Friday, 22 August 2008

Are you going to San Francisco...?

A quick catch up then on the last couple of weeks.

First the technical stuff…

Monday last week - we covered a take down in which, having taken up grips, you kind of squat, then project your hips backwards – this brings your opponent off-balance over their own toes. As your but touches the floor, you place one foot on the hip and execute a sort of half Ippon Seoinage, sweeping with the other leg. From here, you can take top position. Clearly, this technique is wholly dependant on the initial resistance of your opponent, but it’s easy to adjust and improvise with this one. If your opponent does start to come forward of his own volition, you can block his legs with your feet, slide them to hook the ankles, then push on his knees – this will sweep him backwards.

One other thing we looked at was from spider guard – feet in opponent’s biceps, controlling the wrists. Wrap one arm with your leg, pull the other shin across the body. Invite your opponent in and then project of using your shin.

Wednesday last week – still working on the sensitivity/leverage of the core and legs used in symphony, we practiced a movement where you start kind of in open guard, defending against the opponent with your shin and hand to stop them from passing. As he comes forward, you can frame against him, lift your hips to raise your legs, swing legs across and chop down, keeping your core engaged. As your body comes up, place your free hand on the floor and swivel round to face your opponent having created space and now in a stronger open guard position.

Working with little Dean we also did an exercise with one person initiating, the other trying to “sense” (through a combination of feel and reading body movement and posture) what the opponent was going to do. The aim of the exercise was either to occupy the middle space before your opponent does, thus putting him literally on the back foot, or to be away from your opponent’s forward intent, creating space and momentum that will work against your opponent. It’s about being alert to subtle changes in your opponent’s intentions, weight and balance and trying to never be where your opponent wants you to be.

We then looked at an escape from cross side using leverage in the legs and core to create space and movement. Once space has been created you can often get your bottom knee in to create a frame/take guard or sometimes, if the weight is correct, you can extend your other leg to sweep your opponent over. If your shoulder is blocked by your opponent (thus preventing you turning in to face him), simply use legs and leverage to come out the bottom – you can use the arm to create a frame against the throat or face to create additional space.

Only one session for me this week due to other stuff going on, but we really extended the work started last Wednesday. We started by drilling a whole heap of basic movements – variations on teeter totter, shrimping, pocket knife, all focussing on keeping the core strong and the feet off the floor. There were also a lot of movements to practice projecting the legs and one particularly hard one of coming feet over your head and sort of walking around your shoulders – I need a bit of practice on all of them methinks, but especially that last one. Apart from being good conditioning for the core muscles, the reason behind these movements would later become apparent.

We then worked on the same sensitivity drill from Wednesday, but a little more freeform and with this some of our earlier movements came into play. Dean T also went over the escapes from cross side again and the movements we practiced worked seamlessly into the practice and the same principles applied to practicing a couple of escapes from North/South.

All topped off with a nice bit of free-training which I did with Craig. I really enjoyed this and the training felt cooperative and mutually beneficial. Aside from cramps in both calves (a side effect of the previous night’s five mile run I suspect), it was a comfortable and enjoyable way to train.

I’m really enjoying the training we’re doing lately – I feel like I’m learning loads, like it’s the stuff that’s somehow “hidden” in Jiu Jitsu that can make it really effective. There are no shortcuts with this stuff though and you’ve got to be committed to its practice in the long term. There are shortcuts elsewhere – majoring on speed and strength – all great attributes to have, but this feels like it’s where it’s really at. I leave sessions feeling relaxed and happy. I’ve always left Jiu Jitsu happy in the past, but not always relaxed….more absolutely shattered and aching… This way means I get great training and am never too tired to go to the Gym for my CV workout the next day, which is great.

I haven’t trained at Tonbridge since Brighton, mainly because other stuff keeps cropping up, but also partly due to cost – petrol getting there and back then £8 per session. The credit crunch has hit BJJ :(.

I’ve managed to get back into some regularity at the gym lately and this is paying dividends – in fitness at least. I’m running further, faster and my resting heart rate and blood pressure have come down a lot (60bpm and round about 125/70). No more weight loss to note, but none gained so OK there.

I’m off to San Francisco tomorrow for one week – it’s my brother in law’s wedding, so, as with my last US trip I have some training planned…it has to be done. I originally sought out a guy who is/was (?) a Rickson rep in San Fran – a purple belt. I eventually tracked him down and he told me that the weekend I arrived he was hosting a seminar with Xande and Saulo Ribeiro. “GREAT!” I thought “what an opportunity”. So as instructed I emailed the guy and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually I phoned him again to check if he’d got my emails – yes, he had and would be in touch soon. 3 days before I’m due to leave and the seminars begin, I email him again to see if there’s any update….nothing. No response.

I know people are busy, but it doesn’t take much time to answer an email. I expected more especially from a guy who is a Rickson rep (although I heard he’s one over to Saulo’s Association). It’s just plain rude.

So anyway, after a bit of browsing, I find a guy called Eduardo Rocha, a 3rd Dan under Royler Gracie – 3 time Brazilian Champion, 4 Time Pan Ams Champ and World Cup champ amongst many other accomplishments. His gym is based in Oakland, a short hop from where I’m staying in Walnut Creek. I emailed Eduardo to see if I could train and how much it would be and almost immediately got a reply, in true Brazilian style “For sure. No Charge”. Now that’s more like it – how great is that…and no charge?! So, tomorrow, I’m off and hope to squeeze in a couple of sessions between the sightseeing and family fun and hopefully more great stories for this blog.

One other thing, before I go. I’ve decided to make more of my gym membership and recent talk from Dean T about Yoga and a thread on EFN, made me think about trying it out. Now luckily, there’s a class on Sunday Mornings at my gym – Iyengar yoga, the cost of which is covered in my membership, so when I get back I’m gonna give that a go – I’ll let you know how I get on.

See you in a week or so!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

It's good to talk...

I just want to begin this blog entry with a curiosity. I've had some nice comments lately on my blog so thanks to anyone that reads and makes the effort to leave a comment. I had one comment on my "always someone bigger" post though that simply read something like:

"I think you should show a little more respect to your opponent"

Predictably, this comment was from "Anonymous".

I've put it in this entry so that it doesn't get lost amongst the other comments as I think it's important to address this one. I have no idea what, or who "Anonymous" is referring to. All I can say is that nothing I wrote was intended to show any disrespect to anyone - least of all any of the opponents I've ever had, win or lose. Absolutely, categorically, 100% not. I have nothing but respect for anyone that I train with, and especially for anyone that competes - it's tough out there no matter who you are.

So, just let me say this. If there is anything that offended anyone in my last post, I apologise. That was never my intention and I am, to be honest, still at a loss as to what it was that prompted the comment. All I do here is talk about my training and my thoughts. So that's it. If "Anonymous" is reading this - genuinely, please let me know what it was I said that seemed "off" - feedback is great, but only when it's specific.

On to business. I'm not training at the moment as I just got another tattoo. It's at the top of my back, between the shoulder blades (possibly the worst place should I decide to train when not healed!) It's of a Sakura (Japanese for "Cherry Blossom") - My Daughter's middle name.

Just waiting for it to heal up properly so it doesn't go all patchy. So thought I'd use the time to reflect on one of the most recent sessions.

Last Wednesday, it was just me, Si and Dean T. Dean started talking about the philosophy of the training that he's been doing and I can't possibly do justification to the conversation here but it was pretty wide ranging, touching on Eastern philosophy, Buddhism, various Martial Arts masters, including Morehei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido. We talked for almost an hour, with the ultimate crux of the conversation being about the self discipline/personal improvement foundation of martial arts. It is clear, the more you read into it, that most of the originators of Martial Arts created them with the intention that they would be practised in this fashion. Yes, there is a defensive/combative aspect to them, but this might be seen almost as a by-product of the discipline of training. It is this that is at the heart of what Dean has been teaching and, I believe, is what is at the heart of those that practice Jiu Jitsu at the highest levels, including Rickson.

I've read a significant amount about Buddhism, and, whilst I wouldn't consider myself Buddhist, a lot of the principles hold a resonance for me. Carrying these principles into your training make a lot of sense to me. Sure, I'll compete and I want to be the best...but only the best version of me that I can be. As I say, I can't do the dialogue justice here, but I will say that it had a real impact on me and the way that I see Jiu Jitsu and the way that I want to train it.

It's strange, very little physical training that session, but the mental workout was every bit as valid for progression in Jiu Jitsu. We need to nourish and develop our minds as well as our bodies.

There was one thing I did pick up physically. Dean coached me through rolling backwards. Sounds simple I know, but as I've said in the past, my lower back is not the most mobile and so I struggle with any movement that requires this. Dean took me through a few exercises and projecting the hips..and somehow it just "clicked". really pleased - once again it's these small breakthroughs that carry you forward. I tried to incorporate it into my rolling but realised that I stopped the movement - this requires you to just go with the movement...another theme of Dean's teaching of late - knowing when to give or take with the movement of your opponent - it's great stuff and when you get it, it feels like anything is possible...even if only for a short time.

So, I left that session happy, tired and with a bit of a headache...I'm sure that was dehydration and tiredness rather than the impact of the philosophical discussion we'd just had.

The tattoo's looking pretty good at the moment. I've been using a nappy ointment called "Bepanthen" and I've got to say, it works really well as a tattoo cream! Hopefully this means back to training next week!