. Thanks to all the guys I’ve trained with. Despite my rantings, it’s all been good.

What does 2008 hold? We’ll see. I’ve got my eye on a few tournaments, I need to keep on with the fitness, lose more weight and just keep training and trying to learn and improve. With regards to the club…? I have no clue. We’ll meet up in the new year and decide. I think we’d all like to keep meeting up but the problem is where, when and how often? Still, all that’s a decision for another year.

Merry Christmas to anyone reading this.

All the best ,

Al.

Monday, 17 December 2007

And now, the end is near, and so I face, the final curtain...

Weds 12th. A new week but the same drill – Me, Big Dean and Si training in a North Kent industrial estate on a cold December night. If you detect that my tone is less than chipper, you’d be right. More on that in a moment.

This week we briefly covered the escape from having your back taken when in the “turtle position” – again, something that I get 50% success with then get stuck at the vital moment – as demonstrated in my third fight at the tournament – just unable to capitalise on throwing the guy off. Key things here, grip up the elbow of the arm coming in for the choke. With the opposite arm, reach up and grab high on the back of the opponent’s collar. PULL IN TIGHT. Drop the shoulder to off balance the opponent. Re-grip and pull tight again. Walk round into the opponent to bring pressure onto his hooks. When everything is tight, shoot out the outside leg and this will facilitate the opponent falling off. Without this tightness or walking round, the opponent will often be able to simply roll you and take your back – something that has happened to me on numerous occasions. From here, switch the hips and drive back to take cross side. Because you have an under grip from the manoeuvre, you’re perfectly set up for a choke that I’ve described in a previous post.

All good. When I rolled I got choked by Si pretty much as soon as I’d started – hey ho. Rolling with Dean, I managed to get some reasonable positions, but was repeatedly frustrated by not being able to get round his open guard – it’s like a force field or some kind of Jedi Mind Trick – Dean (in Obi Wan voice): “you cannot pass” … Me: “ I cannot pass”. Will have to cover this at some point.

Now, onto the main business of the day. You may recall my post on apathy. It was meant as an observation of the state that the “club” (which is basically me, Dean and Si and a few casual members) is in, and a call to arms. With another year approaching of the same three people training in the same venue, it brought about a discussion over what to do. For me, on the one hand, it’s great – there’s a whole lot I can learn from Dean and Si for a long time to come and I’m getting 2:1 coaching for a very low cost each month. Fantastic. On the other hand, when I roll with the guys, it’s the same story every time. They know my game and the moves and the results are almost inevitable.

For Dean and Si, even if others have given up the ghost, they still want to train and develop, but with no one to teach them new things, their development will stagnate. Same problem with rolling against each other – perfectly demonstrated this session – an endless stalemate as each knows the other’s game inside out. So, the discussion went along the lines of whether, despite the desire to keep a Rickson associated club going, the continuation of training in this manner was conducive to meaningful development for any of us.

We’re not getting any new members, despite me posting on one of the most prominent BJJ websites around. That post has had over 200 hits at the time of writing. We’ve only had about 5 people get in touch and a grand total of zero people actually come and see us. All this despite us being the only Rickson school in the UK, one of only 2 in Europe. I have to say, the link to Rickson’s is getting more and more tenuous. The standards are high but contact with the States is minimal to non-existent. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. We need more members, but we need a new venue to attract new members, but we can’t afford a new venue because we need more members – then there’s the whole affiliation to the association thing. Nothing doing there either. The school is dead on it’s a…

So, the discussion basically ended up that the three of us will train once more before Christmas, then meet up briefly in the new year. The option at that point looks likely to be to let things go and we will all go off in search of BJJ elsewhere. It’s sad – we’re good friends and enjoy training together, but you can’t flog a dead horse. I’m sure we’ll find time to train together once in a while. I’ll still maintain my Association membership – that goal of a Blue Belt from Rickson remains. It’s just probable that I’ll do the majority of my training at Carlson’s in Tonbridge. No problem. It’s a bit more expensive, but the guys there are great and they’ve got a good core of good and dedicated guys and some very good instruction – at least there’s a bit of passion there and some chance of continuity.

I’M AWARE THAT IN E-ETIQUETTE TERMS, I’M NOW SHOUTING – I HAVE NOT ACCIDENTLY PRESSED CAPS LOCK. I AM INTENDING TO APPEAR TO BE RAISING MY VOICE BECAUSE I AM PISSED OFF. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? I WARNED IN MY APATHY POST THAT UNLESS PEOPLE SWITCHED ON, THIS WOULD BE OVER…WELL HERE YOU GO. A RICKSON SCHOOL ON YOUR DOORSTEP – SOME EXCELLENT TUITION IF YOU WANTED IT, RIGHT HERE, AGAINST A SYLLABUS CREATED BY THE MAN ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE PUREST BJJ TALENT THAT EVER LIVED. THEY SAY THAT YOU DON’T REALISE WHAT YOU’VE GOT ‘TIL IT’S GONE – WELL NOW IT’S LOOKING LIKE THAT REALISATION IS ABOUT TO HIT.

My vision for what I want to achieve remains intact and will be unaffected. I know I can get great training from the guys at Tonbridge and I’ll throw myself into their set up heart and soul as I always do with everything I do. I’ll fight in their name at tournaments and hopefully contribute to their haul at those events. I just can’t help feeling utterly disappointed that something that should have been really good has been allowed to just slip on by. If I could personally do anything, I would, but who am I? A white belt with a couple of years’ training…it ain’t going to happen and it sucks.

Some might say “everything runs its course” – but nothing has to so long as people change, adapt and stay focussed. This is such a wasted opportunity and that really grates. If people have lost interest and do not intend to train any more, that’s fine, but a bit of honesty with their mates and themselves to say “actually, it’s not what I want any more” would go a long way. The whole “yeah, I train BJJ at Rickson’s (but what I really mean is that I show up once in a blue moon)” is just dishonest. Like I said, train, or don’t train – makes no odds to me, but just be honest about what you’re choice is. Part of what makes all this so hard is that there are so many guys out there who have trained on and off – many of them very talented and likeable people, all of them with the Rickson patch on their Gi. But, when the chips are down, as they have been for the last year at least, they’re nowhere to be seen.

So, there we have it…unless something miraculous happens, that’s where we’re headed. At the end of the day, it’s not life and death, but for me, it is very much part of my life – it’s what I choose to do when I’m not sitting at a desk working a job that, given the financial freedom, I wouldn’t give a toss about. Some people define themselves by what they do for a job. I prefer to define myself as a husband, a father and someone that loves BJJ. That’s why it matters – it’s part of who I am.

Who knows what the future holds? Maybes something will happen and the phoenix will rise from the ashes one day. Maybe not. Al I know is that one way or another, I’ll still be training hard trying to be the best that I can be in BJJ. See you around. Soon I hope.

BJJ: Bringing communities together...

Mon 3rd - A distinctly better week this week. Buoyed by having seen the comedian Frankie Boyle (I’d highly recommend seeing him if he’s near you) on Sunday night I went to training on Monday night in good spirits. Usual turnout and we went over breaking guard (both knees down, one knee up, walk over and stand up) again, picking up all the finer points. This stuff really works….every time we do it I pick up some little nuance that I’ve not understood before and it’s always good to go back to the root and iron off any little bad habits that we all develop from time to time.

Rolling was pretty good – I was trying to keep on moving and felt that I reacted pretty well to the positions of my opponents…certainly the feedback I got was positive and a fillip to my confidence. I think also that maybe my improving fitness from my gym sessions is starting to pay off – fitness really helps to keep on moving for longer rather than gassing and just lying flat! I think also, my core is getting stronger and I’ve also lost weight (almost half a stone now! – sure, I’m still a contender for Homer-a-like 2007, but progress is progress). All of these have to be good things and contributing to a better overall performance.

Discussion after training started with me making reference to Frankie Boyle’s show and trying to do justice to his very funny ramblings about political correctness. Now, I don’t need to labour this point, but all of the guys are a tolerant and friendly bunch, but political correctness is not top of the agenda…you may have detected this from previous posts. I think this is great – it’s nice to know that we’re not completely in the throes of an Orwellian nightmare with pathetic attempts to control thought by the control of language. Political correctness sucks and serves only to confuse people as to what is or isn’t the right thing to say anymore and also serves only to make an issue of difference by giving at a very obvious label…why create labels for difference? Difference just…is. Understand it, embrace it, but why make an issue of it…no wonder we’re in such a mess.

Anyway, before I risk building a soapbox, the conversation went on to discuss how London, with all its diversity is a place that makes you very intolerant. This intolerance does not stem from any one group, except people. Just people. I can vouch for this, having commuted in and out for three years – it drives you mad. Everyone seems to go into this aggressive “zone” – all me, me, me, gotta get where I’m going and damn everyone else type mentality. Mike recounted some little guy deliberately barging him a few weeks back...now, Mike’s a big guy – gotta be around 6’3”/4” and athletically built with it. If you were going pick someone to shoulder barge you’d choose someone with a different profile than that. Mike took it very philosophically, understanding that everyone’s like that in London and the guy that barged him hadn’t done it personally to Mike – it could have been anyone, just Mike was there at that moment. Very noble sentiment, very enlightened. Big Dean recognised this and I thought “Hmm…strange, maybe Dean’s softening in his old age”. Then Dean said “of course, if it was me I’d have pummelled the little f***er”. Our very own Nick Diaz ;p.

Wednesday night was just three of us again – Me , Big Dean and French Steve. By my request we looked at the escape if someone’s taken your back – opponent underneath with hooks in, you, on your back, on top, defending your neck. This is a move that I’ve done a couple of times and have had moderate success with when rolling…problem is, I can “kill” my opponent’s leg as I move to the open side no problem – hell, I’ve got plenty of weight to do that, but then the problem starts – where to go from there? Once again it’s all in the detail…so, main points – defend the choke, bridge back as far as you can to the open side (aim is to touch your head on the floor next to opponent’s shoulder). From here you can kill the leg on the side you’ve moved to. Frame against the uppermost knee to stop the opponent from mounting and also to assist you in a shrimp movement away from the position. Drive back into the opponent to take cross side. Major points learned during this drill were (a) the frame on the knee and (b) Steve noticed that my movement out was hampered by too much ground contact. I realised immediately that this was what has been causing a lot of my movement problems – far too much friction involved so we went over the need to create small contact pivot points. It soooo damn obvious…why I’ve missed this for so long I do not know. Still, now need to build it in and make it permanent. A big learning point that will have a big impact I’m sure. I didn’t do a whole lot of rolling – my mind was full of what I’d picked up so I felt happier just to leave it there and let it sink in.

Friday night, MMA night. We went through some different drills from a pummelling exercise, which was good, but I found the coordination really hard. We then went to a one legged takedown which I’ve seen in BJJ before so was good to cover that again. During this drill, Big Dean was encouraging us to follow up and create an attacking mindset – something that I’ve seen Steve Morris talk about before – it’s all about training with the mindset that you need in combat so that it is easier to switch to that intensity when needed…makes some sense (to quote the man himself). We then did a bid of pad work – always enjoy this – nothing like a good thrash on the pads to get a good workout and fire off some aggression. I think I’ve got pretty powerful punches, but I’m very one sided – my right side does a lot of the work, much to the exclusion of my left. This is an area I’d really like to work on, my hand speed is slow and I telegraph a lot of my punches. I also really need to work on pivoting the grounded foor while kicking – especially with my knee the way it is – that’s an injury waiting to happen – so much for Choi Kwang Do – in four years of training, none of that was picked up – hell, I even got a black belt! Anyway – it was a good session – really enjoyed it.

The week was interspersed with the usual Gym sessions – these are now very much part of my week and I feel a distinct need to train – that’s great, just where I wanted to be. Gotta be aware of the need for rest though. I’m currently battling off a bit of a cold – not a bad one, but I’ve certainly noticed its affect in the gym – higher heart rate sooner and tired quicker. No big – if it was that bad I wouldn’t train…just interesting to note what happens though.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Not all plain sailing....

I’ve been a bit lax posting lately, but the last couple of weeks just don’t seem to have run all that smooth.

Training Monday before last was good. Big Dean took us through a kind of grading format revision of some of the key things we’ve been doing the last few months. This was a really useful thing to do as (a) it showed us how a grading works (b) it was great revision and (c) really helped to highlight the bits we’ve forgotten, didn’t know or aren’t getting quite right. In demonstrating each technique, we had to talk through what we were doing and why, showing a clear understanding of each technique. This was really tough – you start to realise both how automatic some things have become and at the same time, just how much you don’t really understand or know – a really useful way of highlighting these things. So, big learning points and I need to start becoming a whole lot more conscious around what I’m doing again – goes to show, don’t run before you can walk. One other major thing that came out of it for me is that I appear to have been confusing and merging two separate methods of breaking guard – one with the knee up, and one with the knee down. I’m not sure how I managed this, or have gotten away with it so long, but once it was pointed out, it was so obvious why it was wrong. Time to get back to basics on that one – I fear I may have accumulated the wrong memory pattern on that one so time to make a new one.

I really struggled with the rolling this session. There was a point when I really just wanted to throw it in – it was only a fraction of time, but I just felt so frustrated, angry, hopeless and upset all at once. It felt like being a kid and wanting to throw a tantrum. It’s probably the worst I’ve ever felt at training. I just felt like I’m not getting it and unlikely ever to. It’s all passed now, and was never a threat to my continuation, in fact straight after I was back on the mat and managed to do a few bits we’d been doing the week before (taking the back) reasonably well. It’s mostly plain sailing, but occasionally the water gets a bit choppy.

An unusual breakdown in communications and childcare conspired to take training off the agenda for Wednesday and MMA on Friday respectively, but I did get in a good few workouts at the gym, which is going really well since I started on my CV only approach. No huge weight loss as yet (I need to fix my diet) – a few pounds, but my fitness has picked up noticeably from where I started about a month ago.

This week also conspired to make for only one session – Monday again. A good session with a reasonable number and Lee was down again. We worked on escapes from cross-side – always good to cover, so hard to do well. We covered the usual combinations, then trained it positionally. A good exercise. Rolling wasn’t as bad as previous weeks but wasn’t perfect. I was pleased with a cross collar choke I secured and I managed to make life hard for French Steve – a rarity not to be choked out inside 60 seconds…not so sure it was skill, but I was thinking pretty hard about what I was doing so maybe that made a difference…plus luck…sometimes it just works like that, others, you’ll be tapping within seconds of starting. I rolled with Big Dean and was working hard to walk round him (he was in a sort of “turtle” position) to take his back, but failed repeatedly. He pointed out after that simply trying to walk round will never work and referred back to the same movement we’d been practicing from cross side a few weeks earlier – keeping the hip engaged. It instantly made sense – I’d just missed the commonality of the position. This is how BJJ needs to be – you need to see everything as a principle that has just as much application elsewhere and is not tied to any one technique. Simply “collecting” techniques will be extremely limiting.

Wednesday, I travelled to Telford for work and bad traffic on the way back meant that I was never going to make training, which is a shame as it sounds like it was a good turnout, which was nice to hear. Friday night I was looking after the kids whilst the missus was out. I’m kind of hoping that having not trained so much over the last couple of weeks may have a positive effect on my rolling. Maybe this enforced break is a good thing…we’ll see.


I'm just off to training now - time to crack on and get in as much good training as I can before festive temptation sinks in!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

I said a hip hop the hippie...

...the hippie to the hip hip hop, a you dont stop the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat...

I didn’t train last Friday and I skipped the gym on Thursday – the cold I had brewing that I mentioned in my last post was in full flow and I wasn’t in any fit state to train…it wasn’t a bad cold per se, but it left me feeling absolutely knackered.

After a bit of a rest (although my kids’ third birthday on Sunday and party was more “active” rest!) and plenty of vitamin C and zinc, things had cleared enough to get back to training on Monday. I wasn’t 100%, but 99% is good enough – just meant a bit more sweating than usual. Not a bad turnout – the usual crowd, plus French Steve and Little Dean. We trained some escapes from knee on stomach (KOS). The first involved bridging up and then scooping an arm under the foot of the leg that is KOS. Frame in with the other arm then scoot out, creating a void for the knee to drop into. Since you have the foot scooped, this prevents posting and the opponent falls backwards enabling you to follow up and take cross-side. A nifty little move, but actually pretty difficult to execute well – one to just try out when the opportunity arises. The second variation arises when the KOS is not quite as “deep”. In this instance, you roll away from the KOS, enabling you to brace the back of your uppermost elbow against the knee, creating a frame. Using this frame, you execute a reasonably explosive shrimp out from under the knee and turning to face the opponent. Depending where you end up will determine next moves, but the ideal is to be able to take a leg and drive back into the opponent and coming to rest in side control. I found this one pretty tough as my shrimp movement is pretty limited by my back mobility.

I’m finding rolling a little tough lately. I don’t think having the cold has helped and added to this I’ve been getting up early to go to the gym and my kids are going through a phase of waking at 0400hrs so I’m not getting great sleep at the moment. Not making excuses, but things are tough when you’re tired. I think I’m also in a bit of development dip at the moment – when I roll, I’m not really conscious of what I’m doing, pushing too much and just seem to get nowhere fast. It’s demoralising, but as Si said, I’m rolling against guys that have got anywhere between 4 and 6 years training on me. It could well be time for another visit to Tonbridge. It’s good to roll with others at your own level as it gives you a better measure of where you’re at and how you’ve progressed. I know I must have progressed – there’s no way that you can train 2/3 times a week, every week, and not improve. The issue at our club is that the other guys are improving too, so I’m chasing an ever-moving goal line. I think I also go in phases when I’m learning loads of new stuff and it takes a while to assimilate the information and put it into action. Once it is assimilated I then seem to have a phase where things are good, then I go back into a learning phase – maybe this is a better way to see it rather than being in a “bad patch”.

I had an interesting day Tuesday. I mentioned this in passing a few posts back, but a few months ago, I went on a course called “The Athlete at Work”, run by a company called K2. In my work, I’m an “Organisational Development Manager”, which means that I look after the development of staff in all areas of the business. As part of this I source appropriate training and education and so get bombarded daily by companies offering their services. Once in a while, something interesting comes up, and K2 was one of these. The majority of the K2 team come from sporting or sports science backgrounds and work with top level sports performers to improve their performance through managing training, mindset, nutrition etc. They’ve taken this arena and put it into a business context, based on the data that sports science has given them – a really fresh approach to the whole subject of performance. Anyway, they offered me a free place on the Athlete at Work course, so I gladly accepted. The course dealt with topics such as nutrition, hydration, rest & recovery, bodyclock, self-talk, using imagery and planning training for peak performance. It was fascinating stuff, all well researched and compellingly evidenced. I guess I could credit the course with giving me the inspiration for setting myself my blue belt goal and starting this blog. The knowledge and inspiration it gave to me to set some hard targets and plan a campaign to achieve it was excellent (sure, there was a load of stuff transferable to the workplace, but I figure, whatever’s good for me personally, must be good for my work performance). Anyway, on Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to have a follow-up coaching session with one of the guys from K2. There was a dual agenda with this, one for me to personally gain form the experience, but also a professional motive for me to see the learning process first hand to assess its relevance for the company I work for. It was a really useful session (not least as I was reassured that taking time off from training while not 100% was absolutely the right thing to do). Through some well placed questions from the coach, I was able to understand certain habits that I’ve developed that make my nutrition an issue for me and to create small actions that will help this. I was also able to examine how much rest and recovery I’m getting and create some strategies to manage the transitions between training, rest and then training again very soon after. Most useful of all was some good advice about my training regime – BJJ and MMA are givens, so I need to be smart about my gym work. I was advised to switch my training from CV work and weights to just doing short, intense CV workouts. It was felt that my BJJ etc would maintain strength and functional muscle workout, but the CV work would (a) make my workouts more manageable in the time I have available, and (b) be better for me in my goals and losing weight is the major factor at the moment. I was also helped to understand a bit more psychology of managing goals. For example – running. My goal is to be able to run 3 miles in 21 minutes – the RAF Officer standard and one that I used to be able to do, so something that I think is achievable. So, what I’ve been doing is running 21 minutes every session and trying to see how far I get. It’s tough and when I show no improvement, or worse, actually fall back, it gets really demoralising. It was suggested that instead of this “testing” every session, that I test myself monthly. This way, I should usually see improvements month on month towards my ultimate goal. Even if I fall behind, using this methodology, I can still see net gains on my starting point so there is still an overall success. I’ve already started this and the running, whilst still hard, is so much more pleasurable and relaxed. I will apply the same “ethos” to many other areas as it’s a far healthier way to view progress than constant pressure. So, the whole K2 experience has been invaluable in setting me up to stand a chance of achieving my goals…oh, and it is also something that I will be implementing at work by the way ;P.

Wednesday’s session was only four of us and we trained taking the back from someone that’s in “turtle” position and not allowing you to get foot hooks in. First off, the ideal position to work from…sort of to the rear and on the hips while making your opponent carry weight. Transitions from this – first one was kind of gripping the same side lapel, low down (prevents opponent from grabbing arm and rolling you over), one foot up behind, one to the side and the drive with the legs over the opponent’s shoulder, maintaining hip and body contact. This takes you to controlling the opponent’s back from where you can get hooks in and execute a choke. There’s a risk here that before putting in the 2nd hook, the opponent could turn out. So long as you’ve maintained good position, it’s pretty easy to follow the turn and end up with cross side. 2nd variation prevents the turn out – by driving your knee in between the opponent’s elbow and knee, you can create a sort of “cradle” after you’ve turned the opponent which prevents any turn out. In executing this knee positioning, you of course open up the other side of the opponent’s body to move out to that side, so for that reason we looked at a simple switch to prevent this. Major point in all of these is the hip to hip contact throughout (hence this post’s title – hips… get it? Get it? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?). Rather than roll this session, we did some cross-side positional training. I’m still facing the frustration of not really being able to do a whole lot but getting tapped in seemingly the simplest of ways. That’s just BJJ. I’m relatively certain that this cloud will lift soon – it usually does.

Only other bit of news right now is that I’m going to UFC 80: Rapid Fire in Newcastle in January – should be good – there’s a few of us going up – Me, Big Dean, Si, Mike and a couple of Dean’s mates. Can’t wait! More on that when the time comes.


I'm off to see the Foo Fighters tomorrow and then I'm off work most of next week an I just had a great session at the gym so feelin pretty good right now... good times, let's rock!!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Oops up side your head!

I’ve got a bit of catching up to do, so apologies for being lax and for the long post that is likely to ensue…

Wednesday’s session last week was just me, Big Dean and Si (surprise surprise!). We looked at taking mount from cross-side, using the same cross-side variation that I’ve written about recently. There were two variations here. I’ve seen both before but it’s been a long time so was really to good to go at them again. The first variation involves kind of sitting back under the opponents armpit, controlling the hips with the “bottom” knee, then posting the “top” leg over the opponent and down on the other side. From here, it’s a pretty easy transition to full mount. I really like this one – it’s pretty simple…important to maintain good base throughout, but simple in principle, and easily overcomes the “foot on knee” defence that so many seem to try and use to stop the mount (which is pretty ineffective at the best of times). The second involves threatening the neck to allow you to move your “top end” knee into a more favourable position for base and the “sliding” your lower knee across the abdomen – almost knee on stomach, except you maintain a low body position over your opponent with your body, maintaining the pin. From here, you push the knee down and backwards to complete the mount – pushing the knee in this direction counters any attempt by the opponent to block the knee with their hand – their pushing the knee only serves to assist the movement you want. From securing mount it’s important to aim to get high mount where possible. I don’t remember much about rolling, although I’m pretty sure it was the usual affair of me being tapped repeatedly…oh, hang on, I do remember. I had some kind of strange lower back twinge – really bad pain which flared every time I tried any kind of upa or shrimp. I couldn’t stand up straight at one point. After all kinds of potions, stretching and some pain killers, it subsided enough for me to roll, but I didn’t feel at all confident or comfortable. Strange – the day after I went to the gym and not a trace of any pain….I was expecting to have to lay off, but it was fine…must have been something trapped rather than damaged, which was a relief, given my back track record.

We had MMA on Friday – just me, Dean and Tugboat Steve. We worked from guard, framing against a fence from being pushed backwards, getting to standing, then reversing your opponent onto the fence. I remember doing this a while back and really enjoyed the drill – really hard work, but a good functional workout and very useful with some direct cross overs to Jiu Jitsu principles. We then worked a pad drill with a few pointers on punching technique. Not having done a striking art for over two years now, I can really feel how slow my reactions have become – I’m not worried – I’m sure with a bit of training it will come back. It’s good to hit the pads every now and then – working good punching technique and hand speed is always a good thing to do – a good sharpener. We then did a few 5 min rounds of light (ish) sparring. Dean was being kind to me, going real light and only playing at Superman Punches – enough to make a point. Kind to me to the point when he shot in and I punched to the pack of his head – not full pelt and without malice. I now understand that’s not allowed, and fully understand why. By way of explanation, I can only offer (a) I didn’t know it wasn’t allowed and (b) it was an automatic response, probably from the self defence stuff I’ve done, which is basically taking whatever I’m given – if it’s there, I’ll strike it, gouge it, whatever to stop the attack. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not excusing it, but offer it as an explanation. Dean dealt with it in typical fashion – telling me it wasn’t allowed, then reinforcing the learning with a kinetic reminder – namely a well placed punch to the bonce. Fair enough. Point made and no animosity beyond that. I think again this comes back to control – a little less “excitement” on my part would go a long way to preventing these “rushes of blood to the head”. Sorry mate.

I then sparred with Steve and was able to use my reach to good effect, keeping him at bay with some good jabs. I also landed a couple of decent body punches and a nifty upper cut up inside his guard. Steve got in a good body/head combination. Major pointers that Dean was giving to me were that I was very upright and my guard could be higher – I need to “hunch” into a tighter posture… I’ve covered this with Steve Morris before and just need to keep focussing on it. Dean also mad the point that I had far more capacity to double up on shots rather than just single shots…just need to build confidence in this, and a refresher on the way that Steve Morris generates and positions his kicks was useful. Anyway, all was going reasonably well, until I stepped in to throw a punch and at the same time Steve threw a belter, which landed square on my jaw – really took me aback and for a couple of seconds the world went a crazy shade of blue and yellow spots. I think we could all tell it was a great shot – Steve backed off and Dean stepped in. It was a pretty hard, shot but thankfully within sparring force. I think I’d have been down if it had been full-on. Proof indeed that I was too upright and my guard was low – another learning experience from instant “feedback”.

I was shattered and pretty lethargic the day after. It was a hard session and being smacked upside my head couldn’t have helped. I’ve also got a bit of a cold at the moment – I’m not sure I’ve adapted yet to training every day (gym included). It’ll come. But I also felt a bit down about the back of the head thing in sparring. Not sure what that was...I think I’m just disappointed in myself for not having more control and doing something to a mate that was potentially dangerous. I’m OK now – no point in dwelling on it, just making an observation really on how things like this can affect my mindset and the need to reflect and move on.

Last night (Wednesday), there were four of us. A quick revision on blocking punches, then we went over the mount from cross-side again – the one with the knee sliding over the abdomen. I think it was good to drill this some more – it’s really important to drill single techniques like this and get beyond superficial detail – these moves are so important to achieving dominant position and without that, there can be no submission. We started to look at some submission possibilities and transitions off of it, but that was not the focus, so nothing exceptional to comment on with that. I was pretty disappointed with my rolling – not because I got tapped time and again, but more that I was pretty purposeless – I wasn’t really thinking what I was doing and pushing far too much. I think I need to take a few moments before rolling just to focus on what I want to do, maybe even visualise how I want it to be. I don’t expect that I’ll get my way, but if I can roll with a bit of direction, that will be sufficient for me to feel satisfied.

Monday, 29 October 2007

A-P-A-T-H-Y...what does it spell? Oh it doesn't matter anyway ;P

By now, you’ll have seen a trend emerging in my posts. The same people training week in week out. The same FEW people. Most sessions I guess we average 3 guys, four at most.

There was no training tonight. Rick’s away until at least December and Big Dean is away with work. It happens. No problem with that. Anyone would be forgiven for missing training from time to time – we all have jobs, family, friends etc, and Si, Dean and Rick already give so much of their time anyway. In any club with a good, strong membership, you can absorb these intermittent absences, but as things stand, that just leaves me and Si as guaranteed tonight and there’s only so much value in rolling with the same guy all night, and I’m sure Si’s got better things to do than choke or armbar me all night.

No training sucks – I really look forward to it and there’s only the odd evening when I don’t want to train, but, so long as I can drag my ass to the car, then once I get there it’s all good again.

So, excuse me for a moment while I cast aside my normally sunny disposition, and indulge me if you will, in a bit of griping.

There’s something special about being part of a school affiliated to Rickson’s Association. Ask anyone into BJJ, who’s right up there at the top of BJJ folklore, and Rickson’s name will rightly be there every time. When people carry a belt awarded against Rickson’s standards, other people take notice. Lots of practitioners would walk over broken glass to train with Rickson, or to at least have one of his schools near them. I can only think that any desire not to could only be motivated by politics, which I have no time for anyway, so care little for opinions such as these.

We have a club that was started by a guy totally committed to Rickson’s teaching and philosophy and driven to pass this on to those that wanted to understand. People come and go…I’ve seen it enough just in my time training and I admire Dean T for sticking with it as long as he has – it must be so demoralising to believe in something so absolutely and yet not have people share your passion. I feel this. It’s not my club, I haven’t trained as long and I doubt I possess any natural talent, but I believe in what we’re doing and I believe in the style of Jiu Jitsu that flows from Rickson. If I didn’t, I would have gone elsewhere a long time ago, quite possibly from the start.

So, here I am, fed up. Not with Jiu Jitsu, but fed up with apathy. There is a real chance for this to be something really great for all those involved, but it needs more commitment. There are people that we do not see for many months, show up for one session, then disappear again – there’s no pattern to this, totally random, so no reliance can be put in the numbers of so-called “existing members”. We need new members, and I guess we could do more on this front, but, for example, I listed our club on the European Fight Network. We’ve had approaching 200 hits in a couple of months and only a couple of enquiries…all to no avail. I simply do not understand.

Something I’ve been told by lots of people on numerous occasions about Jiu Jitsu, is that you should not “play in the middle” – either take a position, or don’t. It’s sound advice. I think it’s just as relevant off the mat. Train Jiu Jitsu, or don’t. Don’t play in the middle. Don’t treat it like a convenience that you can pick up and put down as you please. We’re all different and have different motivations and issues in our lives, but when you boil it down, most of us are leading pretty normal lives with no great dramas or issues that should prevent us doing what we want to be doing. So, I guess that’s the question – is Jiu Jitsu what you want to be doing? If “yes”, great, I’ll see you at regular training, no ifs, no buts. Hell, I have lots of ifs and buts, but (there's one) I want to train. It’s important enough to me. If “no”, then make a decision now. Be honest and stop pretending. In Big Dean’s words, stop being a “partial artist”.

Something has got to happen – as much as I want it to, the club cannot continue, limping along as it has for the last couple of years. So, if you answered “yes” to the above question, let’s do it. Let’s get training and start making things work. If we don’t, one day pretty soon, that random evening you think “I’ll pop along to training”, we won’t be there. It will have died and so with it, a chance to be part of something good.

Sure, this is just my opinion and lots of people see the world differently. I’m not saying any of this aimed at anyone in particular, nor am I saying it to get a reaction. It’s not just Jiu Jitsu either, I experienced it in my last Martial Art and I’ve heard Steve Morris similarly puzzled by people’s commitment to training with him (and I've said it before, if you're serious about real fighting, you should be). I've seen it all through my Rugby days - the people that don't turn up to train but show up on Game Day expecting to get on the team. It seems that only a small percentage of the population have the commitment to stick stuff out. If you feel hurt by it, I apologise, that wasn’t my intention, but likewise, maybe you need to ask why you feel hurt by it. All I’ve done here is give my opinion, and it’s honest and heartfelt.

Rant over…back to the scheduled programme. Thanks for humoruring me.

Friday, 26 October 2007

I want to buy the world a choke...

Bit of a switch around this week – Richard had switched his session to the Wednesday, so Monday was just me, Si and Big Dean. Dean ran us through some submissions from cross side, utilising a slightly different position which basically requires pinching your opponent’s hips between your own hip and elbow, so that you are sort of side on (make some sense?). We just practiced this, moving around and trying to ride any upas etc. The first submission was bringing the free arm to rest beside the opponent’s head then gently reaching over the face to grab the opposite collar. A slight shift of position to bring the hip arm under to grab the nearside arm of your opponent, the choke is applied by dropping the elbow to the floor, out and up. The second submission from the same position basically requires you to bring the lower knee through, almost diagonally, against the opponent’s nearest arm, near the armpit. Hold the arm in, remaining leg round and over the head, drop back for the armbar – I liked this one, just, as always, gotta keep everything tight and controlled.

Part way through the session my phone went off (which freaked Dean out – my ringtone is a recording of my son laughing, but admittedly, at first, can sound quite freaky). It was my wife telling me that my Son, Cameron, had had some kind of asthma like attack. He gets hit pretty hard by colds and they always affect his chest. The doctors have suggested that we need to be cognisant of asthma, but at not quite three years old, it’s too early to properly diagnose. Fortunately, we have been given an inhaler to use should we need to, and in this instance, we did. He was OK – I think panic took hold of him more than anything, but it was still quite worrying, so I left early - for the best as I really wasn’t able to concentrate following the call. He’s fine – but it’s never nice to see your kids unwell or in distress though.

Wednesday was Rick’s session – me, Rick, Si, French Steve and Craig in attendance – a rare no-show by Dean due to car trouble and a mystery to me as to where everyone else was – maybe it’s Wednesdays…perhaps I’m missing something good on telly.

Anyway, Rick covered cross-collar chokes – a blue belt basic. I’ve said before, these are much harder than they appear, so it’s always good to cover them. Rick covered variations depending on what grips are available – both hands with fingers in, one fingers, one thumb, gripping round the back then bringing the arm round, but the major points taken from this were: 1) Positioning – posting the foot (knee up) to stabilise; 2) as the second hand goes in, just positioning the head to the opposite side to counterbalance against any upa; 3) take up slack and turn in the blades of the wrists before you commence the actual choke and; 4) Major one this – drop your hips onto the opponent’s chest, then drop your head to the floor. Breath out as you drop, pull the elbows in and back and then expand (breathe in) to finish. Depending on how well the previous steps are done, the choke may be over well before you reach the floor. The other critical thing with this is soft, relaxed hands – the more you relax with this choke the easier it is and the more effective it is. Rick also covered how to finish the choke if the opponent grabs the wrists over the top – a common defence. This is done by posting a foot beside the opponent’s head – this allows leverage to pull your body back, which pulls the opponent up. Key point here is to keep the opponent close and pull him up with your body, not your arms. At the top of the pull, expand as before, but this time, pull the elbows out. If the guy drops back down, revert back to the regular cross collar. With all of it, it’s just keeping everything tight – no gaps or slack, and staying relaxed and methodical. It’s a great choke when done properly but really hard to do well under pressure.

Rolling was good, although against Rick and Si, I think I lost sight of what I need to be doing – I was so preoccupied with being owned and not getting caught in their set-ups that I was pretty dumb with most of the stuff I was doing and ended up getting repeatedly armbarred. Rolling with Craig was different – I think we can both relax a bit more and be a bit more deliberate, so I was able to try a few things. I found myself in a decent cross side (top) so decided I’d give Dean’s choke from Monday a go. I tried to apply as gently as I could (as it can be a bit gnarly) and sure enough, it worked...well pleased with that.

No other training this week, apart from the gym, as I’m left with the kids for a few days as my wife’s off to a family funeral. Only other thing to say really is that I think we all hope that everyone in and around Rickson’s Centre in California are unaffected by the fires, or at very least, safe and well.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Cue the Training Montage!

You may remember my fighting fit post, well, I’ve not been doing too much on that front to date, just normal training which keeps things ticking over. Well, I’ve decided to crack on and work on my fitness. What has prompted this? Well, my local leisure centre has just stumped up an offer of full membership for only £25 for three months, which is just the financial inducement I needed to get my arse in gear. I get access to the gym – which has recently been refurbished and is kitted out with all sorts of machines and, importantly, also has a decent selection of free weights (I far prefer these – far more functional than machines). I can also use the swimming pool and get in on classes (although when I’ll have the time I don’t know…).

So, I want to squeeze in three gym sessions a week. These are mainly going to have to be before work, which sucks, but then again the kids are waking up way before 0700 lately anyway so it’s not like I’m losing sleep. I think I’ll break each session up as follows (with each session including a decent CV burst at start): 1) legs 2) Chest and back (3) arms and shoulders. My goals are really to lose weight, tone up and add strength.

I went for my first session today and it was good to get back into a gym. I still need to get into a rythym and figure out exactly which exercises I want to do, but that will come. I'm going to record everything I do (not here - that would be sooo boring) as I like to try and beat times and weights, reps etc etc, so I'll just keep you updated on how I'm doing and any major breakthroughs I get. I will also get my BP done and update the fighting fit post as I didn't have that figure back then.

I'm also thinking - the more varied a training regime is, the better the results, so they say, so I was thinking
I might give this a go for some CV work. Enjoy. (WARNING - contains Action Words so if you're easily offended or too young for such words, don't watch it.)

Friday, 19 October 2007

Life rolls on...

Still reeling from the stress of the weekend’s Rugby results (Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!), I went along to training as usual. Simon and Big Dean were fresh from training at Carlson’s in Tonbridge the day before and reported the usual mix of hard training, nice guys and getting owned by Wilson – the giant Black Belt instructor down there.

Rick covered an escape from under cross-side – the specifics of this being the assumption that the guy on top has wrapped his arms around you, effectively stopping you from rolling into him. A few deft moves, creating space with hands and framing with forearms and shins and you’re out, or, in some cases, able to take the back. I loved this one – it really worked and the movement seemed intuitive. Definitely one I want to try and keep in my armoury. Drilling this one move, with various scenarios off the back of it (i.e. opponent driving in, pulling back etc) was enough for this session, and one where I really felt like I’d got something I could use.

This feeling seemed to carry over into my rolling. Admittedly, Rick tapped me in all of about 5 seconds, but I did some good work against the other guys I rolled with. I got tapped eventually, but I really felt I made them work hard for it and for a lot of it was able to make escapes and keep dominant positions and make the odd threat myself. I think the difference was a sense of confidence from the earlier training (i.e. the fact that I “got” it) and also a conscious effort to stay tight, suck up the gaps (something Rick has brought home over the last few sessions). I also tried to utilise my attributes a bit more in conjunction with the developing technical aspects of my game, namely my strength (in a controlled and constant way, hopefully not in an aggressive, bullying kind of way). It didn’t work the whole time – I got swept and people made their escapes…it just didn’t feel like one way traffic, which sometimes it can.

Some might think that using these attributes is not what Jiu Jitsu is about, but I disagree. I think you should concentrate on technique first and foremost, but then you should start to bring your natural abilities to bear. Some guys are small and quick – should they “slow down”? Flexible guys can make moves that others can’t, should they not? No, of course not, so why should strong guys not use their strength? Even Rickson’s website says that he “recognizes and accepts the use of individual qualities, such as power, speed, instinct, strategy, talent, strength, etc” and that people can “achieve great results even without complete knowledge of the technique. Without question, the results are the most important elements as long as the fight strategy makes sense, and does not involve the use of thoughtless random movements.” If your technique is superior, someone using inferior technique should not prevail, regardless of physical attributes and this is constantly borne out in the whuppings I receive, but hell, it makes no sense to not use what you’ve got. Don’t misunderstand me – technique rules the roost and I’m not talking about brute force, but applying strength to good technique.

I finally got my new Gi which my wife bought me for my Birthday. You can never have enough Gis...no matter how hard you try, there’s always an occasion when you have to train in a wet or dirty Gi…and that ain’t nice. It’s taken just over a month to get to me as it’s had to pass through the hands of various relatives through transatlantic travel. Anyway – it’s good and I can recommend it. It’s from HCK (Howard Combat Kimonos) and the Standard Single Weave I’ve got worked out at around £35 GBP – an absolute bargain, especially with £/$ exchange being so favourable at the moment. I think Shipping comes in around £25 (cheaper if you wanna wait a bit longer) so I guess you’re looking at around £60 all in for the standard Gi. Still not bad…many UK suppliers and importers will struggle to beat that in terms of quality and price.

On Wednesday, I arrived later than normal – stuff at home to take care of. Despite being there week in, week out, I got the usual ribbing from the guys – I didn’t even get to finish my bag of peanuts! I’ve got weight to maintain you know! Anyway, this week we went over chokes form the rear, mainly using the collar, but then digressing to other options following defences of that. It was good stuff. I think the main things that stuck were just keeping everything close, how to work the hands in for the choke, which can sometimes be a battle, and also how to control the opponent on their back.

Rolling wasn’t as successful this time, but then again I was rolling against Dean and Si. I was using strength, but in a bad way – far too much and at times, in frustration – all bad as it just gives your opponent everything he needs to submit you. And they did, time and time again. I even had Dean giving me a running commentary of what he was doing step by step and telling me how he was going to submit me and there was nothing I could do about it. It’s soul destroying. Fortunately, I have broad shoulders so remain unaffected and find it amusing. Just need to keep moving and doing what I need to do. I did pick up a nifty little escape from under knee on stomach from Dean – whether I can do it remains to be seen. But, armed with secret ninja techniques I will prevail!

There was a bizarre conversation at the end of the session which started off with quotes from Eddie Murphy movies and then moved on to Jamie Lee Curtis (the link being the movie “Trading Places”. I won’t go into details or mention any names, but all I’ll say is some people ain’t all that choosy and I guess it just goes to prove that we are indeed a diverse group. ;P



In memory of Jack Fennell 1921-2007

Friday, 12 October 2007

Game On!

So, I’ve had three sessions since my last post. Last Friday was MMA with Big Dean , Tugboat Steve and Si. A good session working a takedown from the clinch (immediately useful to BJJ stand up and pretty similar to a takedown from the rear in the BJJ syllabus). Then we worked defending strikes from the back under cross-side – again, very useful to BJJ, especially Rickson’s style which always starts from a position of self defence. That was really hard work, and especially with some meaningful punches coming in to be defended. It’s also easier in this drill to see how the BJJ translates as any attacker trying to strike will always give something up for an escape, much moreso than in BJJ without strikes. I have to confess, I got a bit carried away in this drill – we were fed opponents and it was hard work to keep up and I also found that after a couple of clips, I got a bit rattled and became a little more aggressive. So much so that when I rolled Tugboat Steve off, I took top position and gave him a dig in the ribs….it was automatic. Luckily, Steve’s actually built like a tugboat so no harm done but I’ve gotta watch my control. The aggression’s an asset, but only if it’s controlled.

We finished off the session with some stand up sparring, punches and kicks only, not all out but enough effort to want to keep your hands up. I enjoyed that – it’s good to put a bit of pressure in your training once in a while. Dean was looking sharp and threw in a lovely “Superman punch” that landed right on top of Steve’s head, giving him a look of “what was that/where did that come from?”. He got his own back a bit later on with a couple of heavy body shots. A good session and a great workout.

In Monday’s session Rick went over a take down from the rear for my benefit (grading wise). It was good to cover this again, not least for the need to look again at good base on your feet – a really hard concept. We also covered a takedown and escape from being in the side headlock – similar in principle to the previous takedown, then using a frame to release the headlock.

French Steve turned up again - always good to see him. Quick explanation of the oh-so transparent nickname. His name’s Steve and he lives in France. Good eh? See what they've done? He visits for a few weeks at a time then disappears back home for months – cue many jibes about being on the run and Interpol etc. Steve’s a Blue belt and started BJJ all the way back with Dean Taylor when they visited LA together. Steve’s a small but strong guy with great technique and he’s really into
Qigong type stuff, which is really interesting and maybe something I’ll investigate when I get the time.

Rolling was good – had some good rolls with Roubel and Craig. Roubel commented as we were leaving that I’m really improving, which coming from a far more experienced white belt that used to own me every time we rolled, was really cool, so cheers mate.

Anyway, here's a couple of videos of the guys rolling on Monday:



video

Above: Big Dean and Roubel

video

Above: Rick and French Steve

Wednesday night was just me and Si so we just drilled some positional stuff – cross side to be exact. I used to get real bored doing this sort of stuff, but now I know how important it is, I’ll drill it as long as someone wants to keep on doing it. It was really good to do this and Si’s really good at coaching the details and is very patient – happy to let me do my thing. Really appreciated. I think the biggest thing I took away was the need for good connections – take up the space and stay connected ….CONNECTED, not pushing. And small, constant, movements. It all makes a huge difference.

We spoke a bit about wanting to grow the membership a little more and to try and move things forward, in terms of getting some seminars or something that will help us all develop. It’s good to know that there’s a few of us that want it to stay alive and keep moving forward. I just think we need to set some targets and hit them, otherwise another year’s gonna pass and we’ll all be where we are now. It’s a tough one though – a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. We need existing numbers to be consistent to stand a chance of making a new venue work – which will attract new members which will make seminars etc cost effective. It’s really frustrating but it’s always been this way - why is the general population so apathetic? I’m not just talking BJJ – just life in general.

Anyway, there was a ray of sun on my BJJ landscape this week as I got an email from Kim Gracie, Rickson’s wife, saying that she’ll arrange my belt test when I visit LA, so, on the face of it, when I’m ready, it’s game on…very exciting!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

This is Sparta!!

With aching arms and medal in hand I went along to Monday’s session. I walked in to find Dean giving the guys the summary of my adventures and doing justice to the description of the Hungarian fella. Guys if you think it sounds like an exaggeration, it really ain’t – he was a monster!

There were constant references to my medal successes throughout the night – referring to me as “champ” and suggestions that anyone that tapped me got to keep my medal…. Ain’t no-one gonna touch the champ’s bling fool! ;P

Rick covered off a slight alternative on the defence of guillotine from standing – main points, grip choke arm as before, the other arm comes right over the shoulder and you then hang weight onto the opponent. Angling the closest leg round the opponent’s leg, hips in and head over to break posture and then take the opponent to ground, working in a frame against the throat to release the guillotine. Nifty.

It was during this drill that I heard possibly the funniest quote I’ve heard during training, and true to form it came from Big Dean, delivered in a way that only he could. I was putting on the guillotine (or trying to) and Dean shouted “C’mon! Finish me, you Homo!” It was all in the delivery – really cracked me up. :D

We then went back to the combinations from the Ezekiel choke that we’d covered previously – more armbar practice for me. We also looked at some sort of collar choke – moving from Ezekiel to armbar, to choke. Rick came and positioned me into this choke as I was struggling a bit. As always, tiny changes just tightened everything up so there was absolutely no slack and made the choke work. The great thing was I could instantly feel how the things that Rick did changed everything - a real kinetic learning experience…very powerful.

On then to rolling. Rick was in good form – his rolling looked really fluid and he seemed to have 2 or 3 options in every position he took, a pleasure to watch. I tried too keep everything a lot tighter and had Dean’s words ringing in my ears to always keep moving, which I felt I did reasonably well. I still got tapped like a good’un by everyone, but that’s normal. At one point I got sort of half a mount on Big Dean and he couldn’t resist a jibe – “now mate, this is what top position looks like” – a direct poke at me going to my back at the tournament. I know I deserved it. That was about it this week. I think the bronze medal is probably a pretty reasonable indicator of where I’m at at the moment – doing OK, but still some creases to iron out.

Usual Wednesday night crew – we just trained positions, cross side. Despite my success with it last weekend, I always struggle with it – always useful to drill it. I think the major point from drilling it again was remembering that you really need to get good connections between you and the opponent – in a similar fashion to what Rick said on Monday, just suck up any gaps or slack, keep it all tight. Also, like I’m frequently told – always keep moving, small movements – these will create a reaction from the opponent which may create space or an opportunity. It’s often frustrating drilling this position, as I always get rolled off with great ease when I’m on top but on the bottom, seem to flail without any direction. However, Si pointed out that this is against Blue belts with an average 6 years plus training. I am improving, but so are they, so it’s like chasing an ever moving target. I think I just need to look at the successes I’ve had against opponents around my level and in fact, yeah, they leave the gaps or shift their weight in ways that allow me to escape, so I shouldn’t really beat myself up so much. Just gotta keep on drilling it home. The other problem at the moment is that I’m still at the conscious stage – i.e. I know what I need to do but have to think about it and often, especially with the Blue belts, my thoughts aren’t as fast as their movements, so just as I figure out what I need to do, they’ve moved. It’ll come.

Off the mat, there is a bit of talk of finding new premises, which would make a huge difference I think, not least to our ability to maybe get a few more members. Watch this space. Also, any time now, Little Dean is going to be a daddy again. Good luck mate, to you and yours.

Slightly off topic, I watched 300 this week, just out on DVD – what a great film! I only mention it as it’s a great movie, it was promoted by Chuck Liddel (UFC fighter – Ultmate Fighter…Spartans…ultimate warriors…see what they’ve done?) and the training the actors went through (some good articles here and here and a good video here) to get in shape for the movie is awesome. Highly recommended.

I’ll leave you with this little curiosity. My son (nearly 3) knows I do Jiu Jitsu and vaguely what that entails. For some reason though, when ever we drive past the local Somerfield supermarket he says “you do Jiu Jitsu there daddy?”. I’m baffled – what on earth creates a connection in a child’s mind between Jiu Jitsu and a supermarket? Answers on a postcard.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

That'll ding dang do for me!

So, just got back from the Tournament. I got BRONZE! More than happy with that considering it was my first tournament.

First off, a huge thanks to Big Dean. After a late night, Dean was up and about to meet me at 0830 and accompanied me to the tournament, coaching me all the way, keeping me focused. Dean was at the side coaching me all through my fights and we didn't really get back to his until about 1800 - a long day that he didn't have to give up just for me. So truly mate, thanks...it really is appreciated.
So, onto the day - I arrived to find that there were 5 guys in my category. The atmosphere in the place was good - music pumping into the arena, guys re-acquainting themselves with people they've met through BJJ etc. The Tonbridge guys were there - good to see so many of them there and a big congratulations to all their guys that took medals.

It was about a two hour wait until my first fight so after a quick warm up, and a pep talk from Dean it was down to business. My first fight started off with lots of just gripping up and pulling about. Eventually, bored and frustrated with standing I dropped to try and get guard, but the guy got X-side. I managed to roll him off, surprisingly easily (all that drilling came in handy!), took X-side, tried for knee on stomach, eventually took mount and then submitted him with an Americana arm lock - not the best one I've done, but I figured what the hell? A win's a win. In my second fight I was up against a huge guy from Carlson Gracie Hungary. I knew a little of him from the guys at Tonbridge - he's a big, strong guy - I was giving away around 8kg to him and most of him was muscle! I kind of knew I was in trouble, but hey - you do what you can. He broke down my posture pretty early and rather poorly (and much to Dean's frustration, I'm sure) I went down to take guard. He was quickly on me, took X-side and then submitted me with a good choke. There wasn't an awful lot I could do against his sheer strength. He went on to take Gold. I'm kind of hoping he'll get his Blue Belt soon so that I don't have to meet him again in any future tournaments! My third fight, I knew I was on for a Bronze , so didn't want to lose it. This was a bit of a stale-mate for a long time. Neither of us wanted to do anything too rash, so loads of just standing, looking for a gap to do something with. With Dean's threats of violence ringing in my ears, I wasn't going to go down easily this time. After a bit of probing I got a sweep on the guy which got me points, but I couldn't follow up quickly enough and the guy stood up. So, off we go again...more of the same. Eventually, the ref gets bored and takes a point off me for stalling (Still not sure why I was the one deemed to be stalling when the other guy was doing the same - hey ho). From memory, I went for a double leg takedown but he sprawled. My opponent got my back but I managed to roll him off but couldn't follow up - the same happened again, then he went for a sort of rear naked choke, but it wasn't on at all and he couldn't make anything stick long enough to get points...just as time went. I think I must've won by 1 point.

Sure - I was pleased to take the Bronze, but I'd rather have won easier than I made it and I know I could have done. I think I was so preoccupied with not making mistakes that I wasn't as forthcoming as I could and should have been. At the end of the day though, I'd got a medal from my first tournament.

So, reflections on the experience? Well....

1) Waiting - god, there's so much waiting and when you don't know what's coming that's even worse as the adrenaline just keeps on coming. Even when I'd finished, there was the hanging about to get my medal. Next time I shan't rush to get there so early knowing that I'll have to wait two hours before I get on. I'll also know what's coming so hopefully can stay a bit calmer.

2) Standing work - considering how long this bit of the fight can last, it's really important to understand it and have some sort of a game - in my last fight I wasn't stalling at all - I was just waiting for an obvious route in - I got one, but it's so hard if you're just not sure what you're looking for. Some work to be done.

3) Don't give anything for free - in 2 out of three fights I went down voluntarily...a big no no. In one I was fortunate to work technique out of X-side, the other I got submitted. 50/50 - not a good tactic.

4) Match strength when required - there were a couple of times when I really should have pursued or driven harder to push home an advantage - maybe I wasn't aggressive enough. I know BJJ isn't meant to be about that, but then tournaments aren't about pure BJJ in my view - you do what's needed to win. I think a bit more controlled aggression might not go amiss.

5) My knee survived - I need to try and not worry to much about what can't be controlled. By "guarding" these weak points you become tentative and move differently which can be more risky that just going with it - easier said than done, but something to think about.
I did have some video taken of my fights (thanks Neil) and I'd have loved to have put up some footage, but numpty that I am, I royally effed up the download and lost the videos! (gutted!). Here's a couple of photos instead - promise some film in the future - sorry!:

(L) Me with my medal (R) a close up of my bling.

Will I compete again - yes! Where? When? Dunno, I need to work on a few things - I know what worked for me and what didn't so I want to go off, fix those things and go in better prepared next time now I know what to expect.
It's been a long but satisfying day...I'm off now to have well earned cold cider! Cheers!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Pass the toilet roll...

Really quiet week this one…only four of us training on Monday and three on Wednesday. C’mon guys – there’s plenty of you out there. Come train!

Anyway, Monday we covered some submission combinations from the mount. Richard started us off with the Ezekiel choke – a nasty little bastard that I’ve been caught with loads of times (usually by Big Dean). It was good to understand the mechanics of it. Then we looked at how this can be used to set up armbars, chokes, taking the back and all manner of other things. For me, it was all a bit beyond where I’m at, but the thing I took most from it was the mindset of not just setting up one option and investing all your effort into that one move. By doing this, if the move doesn’t come off, that’s it – it’s all you’ve got, game over. However, setting something up with two or three other possibilities always means that you’ve got several options open that you can switch between. Rather than get too bogged down in thought I spent a while practicing the movement for the armbar – I often get the position but can never finish it, so with some good pointers from the other guys I managed to iron out a few creases. It’s still not perfect, but slowly slowly…. One thing I really need to work on for this is my control – just need to develop some core strength.

Wednesday was just me, Si and Lee. We went through a reminder on keeping base in standing – a useful reminder ahead of the weekend. Then we worked on a bit of standing sparring. It was useful to do this with Lee, him being a big guy. I think I’ve worked out from this that I need to either be out of the way of my opponent or in really close – clinch range. At least at this clinch range, even if the other guy goes for a take-down, there’s a 50/50 chance that I can end up on top. I don’t want to be anywhere where the other guy can work a throw on me. So that was useful. We worked on guard for a bit – just positional training, which again, was a useful thing to do, re-capping the basics, then just rolling. Si had me tapping like a type-writer – I think nerves are getting the better of me and I was making my movements too big – just need to keep calm and go back to what I’ve been doing in recent weeks. Overall a really useful session – just to get a few things straight before Sunday.

Like I’ve said before, I’ve got no expectation. Most of the time I don’t think too much about it, but when I do, I’m bricking it. I know I’m gonna be really nervous on Sunday – it’s a real step into the unknown. As far as strategy goes, I’m just gonna start out for a clinch and go from there, work for the mount. I’m not too fussed about loads of positions, I just want to submit the opponent as soon as possible. I just need to try and stay calm and keep good technique and work with what the opponent gives me. I’m gonna be rolling with big guys. It’s going to be tough. But hey, whatever will be will be.

I’ll post Sunday night to let you know how I got on…..

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Let's get readeee to rhuuuumblllllle!!!

So, I've alluded to it a few times, but yep, I'm entering a tournament. It's the Southern Open in Reading next week - (Sun 30th Oct). This will be my first BJJ tournament, and, frankly, the first time I've done anything like this...entering a competition where I only have me to rely on.

I'm really nervous, but really looking forward to it. I'm entered into the White Belt, Masters', Super Super Heavyweight Category (basically a "cattle and others" weight group) and I also figured I may as well give the Absolute class a shot too (may as well make the journey and entry fee worthwhile eh?).

I've got no preconception or expectation whatsoever so I'm just gonna go along, do my best and see what the experience brings. Right now, the only thing I'm worried about is the stand up bit at the start of each fight - I haven't done much of that and I don't need much to really screw my knee up, but I can't let that run all over my mind otherwise I'd never do half the stuff I do.

Win or lose, I'm just going in to this for the experience - no extra special training, weight loss or anything like that - that can come next year. I just want to see how I get on, especially under the pressure of competition. So, here goes.....

Friday, 21 September 2007

Hi-de-hi!

Just thought I'd drop a quick post so that anyone that reads this won't think I've gotten bored and disappeared.

Just got back from a week at Butlins with the family. I'm knackered! I gotta say though - it might not be the most exotic holiday, but in terms of stuff for the kids, it was an excellent break - really great stuff. Great to see my kids really enjoying themselves, meeting all the characters and enjoying the shows and activities.

The other really good thing about being there was that I was able to feel like the fittest, well-honed, dietarily superior being on the planet compared to many of the obese nicotine addicted slobs that seem to be drawn to that place like moths round a lamp! Jeeeeez! I thought people like that only existed on daytime TV!

No BJJ this week...about the only BJJ I did was showing my mate how my 2 year old son can execute the basics of an escape from under the mount (upa)...cue much paternal pride! As I mentioned, I was going to train at Neil's "Dojo" today, but really, unless you've spent 5 days running around after two 2 and a half year olds, you'll never know just how tiring that can be and with the best will in the world, rolling gives way to sitting down and having a cuppa in this instance! Training on Monday as usual.

Laters.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

mmmmmmmmmMMA

Friday before last I trained MMA with Dean, Si, Mike and Tugboat Steve (the nicknames are pretty straightforward - Steve works on the boats on the Thames...not a great leap of imagination for his nickname). It's not a regular thing as it depends on everyone's availability, but it's a good extension to the BJJ.

It was a really good session, working on the pads - a few strikes and make an entry, move the opponent to the wall and tie up, coming out for the odd strike, elbow etc. It was a really good drill for working on closing distance and controlling an opponent. It was also a really good workout. It was hot, but man, did I sweat? (Yes I did, by the way).

I like MMA. I don’t get to see a lot of it, and I don’t train it as much as I’d like, but I like it. I like the rawness of the contest. I like that it has evolved martial arts and put them in an arena so that we can see what really works and what is just BS (gone are the days when people can hide behind a “black belt in origami” and a few fancy looking Kata). I like the personalities that it has created. I like the lifestyle that has sprung up around it – one with its own fashions, one that values hard training, athletes that understand conditioning, technique and nutrition along with the best of other sports.

So when I see articles like this one from the BBC, I worry. It’s the same argument that’s been used for years to try and get boxing banned. “It’s barbaric”, “Dangerous”, “glorifies violence”. All the usual standard phrases being thrown about by people that do not understand the sport. UFC (75) was in town last weekend, so it's easy fodder for the Daily Mail set.

Both sides of the case tend to conveniently use the “1%” rule to justify their claims. Boxers will point to a death in an MMA bout in 1998 (a pretty amateur affair without the controls put in place by organisations such as the UFC and Cage Rage). MMA will retort with cases like that of Michael Watson, left permanently brain damaged by his bout with Chris Eubank. These are the 1% of cases that reach the public eye when things go horribly wrong – set against a backdrop of thousands training each year and hundreds fighting both professional and amateur bouts , all without incident or injury.

So what’s the fuss?

From my point of view, there is a logic as to why MMA can be considered safer than boxing. Despite what people might say, there are rules, designed to remove the biggest risk factors from the sport. A MMA win can be contrived from any number of avenues - strikes, decisions, submissions via chokes or locks. Most smart MMAers prefer not to stand toe to toe and "box" with an opponent, prefering instead to work close range and secure submissions. This is perhaps one of the single biggest differences with boxing, in which there is an agreement by both fighters to stand at a certain range and exchange blows, mainly to the head, in an attempt to induce concussion or knockout. in MMA, the clinch is a vital part of the game, in boxing this is stopped by the referee as it prevents the objective of hitting one's opponent in the head. Boxing gloves are bigger and heavier than MMA gloves, allowing the hitter to hit repeatedly as the gloves provide greater protection to the hands. For the person being hit, the damage is arguably greater as the weight and size of the gloves all adds to the impact.

Some will point at MMA and try to draw parallels with Gladiatorial contest from a bygone age - it's "thuggish" and uncivilised - glorified street fighting, the likes of which you can see on any high street on a Friday night. Frankly this is typical of comments from those that have no clue. The people I know that train and compete in MMA are highly intelligent poeple. Christ, Big Dean stepped up...and he's a PhD! Steve Morris, clearly one of the most intelligent people I've met...a thug? Absolutely not. Intelligent? Devastating? Yes. Every month I buy "Fighters Only" Magazine. Now, look at some of the magazines dedicated to traditional martial arts (you know the sort..."Ninja Weekly", "Deadly Street Fighter" etc) and compare it to this... a magazine dedicated to MMA and the lifestyle...there's a vast difference, and not just in the prodcution values. The latest edition contains information about blood borne viruses, a very open article about depression (a serious issue, statistically affecting a good proportion of its readership), every month, training, nutrition and conditioning information...all well written and presented...the mark of a sport run by thugs?

It's a sport, just like any other. At the top flight, the guys are honed athletes - training hard, taking care of conditioning and nutrition as well as any other athlete (except without all the coaches and sponsorship etc). At the lower levels, people like to train - it's great for fitness and requires skill and intellect. I train. Am I ever going to step into cage? No chance. I just like the training.

If there are two areas where MMA could clean up its act it's in the controls over blood borne diseases.... and this moreso at the amateur levels. It's my understanding that this is pretty lax. With Hep B and C on the rise and the ever present shadow of HIV, organisers need to grab hold of this and match the standards in place in boxing, especially since the potential for cuts in MMA is higher. MMA does not need the publicity of fighters becoming infected through poor infrastructure. The second is the use of steroids. Rumours abound everywhere about who's using them. Hell, even Royce Gracie has been called on it. Like all sports, use of such drugs calls the integrity fo the sport int question for all competitors, clean or not. It needs attention.

Ultimately though, it's like all these things that our increasingly "nannying" country sticks its nose into and sensationalises. IT'S AN INDIVIDUAL CHOICE!!! Let people get the info, see the data and make a choice.

I'll leave you with this little gem - a spoof trailer for UFC 75 - very funny! Enjoy.

Older. Wiser?

I turned another year older last weekend...still no wiser. But, as I was standing in the queue in Morrisons, my phone went and it was Big Dean...wishing me a happy birthday. That was a real nice surprise - cheers mate. It's small things like that - unexpected things that can really make a difference to your day and for me, just goes to illustrate again what I've said about the guys I train with - all staunch fellas. No-one at work remembered. I sign all sorts of inane cards every week, but not one person remembered it was my birthday. I'm not bothered - saves me a fortune following that ridiculous tradition of buying cakes...often the only time that people actually remember who you are, or deign to speak to you to say a half-hearted "thanks". I only mention to highlight the huge difference between the people you have to spend time with and the people you choose to spend time with. So again, cheers mate - it really made a difference to my day.

Only one training session this week. On Monday, Rick took us through a self defence movement - defending against punches from under cross side. Whilst predominently a self defence technique, it also conditioned a sensitivity to the movement and weight of the opponent that will be useful in this position in "regular" BJJ. There were two variations, depending on where the opponent puts his weight (depending on whether strikes are to the body or head). Useful, effective drills.

Rolling went reasonably well again - good movement and I was trying to keep a "dominant" mind-set in preparation for an up-coming tournament (more on that soon). Nothing major to report, just felt "OK" with how things are at the moment.

I didn't train Wednesday this week. My new tattoo (left (top left arm) - done by Brendan Mudd at Inkfish Studio) took a beating on monday (probably not the best idea to train the day after) so was really sore on Wednesday and was significantly more scabbed, so thought it best to leave it a bit. I'd also been working in London most of the week, so was pretty knackered from some unusually early starts and later finishes.

I'm not going to be training next week either - I'm away on holiday with the family and some friends of ours at Butlins at Bognor Regis. Not the most exotic of places, but I'm really looking forward to having some time away and our first "proper" holiday with the kids. Got an al fresco session lined up at Neil's Dojo when I get back. I'm already itchy for a session, but hey, that's how it goes.