Sunday, 27 January 2008

Let's get it on!

I gotta lot of catching up to do so here goes…

Monday last week there were five of us. I wanted to work on going round open guard so Little Dean showed a few variations that he’s seen lately. These all worked pretty well and I remember elements of them, but here’s the rub with not keeping up with the blogging – I’ll need to revisit these sometime. He also showed us a drill which was great for just working movement – omoplata to triangle to armbar. You need to work with your partner to make it work, but it’s a drill, not a contest – just trying to keep the movements flowing. Really good for a warm up – might try and get a film clip of it up soon. We had a little bit of rolling at the end – usual story – nothing significant to report.

Except....that is....a bizarre conversation about what super power you'd have if you could pick one. Without being too graphic, one of our number (he shall remain nameless!) chose the ability to freeze time and re arrange things, then start time up again. He must've had some bastard teachers at school because he went off on a tangent about freezing time, putting teachers into comprimising positions and taking photos of the evidence. It was just far too detailed to have been an impromptu thought - a whole lot of repression there if you ask me...scary! I am frequently left dumbstruck by the direction our conversation takes at times.

Dean T had scheduled to teach on Thursday this week, and due to domestic arrangements I had to choose between Weds or Thurs, so Thursday it was. We covered a lot of ground, so here’s a quick summary. (1) Escape from omoplata – rolling into the opponent. (2) Escape from armbar – 3 variations all involving disrupting opponent’s base (3) 3 variations from opponent taking back- 1 escape from position – 2 escapes from chokes (gi choke and Rear Naked). It’s a whole lot to remember, but the principles for all of it was the same: move as you are attacked to either the escape, or to disrupt you opponent’s base. These principles are essential to just about every technique – move to late and you’ll have to fight for what you want – timing and sensitivity are everything. No time for rolling this session, but my mind was working overtime to store all I’d seen. We did just finish of with a sensitivity drill – one person making a move, the other just exploiting the movement to off-balance the opponent – a really useful thing to do and something I’ll aim to do more of.

On reflection, I also felt I picked up the value of small movements rather than big bold attempts at techniques, particularly in the armbar escape drills – 10% this way, 20% that way, 30% this way, 40% that way and so on rather than 100% that way and then fail.

All in all a good session.

Onto the main event of the week - UFC 80: Rapid Fire!!!

Big Dean had arranged for a few of us to go and see UFC 80 in Newcastle. I took the opportunity to blend the event with a visit to the in-laws so drove up on Friday, whilst the rest of the guys flew up Friday night. Sounds like I got the better end of the deal as they were all delayed getting away from Heathrow following the crash landing there the day before.

I arranged to meet the guys Saturday afternoon in Newcastle, so we met up (Me, Big Dean, Mike, Si, and Dean's mates Mick and Robbie) and had a few beers. After a short detour for the guys to spruce up we headed to the Metro arena - a decent sized venue.

Once inside we had seats about 30 meteres away from the Octagon and I was impressed by the set up - big screens, great lighting and a good buzz of expectation. The crowd was pretty mixed crowd - nerds, guys that train and know their stuff and a spattering of steroid abusers posturing their way to the bar, but all in all a good atmosphere.

The early fights were pretty good- most notably Paul Taylor V Paul Kelly (a unanimous decision to Kelly) - two British scrappers embroiled in a war of attrition - great stuff. Some other notable fights with surprise outcomes were Jess Liaudin losing by TKO (a sweet punch straight on the jaw - out before he hit the mat), Kendall Grove losing by TKO to a couple of punches that sent his pupils wide like black holes, Gabriel Gonzaga losing by TKO to Farbricio Werdum and also a very quick win by Antoni Hardonk over Colin Robinson (TKO within 1st 30 seconds of round 1). Hardonk's win is notable to this blog since he carries a Rickson Blue Belt and was proudly sporting Rickson's logo on his fight shorts - a proud moment for us all!

And the main event - the interim World Lightweight Championship bout between legendary BJ Penn and Joe "Daddy" Stevenson. Wow- the place went mental right from the off. Expectation was high and both fighters have a great record. Penn looked in great shape as he entered the Octagon, calm and determined. Stevenson looked pumped and ready for anything. Right from the off, Penn had the upper hand with excellent boxing skills and on the ground his BJJ pedigree shone through - such amazing control. Part way through round one, everything looked to be over as BJ dropped a nasty elbow that split Stevenson's face open - blood everywhere. Saved by the bell, Stevenson's cut-man started his fight with a losing battle. Round 2 was more of the same with Penn keeping Stevenson at bay with good footwork and well placed shots, but it looked more and more as though the fight would be stopped - BLOODBATH! The Doc had a quick look at Stevenson, but judged that his vision wasn't impaired by the blood. Eventually Penn off balanced Stevenson with a few good shots and took it to ground. More big blows gave Penn Stevenson's back - hooks in and after a few brief attempts by Stevenson to halt the inevitable, BJ sunk in a textbook rear naked choke for the tap.

What a fight - what a result - what a champ. I've also gotta give big respect to Stevenson - he put in a big effort, but BJ was just sooo superior on the night. Despite being absolutley distraught (you've gotta feel for a guy who has put months of focussed training into this one night), he still went across to raise BJ's arm to give him his due plaudits. Really nice to see.

See round 2 of the fight here. (Get it while it's hot - it's bound to be taken down sometime soon!)

BJ's message? "Sean Sherk- you're dead" - what a fight that'll be and on this form and in this shape you'd have to put your money on Penn.

Certainly this was my first live MMA event and I wasn't disappointed - well orchestrated, very professional and I was impressed by the time given by refrees, announcers, fighters etc to the fans for photos and autographs. The UFC have it sewn and know that it's the fans that keep it where it is.

So, cheers Dean for sorting it out, and to all the guys for the company - a great night. Here's a few pics:

So, one more session to cover off and that was taken by Dean T on Wednesday. Good to see French Steve back again and Ian aka "Monkey" after a while. Continuing with the "least energy used" methodology, we covered a nifty little escape from Kimura (on your side with attacker over your head). Main points: weight on - pull the attacker in to off balance, swing legs to side you're facing, then bridge back in to get the escape. Weight off, swing legs opposite way to spin out from under the position.

The rest of the session was largely given over to practicing more sensitivity and staying in control from cross side. Dean made the point about keeping the hips connected - the rest, the arms and legs were irrelevant and all the fancy grips you see many people using are just counter to what you need to be happening. We all spent a long time doing this - it's a pretty tough thing to do, but when it's right, there's little your opponent can do. I felt pretty good under cross-side in this drill, securing some good escapes and making good movement for myself, so pleased about that.

We also looked briefly at taking an armbar from allowing the opponent to make an escape from cross side: as the escapee pushes you away, you accept the push which over-extends your opponent's arm allowing an armbar to be executed using your knee to apply pressure. This fitted in nicely with a talk that Dean gave about accepting opponents' movement from the outset rather than resisting - going with the flow. It makes a lot of sense but runs counter to instinct, so needs to be trained as hard, if not harder than the myriad techniques in BJJ. It's great stuff.

Really enjoying training at the moment but I'm suffering with Catarrh. I don't actually remember having a cold, but I'm just so congested lately - I've gone deaf in one ear too. It's a pain in the arse- I'm not ill, but it's making life uncomfortable and stopping me going to the gym for a decent workout lately. May have to go to the doctor's to try and get something to clear it - it's taking too long on its own.

'Til next time - keep on training!

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Absolutely Fabulous!

So, a new year. I hope everyone reading this had a great Christmas break and I wish you lots of success over the coming year.

I had a pretty good break – two weeks off work, just spending time with my family. It was great this year as my kids are now old enough to go in for the full Santa/Christmas experience so it was a fun time. We even had snow whilst we were in the North East – a decent amount too so the kids even got their first dose of proper winter. I didn’t do a whole lot of training over the break – I managed a few very good gym sessions and I was set up to train with another club whilst I was up in the North East, but that fell apart due to a breakdown in communications – shame that, but no-one’s fault.

I managed to avoid the worst of the seasonal excesses, but am more pleased that I managed to avoid the many illnesses and colds that seemed to be doing the rounds. I put it down to more or less overdosing on fizzy Vitamin C & Zinc tablets. Placebo, or real, I don’t care – I’m just pleased I’ve stayed well.

Anyway, with the new year in full swing, I went along to training on Monday, knowing that it would be just me, Big Dean and Si as usual, half expecting that we would be discussing how we were going to wind things down. More on that in a moment.

We decided to just roll – blow out a few cobwebs, and it was great to be back on the mat and in the company of friends – especially as Monday had been my first day back at work and I was feeling less than enthusiastic about life. I was trying hard to work on some decent escapes and my main objective was to just keep moving...and it worked. Si commented on this so it was good to know it was noticeable and I even managed to replace guard from under mount a couple of times – really pleased with that. I got tapped as usual, but felt that I gave a good account of myself and was moving with a bit of purpose so was pretty pleased.

The major event of the evening was when Dean Taylor showed up. It was really good to see him. He looks well and relaxed We spoke about how we were unsure of what was happening to the club, Dean (T) said that he was looking to train again (as his back allows) and there was a general consensus that everyone wanted to try and keep things going if possible. Dean said that he would train when he could and hoped that may attract a few of the old faces back to the club, which it undoubtedly will. It may even attract a few new members. This will be great from a number of viewpoints. Firstly, it will mean that there is more money going into the pot than just that which Me, Si, and Dean have been paying for the last 9 months. Secondly, it will mean that we have got someone with superior skill and knowledge to coach/teach again (which will help the Blue Belts develop)and lastly, I hope it will mean that everyone can just get on with what’s important – i.e. enjoying training together. So, with this news, we take our first tentative steps to getting things going again. I don’t say this with any huge expectation, for fear of disappointment, but it would be great to see things get a bit of life back into them. We’ll see – fingers crossed.

Wednesday night – well, what a turn up – literally. There were 7 of us – count ‘em, SEVEN! Me, Big Dean, Si, Mike, Rick, Craig and Dean Taylor. It was so good to see a good number, good to see Rick and Craig again and better still to see Dean back and teaching. I heard him say that he’s looking to train around 3 times a month, which will be just great. We started off with Big Dean, at my request, showing how to pass around the butterfly guard. The key factor here was connecting to the opponent and pinning one of his feet to the floor – this prevents him getting a hook in which is always the thing that stops me passing round – so simple…if you know it.

Dean T showed a slight variance in this, bring one knee up to create even further space to prevent the hook but also made the point that defence needs to be more proactive – defending one’s own space which will cause the opponent to overstretch or off balance himself in his attempts to get close. Dean said that, due to his back he’s been working on Jiu Jitsu principles and making them work so that he has to do the least possible to affect his opponent.

What followed was a masterclass in sensitivity and simply making your opponent his own worst enemy. Fascinating to watch, even amusing at times, as Dean managed to have people falling all over the place with only the merest of touches. I felt it myself – as I moved to take up grips on Dean, he’d positioned himself in such a way that I was immediately off balance – had I persisted with my forward aggression, I would have been on my back in no time. It’s so simple, but really difficult to explain – it’s just something you have to experience and then try and replicate for yourself. The only thing I can try and liken it to is imagining that you have a sphere of energy that you are trying to stop your opponent penetrating – you do this with a light frame using arms and legs depending where you are. As the person moves to you, you just have to try and maintain this sphere, yet yield to the attack and then re-direct it at the appropriate time. I’m by no means proficient at it, but I gave it a go and was surprised by the results, even though I was still pushing at times.

It’s this stuff that Dean T teaches so well, and makes the difference to the Jiu Jitsu that we practice and that I’ve experience elsewhere. It’s this subtlety and sensitivity that threads between the positions and techniques and enables them to happen – it’s the glue, the DNA of Jiu Jitsu if you like – and it all flows from Rickson. It’s why you hear comments like this from guys like
Paulo Filho: 'I've never seen Jiu-Jitsu like that in my life! …no one ever did to me what Rickson Gracie has done during training these last days.” (Source)

I think that this rejuvenated input from Dean T, combined with the coaching on the techniques and positions that I’m getting, will be the next leap in my progression and couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I think I know (even if I can’t always execute!) enough of the basics for this stuff to have an impact for me now. I suspect that, great as it was, I may not have been in a position to identify how what Dean was teaching us back when I started could be used as I was too concerned with positions and techniques. I feel like now I can see how it is going to fit into the other stuff and make it all work so much better. It remains to be seen how competently I can do this, but right now, I feel like a new door has been opened – the room is dark, but what I can see looks pretty interesting.

From this revelation, we sunk swiftly back into the depths of tabloid obsession discussing the various merits of Girls Aloud, including, to my dismay, details of which one’s going out with who. It was like everyone had turned gay and was reading “Heat” or “Hello” or “Yowzers Weekly!” or something. Next week, we will be mostly discussing “A New Year, a new You: how to make colour work for you in 2008!”. Christ, just what BJJ needs to enhance it’s reputation as the gayest martial art ever created!