Monday, February 26, 2007

Lessons from the Feitosa versus Cobrinha match...

Now, this may seem odd to post a video of your instructor losing during the finals of the Mundials, but I really felt like there was a lot to be learned from this match.

First of all, having trained with Marcio Feitosa for over 2 years I feel that I have gained some insight into his game. Like many before me, I would characterize Marcio as a strong passer with a great base and posture (it is a misery when Feitosa gets upright), forward pressure, and stifling control. However, in the academy I have also been privy to his guard game which is based off of spider type controls like foot on the hip mixed with a variation of De la Riva and cross grip style controls (he often likes to play with a collar sleeve grip or sleeve pant leg grip). The theme of Marcio's open guard game is contact and pulling the opponent out of comfort. As this pertains to the 2007 Mundials it is noteworthy that Marcio took his first couple of matches through a less than typical avenue for himself - by pulling guard and sweeping. Marcio's reasoning behind this? Simple - he felt the lighter guys would have harder more mobile guards to deal with and he wanted to impose his game on them.

Now on to the Cobrinha match. Without muddling this down into an overly technical look at every second of the match, I would like to address how Cobrinha diffused Marcio's guard strengths and was able to impose his strategy on Feitosa as well as how Marcio was able to stay alive through proper defense.

Breaking Feitosa's guard- In the opening minutes, Feitosa is playing with a collar and pants grip that is neutralizing Cobrinha's ability to pass to either side. Marcio shows good leg movement, knee blocking, and adaptation. Around the 1:00 mark Cobrinha does the important and breaks the collar grip (Feitosa transitions to a sleeve control) and rolls Marcio to an upside down guard and transitions to a near harness control as he almost gets the pass. The lesson: Passing an active and good guard player has to include grip control and FORCING your opponent out of his control area.

Feitosa's defense and Cobrinha's patience - Marcio exhibits exemplary defensive skills that should be added to everyone's game. Whenever Cobrinha gets a strong position after obtaining the side control, Marcio is quick to use a "running escape" style strategy (as seen on the new Saulo set). Marcio only gives a small portion of his back for attack and he blocks the hooks with his posture and free arm. What Marcio is doing is actually very intelligent - he is not allowing for the near hook to be placed and when it is (see 06:54 of the match), he transitions to put that hook on top and defend the bottom hook. This bottom hook (when your opponent faces away and the bottom foot comes in first) appears to be the stronger hook to achieve. Marcio also shows some mat savy by avoiding the points for the pass by immediately going to a 1/2 turtle/running escape position. The lesson: Face away from your opponent when you are sure you can block the majority of their attacks, defend the bottom hook, and use this in conjunction with escapes towards the opponent.

Cobrinha's patience- As for patience, Cobrinha does not over commit and lose position. This is indicative to whenever Cobrinha has a harness or back control and is attempting to attack Marcio's 1/2 turtle/ side control to get the back. Cobrinha does not overcommit and lose the position by overzealously trying to get both hooks. He sees Marcio's defense and plays a transitioning game on top to keep up the pressure and favorable position. The lesson: Don't go for a second hook and lose all that you have worked for, go for the second hook when you have/have forced the opening. Control the match.

Cobrinha's transitions- While on top, Cobrinha defeats Marcio's turn inside by quickly transitioning to Marcio's other side and exposing his 1/2 turtle (for lack of a better term). This transition as well as the transition in Cobrinha's early pass attempt illustrates the importance of drilling transitions, body movements, and hip control. I sincerely doubt that Cobrinha is actively thinking of moving - it is my opinion that he feels Marcio's pressure and he is transitioning to the other side out of muscle memory. Quick actions like this lend me to this observation. The lesson: TRAIN turtle and side control movement drills to develop a quick and controlled transition. Do not be sloppy and give too much space or put your hands in compromising areas; I feel that this is more about hip movement and using your hip as a pivot with quick leg movement. In class we should all be moving on top instead of just holding on for dear life.

Pass to the Left- Both Feitosa and Cobrinha attempt to pass to the opponent's left side and this is something that I have seen Galvao (he likes knee up the middle on the left side), Garcia, and Glover all due recently. The lesson: Open up your opponents defense by becoming an ambidexterous passer.

Feitosa and Cobrinha's submission attempts- Both have awesome submission attempts. Marcio has a deep kneebar that Cobrinha was able to get out of through patience and good movement. He also attempted a footlock at the end of regulation as a hail mary type move. Cobrinha has an incredibly tight armbar that is actually one of my favorites. When Marcio goes to defend the arm, Cobrinha attacks over the defense and pulls straight down. Marcio said that it was very deep but that he had just enough arm to keep it from popping. Crazy. The lesson: Attack! Both had opportunities to end the match, in the case of Feitosa it may have led to him losing as he lost position after the kneebar, for Cobrinha he ended up in the guard and that is not always where you want to be with Feitosa. At least they both went for it.

Strategy: I think Marcio used the wrong strategy and that he could have actually done a lot better if he stuck to his strengths of takedowns, pressure, and the pass. If they rematch this year I expect a different outcome and I doubt Marcio will play to the bottom. For Cobrinha, I think he was studying Marcio's earlier matches and carried out the better strategy. Marcio is strong and skilled and Cobrinha used transition, high skill, side control pressure, and attack attempts (whether it be armbar or attempting the hooks) to slow Marcio down and stay in control.

I want to encourage everyone to look at their favorite fighters and really analyze what they are watching and see how BOTH fighters are reacting. Even when Marcelo Garcia does amazing things, often times his opponents are exhibiting very good BJJ. By paying attention to both sides, we get a very complete picture of both the defensive and offensive aspects of high level BJJ.

Next up for me? A pictorial or video of what I learned at Shawn's and an analysis of some of Marcelo Garcia's biggest losses in his matches with Terere, Jacare, and Roger Gracie (what went right and wrong).

Here is a link to the Feitosa/Cobrinha match - I hope this is helpful.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Training at Shawn Williams' in Hollywood, CA.

My friend Dave and I thought it was time for us to do some crosstraining at another BJJ school and boy were we suprised. We had heard a lot of good things on forums about Shawn, so we definitely wanted to see what the hype was all about.

Well, here's the verdict - Shawn Williams definintely lives up to all the hype and actually surpassed our expectations. If I had to give Shawn's place a theme it would be - open and incredibly technical/deep. From the second we set in the door everyone was very warm and we did not feel the tough guy vibe prevalent at so many schools. Shawn himself is a great guy and he is sure to find success at this place. I would put Shawn right at the top of a select few instructors who love jiu-jitsu, show their students everything, and teach some of the best BJJ classes in the world. Shawn's students were equally as impressive.

Teaching- After a nice jogging warmup (Dave and I were actually sweating - GREAT!!!), Shawn taught a leg pick off of a "Russian Grip" to a torreando style guard pass. The move makes a ton of sense and you can really see a strong wrestling influence.

Next up, we started a series on attacking the turtle, but Shawn first of all surveyed putting the hooks in. He showed two different ways to put in a single hook and surveyed the control position that is similar to a 1/2 guard on the back. The leg ride was so simple I will be using it all the time. Everything shown had a detail that I have never seen.

Following this, Shawn taught the calf crank and Almeida choke as submissions off the single hook. What I liked more than the subs was how Shawn framed them. For example Shawn showed how to go for the calf crank, but then showed how to avoid being armbarred (therefore showing how to armbar from that position) and then how to get the back if they defend (therefore showing the defense). It was all very dynamic. The Almeida Guilloting was the same way. He showed how to tighten up and sink a tight choke, but then showed an armdrag to go back to the position if they got out. Simply amazing.

Next up was sparring and everyone partnered up with whomever they wanted. I started with a big purple named Todd and he was really smooth for a big guy and we had a great time. Next up I sparred with one of the white belts who also showed good technique. My last sparring session was with Sean Conley who completely kicked my ass! I felt so humbled. This guy is heads and shoulders above most browns (in actuality probably every) that I roll with and he was very open with his knowledge and skills. In fact after every move he dominated me with he would show me how to get it to work for me; he really let me into his game. Man, he passed my hooks like they weren't there! Afterwards we all got to talking and they are a great group of guys.

When I left I was a little envious, but in a good way. These guys have it made and they were all a great group of guys! Although I wouldn't move that far north (Im happy living in Huntington), I think these guys have an atmosphere and instructor that leads to great jiu-jitsu -kudos to the HBJJ crew. There were no egos and a ton of respect that I would categorize as non obligatory. In other words, these guys enjoyed and respected each other because they are acting as good training partners - not because of any forced upon notions. It was a great experience and introduction to BJJ in Los Angeles.

Shawn's place is very affordable and he is in the heart of Hollywood right off of N. La Cienega past the Beverly Center. Check it out if you are in the area.

I'll be coming back as soon as I have the time. I already told a few friends who live in LA to go and i'll hopefully go up with them in the coming weeks to see some new friends. After I figure out this blog thing I will add pics and video of what Shawn showed - hopefully I will do it justice.

You can check out Hollywood Brazilian JiuJitsu at

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Birth of Community Jiu-Jitsu

Jiu-Jitsu can be practiced in a myriad of ways and with an equal variety of attitudes. Most gyms have the typical musclemen, technicians, and of course spazzes, but the beauty of jiu-jitsu is that they are all practicing some form of jiu-jitsu. This blog is dedicated to all of these people, because these people are all me. I am the spaz, the muscle head, and the technician. I am the guy who refuses to tap and the guy who flows and doesn't care. I constantly battle my ego and this is what I have taken from jiu-jitsu.

For everyone else, I hope this blog serves as an inspiration, a source of technical knowledge and perhaps a different insight, and most importantly community. This blog is not about me, my school, or my skills (or lack thereof); it is about the community that exists beyond me and my circle of comfort. Jiu-Jitsu will always be about community. It is not about how close you are to your black belt instructor, your famous team, or your purveyors of knowledge. It is about the community and the relationships you build with the people who are sweating on the mats next to you and with you. Jiu-Jitsu itself knows no teams, therefore Community Jiu-Jitsu is about sharing and building the community that exists between and regardless of different academies.

To expedite this function of community building I will embark on both an expedition and thoughtful analyses with the hopes of seeing beyond myself and recognizing the community that we are all a part of.