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":


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.


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 ,


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.


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, 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!