Sunday, 24 February 2008

Zen and the art of Jiu Jitsu

No teaching from Dean T week before last, so it was back to “da old skool” with Me, Si, Big Dean and Mike. Both sessions were really similar – we solely worked positional stuff – escapes from under the mount, focussing on the elbow escape. Just drilling the move over and over. I used to hate this type of stuff, but now it’s essential and I get a whole lot out of it. Coaching from the guys, as always was well observed and well-timed and really helped loads. The key points I took away from both sessions were:
  • Secure the frame (Dean’s image of expanding into the gap like water and then freezing is a useful prompt for how the frame should feel)
  • Be aware of not pushing with the frame – this can be helped by not using the “spare” hand – just make it ready for movement to the next phase of the move
  • Put energy into the frame – this comes up through the posted foot (needs to be as close to the butt as possible) and through the shoulder
  • Take up the space before beginning the move
  • Attempt the move to get a reaction from your opponent
  • Don’t be locked in to one move – be aware of the moment, where the weight and balance is and react accordingly

We rolled at the end of both sessions, and, having announced that I am going to enter the Gracie Invitationals at Seni, Dean was kind enough to give me a round robin of opponents both nights – roll after roll after roll! On Monday I was gassing big style – I was coming down with a cold, had struggled in the positional stuff and was just too frantic in a lot of what I was doing – really tough. Wednesday night was different thought – it was as though all the learning had sunk in and was starting to take effect – my rolling was a lot calmer and I was getting some good results. I even managed to remember and use some of the escapes Dean T had shown us recently, although I was a bit late on the omaplata escape! The guys were really encouraging and I did feel a difference. The key difference between Monday and Wednesday? Pure and simple – staying calm and working the technique. That’s what I’ve got to do – just gotta sit back and be cool. Both sessions were tough, but enjoyable and really brought me on in a position that I always struggle with – still no where near perfect, but big strides ahead.

The two guys from the previous week didn’t show. I was hopeful that they might return, but not surprised they didn’t. I get the impression that our style of BJJ wasn’t what they were looking for. Because of its association with MMA, BJJ attracts quite a lot of guys that just wanna smash things. That’s cool and there are a lot of BJJ clubs that can cater for that, but that’s not the way at our club – see my last post and my “painting” analogy. Hey ho – just another pair in a long line of people that wander in through the doors and don’t stay the distance.

Last Monday’s session was with Dean T and a good turn out. Sticking with the whole balance/kuzushi thing we worked controlling the opponent’s balance from standing – manipulating weight onto one leg then controlling how and where the opponent is then able to place weight with their other leg. The “sphere of energy” principle remains and it’s a case of manipulating the opponent’s weight by moving your “sphere” in a subtle fashion to the opposites of where he wants to be. In doing this, you can move weight on your own terms and as your opponent struggles to regain, you can exploit any over-exuberance with a well-timed takedown – albeit a gentle one of simply stepping away and leading your opponent to the floor.

We worked the “sphere” principle into a couple of self defence moves, the first one being a grab to one shoulder. The principle here is not to react with an overbearing “base”. Dean clearly demonstrated how this is ineffective. Rather, in this scenario, you simply raise your arm up to meet the grab, maintaining your own personal space – this move effectively neutralises the push from your opponent. Persistent pushing can be overcome by redirecting force and a change to pulling can be counteracted by following your aggressor whilst wrapping the arm into a shoulder lock. Using very similar principles, we also worked a defence against someone shooting in to grab your hips – rugby tackle style – again, all about maintaining distance with your “sphere” and redirecting force and balance. It’s always interesting to see the self defence applications of Jiu Jitsu and this is another thing that separates Rickson’s style from other schools – the Jiu Jitsu always starts from a position of self defence as opposed to scoring points in a tournament.

We also worked a similar frame/sphere thing with someone placing knee on stomach - not working too hard, just going with where the weight and balance of your opponent is - a very "alive" way of moving, always playing with the point of discomfort for your opponent. It's all very "in the now" and something that takes a lot of mental discipline. Dean demonstrated very well how the usual tactic of pushing against your opponent under knee on stomach just gives him everything he needs to get purchase, so the discipline with this is to keep your sphere and just keep rolling with the movement as it comes, staying relaxed and in the moment.

Here's a few photos of the session - Dean T demonstrating principles with Roubel:

The only other thing to note in this entry is that I have at last returned to the gym after nearly two months with assorted congestion/colds/catarrh. I'm slowly getting the hearing back in my right ear at last!!! It was a tough session, but the good news is that I don't appear to have lost any of the fitness gains I made before I got ill, so hopefully I can just carry on where I left off. Just may have put a bit of weight back on that's all but that's easily shifted!

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