Friday, March 30, 2007

Jedi Mind Tricks at Shawn Williams'...

For tonight's community jiu-jitsu trip we decided to make a return trip to Shawn Williams' academy in West Hollywood. We had already planned on this trip for a few weeks, but when I heard that Dave Camarillo would be training tonight - it pretty much cemented the deal. My partners in crime tonight would be Haley and Mike, who would both be on hand to tape Dave's training throughout the open mat session.

Tonight would actually end up being a totally different experience than our last visit for several reasons. First of all, it was an open mat and the mats were full of people in gis and without preparing for tournaments or just training in general. The atmosphere definitely felt alive and warmth is definitely the theme here. Everyone was so cool and welcoming and we were able to see some new friends and make even newer ones as well. Secondly, Dave was in town and he was teaching a lot of his specialty attacks when we arrived. This is always a pearl for anyone who gets to sit in on these lessons. Third of all, I got to warmup with HPF and then have that chased by getting dominated by Dave. Awesome. Finally, Dave showed us a great 1/2 guard strategy with a cross arm push (think opposite of an arm drag).

Seeing the Hollywood BJJ crew was great. Todd and Sean Apperson were there from the last class I had there and I was able to see Sam and Mike who I have met through my community jiu-jitsu experiences. Defintitely it was a pleasure to warmup and talk with the "infamous" HPF from the Jiujitsu Gear Forum. HPF is one of these guys I have met a few times and seen at a bunch of different seminars but have never had a chance to hang out with. It's always funny because we're usually wearing the same gi so we kind of stick out. Well, tonight he was a great help and we warmed up with some very light rolling. Even at a lighter pace, I could tell that HPF is very technical and I really liked his approach to BJJ. His hooks guard was fun to play with and I think he's bound to blow up under Shawn's tutelage. I can't say it enough how refreshing it is to actually warmup and have a nice easy roll with someone when they say that is what they are going to do (instead of saying, "lets roll light" and then going balls to the walls). Great guy with zero attitude. Hopefully, I can get him interested in a Community Jiujitsu trip with us to Johnny's New Breed Academy next week.

Here's a pic of HPF working his hooks...

Sam working an omo' game...

And Sean Apperson drilling some takedowns...

Next up Dave called me out and the fun really began. I guess Dave wanted to start from stand up, because well - he was standing up! I felt like he immediately took me out of my game, because I was giving his throws WAY TOO MUCH RESPECT!! He knew it and was just toying with me. I've been lucky enough to spar with Dave on quite a few occassions and I know when he is playing me. The funny thing is that he still completely dominated me and was able to stay a few steps ahead. Eventually, after a few poor single attempts and the ugliest missed Tai Otoshi ever (if most even would call it that), I started pulling to an open sitting guard or 2 on 1 guard. Dave would pass easily and he gave me some good pointers on it. The rest of the session had me getting passed, choked from the back, wrist locked, and more or less OWNED. I had not noticed it, but most of the class decided to slow down their training to watch - so I had a healthy audience for the Dave Camarillo highlight hour. Still, it was very fun. LESSONS LEARNED: Dave was telling me that he likes it when people play aggressive sitting up guards on the leg (like Pe de Pano) and he keeps stepping over towards the back and then stepping back to make the opponent chase you. I will eventually show some video that shows this and maybe Dave will showcase it in his new book. Basically, when the opponent is chasing you they are playing catch up to you and this definitely takes them out of their game. Great strategy. Other than that, Dave's game is always on the attack and it is just amazing to roll with him. Oh yeah, did I mention he is Speedy Gonzalez fast?

Dave getting upside down before he sweeps and submits me...

Dave acting like a backpack that chokes...

Next up, Dave taught Sean Apperson, Mike, Haley, and myself some really good attacks from the 1/2 guard that I will definitely be adding to my game. Basically, you start with a 1/2 guard with the shin in (some people call it a 1/4 guard) and you cross grip with your outside arm and punch their arm away - making sure they cannot bend it. Dave said that this is key and you have to get it straight or else strong guys like Koshcek will just power out. Once the arm is straight you have some great options: (1) You can punch your hips through and step over into a mount, (2) slide your leg through for the triangle, (3) pull your outside leg over for an omoplata or armlock attack, or my personal favorite (4) fish your cross guard arm under and dive under the body to get to an octopus guard position - from here Dave either takes the back, sweeps, or attacks another sub. The mini lesson was classic Dave - tons of options and I really think this is how I see his game.

Here is the starting position (notice how Dave is bringing up his right leg for leverage and attacks):

This is picture of the omoplata/armlock position that he transitions to...

In the following, Dave is transitioning from the starting position into an "Octopus" attacking position.

Here's one of Sean Apperson working the step over to mount from the position (similar to a hip bump sweep)...

The training session was once again very dynamic and most importantly - FUN. I got to talking to everyone after class and Dave said some very great things about training at Shawn's. He told me that he comes to Shawn for technical guidance and that he feels that it is one of THE best places to train, period. Coming from Dave, that carries a lot of weight. Once again, you guys owe it to yourselves to pay him a visit if you are in the LA area - you won't regret it. I saw Shawn teach a basic guard pass without the gi tonight and I felt like I was learning it all over again. Amazingly technical, Dave and Shawn are just showing some crazy Jedi mindcontrol.

HPF, Dave soon to be Judo Mullett, Shawn, and some ugly guy...

Once again, you can check Shawn out at

Next week we're heading over to John Ouano and Johnny Ramirez's New Breed Academy in Whittier. Hopefully Val will be there for Haley!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Art of Tapping - Shen Wu Style

This week, the Community Jiu-Jitsu crew decided to take a journey down to Tim Cartmell's Shen Wu Academy in Garden Grove, California. For Mike and I it took all of maybe 10 minutes to get there on Beach Blvd and for Dave and Jake it probably cost them .15 cents in gas from their work, in other words - it was close!

To preface this weeks Community Jiu-Jitsu trip, I should clear up some things about the titles and pics. It is not that I have an inferiority complex (getting rolled up at Tinguinha's, tapping to Tim, or being schooled by Eddie and Alberto - as reflected in the titles), but I really believe that getting beat at visiting academies is a very good thing. Like I said in my first entry - I always battle my ego and I am trying to practice what I preach by getting tapped, not spazzing, and trying to learn from these events. For this reason, I do not talk too much about who I beat, but I feel free to talk about students that were able to impose their games on me- regardless of weight or size. Again, this is because these experiences have given me very important lessons about holes in my game. In every case, these excellent grapplers have provided insight and assisted my game greatly. In addition, I believe that these grapplers may not be the famous competitors that we all hear about, but they are just as bad ass as the rest of them - believe me. It is good to give them some exposure too.

For those that do not know Tim, he is a successful author, Pan American Champion, former Joe Moreira student, Internal Kung Fu instructor (for lack of better words), and the sole black belt under Cleber Luciano. He is definitely an established part of the Southern California (especially North Orange County/South LA) BJJ scene. I was first exposed to Tim when he was a blue belt at Cleber's and I was one of Cleber's fresh whitebelts. Tim was a bit older than me and I thought I could give the older guy a hard time. I could not have been more mistaken. I got tapped repeatedly and effortlessly and this was my introduction to Tim. At the time, no one could touch him at Cleber's and it baffled me, because Tim was definitely on the smaller side of the spectrum. I found his skill level inspiring and his knowledge and mechanics very deep. He was technical then and the gap between us has only widened with time.

As for tonight's class - no gi was on the menu and the format was open mat with takedown drills as a warmup. We covered two positions off of the same takedown. The first was the takedown itself. One partner shot for a low single, braced his elbows against the ground, recomposed his angle, and drove his partner to the mat by pushing with his shoulders into the direction where the opponent had no base. The second position was a continuation. Instead of just transitioning to the feet for the pass, the attacker (who just finished the takedown) would do a semi sit out, trap the foot under the near armpit and further trap it with the knee that came up after the sit out, fall to the side while blocking the hip with the outside leg, and finally pressure the foot with backward shoulder pressure (not just hip thrusts) to finish the straight ankle lock. I am really starting to love gi less takedowns/strategy and these moves were very fun to practice with Mike.

The following video is a brief promo for Tim's video and I included it because his discourse on throwing away from their base has the same concepts that we used tonight in our throws:

Next up was the open mat sparring and it was fun and exhausting. I felt okay in how I rolled, I could give some people fits in some areas, but I saw some glaring holes in my game that rarely get exploited at my home school. Matt Hwang, one of Tim's best students, was catching me all over the place! We rolled a couple of times and he had a very good aggressive game. He was able to catch quite a few guillotines, neck cranks, and a rear naked for good measure. Matt and I got to talking during the session and he shared with me some of his views on submission wrestling and it was interesting to see how well he has made the game work for both the gi and without - it was very inspriring. He also shared with me some advice and here are some of the LESSONS that I took from the open mat rolling: Keep your neck aligned with your back when passing to avoid being pushed into a guillotine (or to avoid a can opener), commit to your submissions - the sweat factor does not make it easy to play a lazy game and too many people escape from weak submission attempts, and learn to deal with cranks, leg locks, and other gi less submissions instead of avoiding them (in other words you wont learn how to defend these if you do not play with them). It was quite a learning experience.

Here is a picture from the open mat sparring:

Another cool pic of some of Tim's guys doing MMA style training while we were all training. I was really impressed by the influx of approaches!

Next up, we all got to roll with Tim and I was up first. I was really happy to get to roll with him, because it has probably been at least a few years since our last go at it (after he received his black belt). Well, I did not fair very well. I tried to play with hooks guards, modified x guard positions, and 1/2, but Tim was able to easily get through them all and he would usually end with an americana or possibly a head and arm choke from side control or top 1/2. When I came up on top I tried to use the combat posture and Tim was able to drive his knee through and triangle me anyways; I felt like I was not even there. I probably got tapped about 10 times. When Tim gets into position, he has an incredible base and driving force that we all attribute to his Bagua training. I am not kidding, it is weird pressure and I think everyone should get side controlled or mounted by him to feel it. His body triangle from the back was equally as uncomfortable. Lessons learned: Tim gave me probably one of the greatest bits of advice that I have received regarding gi less grappling. He said that because we are not wearing uniforms we have to create our own friction. Tim creates this friction, by using two on one grips, and using his inner thighs and other body parts as a hammering stone to push your limb into and create more friction. It was an incredibly intelligent approach to gi less grappling. As a side lesson, I really need to watch my posture and go back to the basics in my triangle and americana defense. At least I now have something to work on.

This is a picture of Tim using a neck crank control to set up something that is sure to be uncomfortable. Maybe he isn't a Chargers fan...

In this one I am trying to setup a head and armchoke that I recently saw on the Paragon DVD. I had to try...

Getting triangled with horrible posture. There is a lesson to be learned in this poor spinal curvature...

Jake and Mike had some great rolls with Tim too. Jake said he felt like he got tapped about a million times! Here are some pics of Jake testing out Tim's armlock game:

Mike looked really good, but Tim still managed to get a beautiful head and arm choke. Mike said Tim had great technique.

As for Tim's style - I would call it a mix of solid jiu-jitsu principles and a countering game. Do not get me wrong, he keeps the pressure on (as evidence from how often and easily he tapped us all), but he also uses it to feed your reaction and obtain the goal he is seeking. He also tends to play with what you give him and immediately and expeditiously get the catch. It is like he is seeing your holes before you realize that you are exposed. He does not appear to play any one style, just BJJ principles and movement. Lessons learned: Tim told us after class that he refined his movement by practicing different solo rolls and movement drills and getting comfortable going for technique after technique in conjunction with these movements. Lastly, Tim also told us not to wait for brown belt to start practicing footlocks, twists, and kneebars (just practice and use them the right way); Tim shared with us his sambo experiences and said how important it is to have these well developed for your submission wrestling arsenal. Tim's leglocks are phenomenal and he deftly uses them to take his opponents out of their comfort zone.

Like I said earlier, the class was fun, but tiring. I sparred so many times back to back that I was utterly spent. I definitely need a massage. Also, I am glad to see how I fare at these different schools and more importantly it is a blast getting reaquainted with some old friends like Tim and meeting some new ones like Matt. We got to talking with Tim afterwards and he had some great stories and experiences that he shared with us. Tim is a great instructor and his knowledge of BJJ principles are valuable to any BJJers in the area looking to increase their understanding of BJJ (as well as techniques). In other words, take a private from him, you'll thank me later. You can find out more about Tim Cartmell at his website:

As for next week, it is still up in the air. Ryan Gregg told me to check out his no-gi class so I may be up there and we may make a return visit to Shawn Williams'. Other than that, I am really interested in somewhat locally (within an hour): Fernando Vasconcelos, Rigan, Gracie Academy, and a return to New Breed. Regionally I plan on going to Rodrigo Medeiros', Baret Yoshida's, Saulo's, Paragon, Cassio's, Ralph Gracie SF/MV, Straight Blast Oregon, Team Quest Murrieta, Cesar Gracie, Cobra Kai, and Jean Jacques Machado's. Other than that, when I get the money up, i'll get the Community Jiu-Jitsu crew together and we'll explore the East Coast: Balance Studios, Renzo's, Irvin MA Academy, Boston BJJ, Jacobs' Yamasaki, New Breed, Alliance Atlanta, and a return trip to Studio X NY. I hope to see you all.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

You should have been there - The Shaolin "MMA" Seminar

When I first heard about the Shaolin seminar to be held today (Sunday 3/18/07) at Jiu-Jitsu Pro Gear I had mixed feelings. First off, Victor "Shaolin" Ribeiro is easily one of my favorite guys in his generation of competitors, not only because of his undoubtable skill, but because he was able to bridge his grappling genius to submission wrestling and MMA - all without losing his trademark athleticism and mat domination. Well, when I heard that this seminar was going to be MMA, I was a little disappointed because I do not nor have I ever, practiced or trained MMA. Furthermore, I really just began taking the gi off after years of wearing the uniform. In addition, when I heard that the seminar would be held at Jiu-Jitsu Pro Gear in the store instead of upstairs at Aloisio Silva's - I did not believe that they would have the matspace to accomodate all of the seminar attendees.

With this in mind, I got a call from my good friend Dave Jr., who was more than willing to test the MMA waters just to have the chance of a class with Shaolin. As easy as that, I had my partner in crime and was set to go (with the hopes that Shaolin would at least show some cool no-gi moves).

My fear's quickly dissipated as I realized how the event would unfold; this seminar would be an incredibly positive experience for many reasons. Dave and I arrived first and we noticed that Gilberto (owner of Jiu-Jitsu Pro Gear)had left plenty of matspace out and moved all of the merchandise to accomodate the mats. He said that they had more mats available if more people arrived. This was a big relief and immediately quelled my matspace issue. The next thing we noticed was that fortunately for us (and rather unfortunately for Shaolin) only one other seminar participant arrived - a very friendly student of Shawn Williams' named Mike (we all got along great). Obviously the real bonus is that Dave Jr., Mike, and I were about to share a 2 hour semi private class with Shaolin for 60.00 each. Finally, the seminar was all submission wrestling and we really had a lot of input as to what Shaolin showed.

Throughout the seminar, Shaolin was incredibly helpful. We covered about 8-9 moves and he made sure that he practiced it on each one of us so that we could feel it. After each move, he would have us practice it in repetition in front of him so that he could work out our errors and body positioning. After every couple of moves, we would all sit around and troubleshoot the postion so that we could get Shaolin's defense and pointers. It was incredibly dynamic. Regarding the moves, most of the techniques were either new to me or something I have seen but never practiced (from the Shaolin instructional) with the sole exception of one technique that I had known and practiced before. Every move included a detail that I had never seen before.

The moves: The first move we went over was an "Almeida"-style arm in guillotine from the sprawl. The key points in this made all the difference. Using the Gable Grip, we caught the arm and neck with the hand clasped by the opponents armpit, then we did something incredibly helpful. We used the forearm (by the arm) to push the arm across the neck; once the arm was crossed we stepped up the leg that was on their crossed hand's side to tighten their arm into place. Next we stepped up the other leg, pulled to guard, and finished an incredibly tight choke.

This picture shows Shaolin setting up the choke on Jr. and you can see how his forearm will drive Jr.'s arm across:

The following picture illustrates how Shaolin uses his leg to pin Mike's arm across his neck. This made for an incredibly tight choke and was a detail I have never thought of:

After the guillotine, we huddled up and Mike asked about a defense to the move (looping your arm over your own leg) and Shaolin practiced that and then showed how he liked to escape. Shaolin took this move straight out of wrestling and it was great. Basically, the guy on the bottom grabs the tricep with the arm that will be choking yourself and starts to pull it away like an armdrag. Next, you base up with your outside leg, grab over the opponent's body to cup the hip, and in one motion shuck and drag to clear their choke and arrive on the top of the turtle. This move was so great, techincal BJJ meets technical wrestling. Shaolin also pointed out that other defenses are really hard against aggressive strong wrestlers who are strong enough to pressure through your defense. It was great "real world" advise.

Next up we did the armbar from the back as seen in the gi section of Shaolin's 3 Degrees of Shaolin DVD (which I recommend if you have not seen it - the moves are fun and their is great documentary and fight footage included). This armbar is predicated on the attacker pulling open an arm with a cross body grip and feeding the leg into the new hole in the opponent's defense. The no-gi version was similar, but Shaolin was very fast to show how important it was to swivel your hips - almost falling to your elbow side as you loop the leg in. Pictures tell a thousand words and these pics may better illustrate the basic position.

This is a picture of Shaolin's starting position on Jr.:

Here is a picture from the gi portion of his DVD set that may better illustrate the next position in the move:

Following this, we covered an armbar from the across side top. This move is also on his DVD set and we got to work a lot from the position of side control with control of the opponent's arms between your legs (in a modified kesa gatame position). The key points were using north south and a back scissor position (to side control) to get the position, getting a "beer bottle" grip to hold the arm and eliminate a grip fight (very savvy), and to bump your hips onto his chest before you swing your legs over for the armbar.

Here is a picture of Jr. in the starting position with Mike, note: Jr's far arm cups the armpit to stop a possible armbar if Mike is flexible and he controls the grip with the "beer bottle" grip:

After this set-up Jr. will bump his weight onto Mike, step his right leg over Mike's face, and use his heel to pull Mike's head towards him as he puts the other leg over to finish the armbar. Here is the finished position:

The next move is very similar to the move we learned at Eddie's class and Alberto pulled off on me in training. It was a 1/4 nelson from the top of the turtle to turn the opponent over into an anaconda choke. Man, everyone is using and teaching this move, so I better start practicing it. It appears to be a very high percentage move.

Here's a blurry picture of Mike hitting the anaconda off of the 1/4 nelson:

For the next move, we did one of the coolest new moves I have seen. You know when you whizzer someone from the butterfly guard and they use the limp arm to get out and recover posture? Well, in this move, Shaolin anticipates the limp arm recovery, and figure fours your arm as you try to pull it out. Then he simply shoulder rolls with the kimura lock (quickly so as to capitalize on the lock) and either kimura's the opponent or forces the sweep (they roll to alleviate the pressure). Note: if you lock up their right arm, you will release the butterfly guard and roll into them with your right shoulder hitting the mat first.

Here is a very blurry pic of Jr. practicing the roll with Mike:

Following this, we got to one of the most creative positions I have ever seen in a seminar. The funny thing is this move is still practical enough that you can catch people either in the calf slice or the more reliable single leg. Basically, you begin in a butterfly guard with one underhook, the underhooked arm reaches around their hip and grabs your same side toe. Next up you go for a sweep and when they base out you have two options. If they do not push their trapped leg away from you: you overhook their foot, feed your foot through, insert your hips into them, change your grips to a thigh hug, and finish the calf slicer. If they push their foot away: you use your hooks to push them away and come up on a single. Such a cool gameplan for an innovative positon.

I know all of that sounds very confusing, so here is a series of pictures illlustrating the move. The first picture shows Jr. with the toe control. Mike's leg is bent so Jr. will be able to reach it and feed under his own heel (as he pushes his foot out a little as well). The second picture shows the finished lock and grips.

Next up, Shaolin showed a favorite armbar attack of his against the turtle. I get the impression that he really likes two things: rolling and armbars. This is very familiar to those with a judo background, but instead of rolling under your opponent as you hook the arm, you use your free arm and leg (your near leg goes across the abdomen and makes a hook to block their leg) to push yourself back and roll them into positon. From here, you take your prize.

In this picture you can see how Jr. is hooking Mike's arm and his right leg (hidden) is not hooking, it is across Mike's abdomen - hooking Mike's left thigh. From here Jr. will push the mat and roll Mike onto his left side and take the armbar.

The last series of techniques I unfortunately did not capture on film (what an idiot!). This series was from the top side of the turtle with the opponent grabbing your forward leg with his closest arm. From here, you control his wrist with your far arm, roll towards his feet, control his tricep with your free hand, and slide into a very cool triangle. It was like a reverse omoplata but a triangle instead and it is VERY crafty. After this, I asked what happens if the opponent pins his head to the ground and gets tight and Shaolin had a great response. You go to a half roll if you feel this happening and then cup the back and keep hip escaping to get the back. This series was incredible.

Afterwards, we just sat around asking Shaolin questions about his fights and career; Shaolin was very ammicable and obliged with all of the details. Well, I guess he is done with ADCC and he emphasized that MMA jiu-jitsu training is VERY different than regular BJJ training. He said that BJJ is closer to submission wrestling than either are to MMA. I thought that was interesting. I do wish I could see a rematch between him and Marcelo Garcia though. He talked about his matches against Leo Vieira, Terere, and Marcio Feitosa, saying how important it is to compete to get used to the nerves and that fighting in the finals is very hectic.

All in all, I could not believe that there were only three of us. It was easily one of the most productive and fun seminars I have ever been to. I felt bad for Shaolin, but he just won his last K1 fight so I'm sure he'll be just fine. The moral of the story? Next time you hear of an incredible BJJ/MMA/NoGi guy coming to town - go; even if it is out of your comfort zone (MMA), odds are you will learn some truly amazing things.

One more thing, for those several thousand of you that missed this one, I like his 3 Degrees DVD. I think there are some really good moves on there; they may not be connected in a way like they are in the Marcelo Garcia or Rodrigo Medeiros DVDs, but they are great and worth watching. Not to mention, seeing how he trains in the documentary is just inspiring.

Thanks to Gilberto for putting on the seminar and Shaolin for being a good sport and putting out incredible effort for just three guys. It was great to meet Mike and see that there is camaraderie in the greater BJJ community.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Getting rolled up at Tinguinha's...

Well, its Thursday night and once again, it was time to step out of our comfort zone and check out another BJJ school in the area (soon enough we will have to travel outside of LA/Orange County). Tonight, we decided to check on what Tinguinha is doing at his new location in Anaheim, California.

With a long list of schools to see and experience, we opted for Tinguinha's out of both convenience (it's fairly close) and his teaching skills as observed from his well received DVD series. My first exposure to Tinguinha was after seeing his Spider and Cross Grip DVDs, both of which became some of my favorite guard specific DVDs. Being one of the original Gracie Barra guys, I also thought that his teaching style and skills would be both familiar and easy to adjust to. I was both right and wrong - but in a pleasant way. His teaching style was very familiar, but very intense and the school was very welcoming and friendly. I love it when students introduce themselves and are smiling. Jiu-jitsu is supposed to be fun, so why shouldn't we be smiling!

The warmup felt really brutal for Haley and I (we had ran earlier in the day), but Jake and the rest of Tinguinha's students really breezed through it. I liked how it was core intensive - a lot of crunches, triangles, and jogging. The shrimps to bearcrawls gave me a workout that I hadn't experienced since my last judo class at OCK.

Next up, Tinguinha went through three throws off of the Russian Grip or Cross Grip and Back Control. The opponent took the posture of crossing his arm to your shoulder and trying to stay square. Tinguinha showed a single on the near leg, the sumi gaeshi when they pull that leg out to posture back, and the uchimata - a Carlos Gracie Jr. favorite. I was partnered with Haley and we did ten reps each and then moved to the next throw. I felt so gassed! I was breathing hard, but still having fun.

Following the takedowns Tinguinha showed a guard pass against the butterfly guard with spider guard grip control. The move was really fun and I really liked the body mechanics. The passer drove one leg to the center line (ideally the opponent is putting pressure outwards into your biceps) and then used a hip switch to drive both of the opponent's knees together. From here, the pass depended on the opponent's reaction. If they pushed on the far shoulder, you simply controlled the top knee, pummeled the closest arm, and hopped over to the other side. If they overhooked your arm to get a belt grip, we were supposed to control the top leg, stay heavy on both legs (keeping them pinned and preventing the sweep), switch to a near side tricep grip, and transition into kesa gatame (scarf hold) with very nice control. Here are some pictures of the position, the first shows Tinguinha's hips position as he transitions to the backdoor and the second shows PJ's grips that will determine that Tinguinha will transition to PJ's front (right side):

After a nice drilling session we started some standup sparring. This session was amazing!!!! I really found it dynamic and incorporated some principles that I really appreciated. First, we isolated the attacker and defender, and we isolated a starting grip to channel the offense and defense. In this sparring drill, the attacker was to begin with the Russian Grip and back control or collar control and the opponent was to cross grip the shoulder and square up (like one may try when defending the armdrag). The attacker could try anything and the defender could only fight to release the dragged arm and defend takedowns. This really took the pressure off of both guys and really allowed both to have some good fun. My partner Jack and I were able to both get some good takedowns in and have a productive session. I even heard that Haley got one of here first takedowns! I would recommend this type of controlled sparring to anyone, it really isolates both partners and still gives them a wide range of techniques to choose from - it really showed me how many techniques are available off of just one grip. This type of training is invaluable. Here is a picture of Jake in the starting position (note his partner's defensive grip and position):

Next up came the sparring. Without going too far into the nuts and bolts of each sparring round, let's just say I got pretty rolled up by a couple of the guys. Everyone impressed me, but Grant has a special tenacity that you just cannot teach. It is always a great experience to get dominated at your own belt; it just lets you see how far people can take BJJ. Grant was a monster with his gi chokes too!! I really wish all the guys the best in their coming PanAms performances. Unfortunately, Tinguinha was out of commission with a bum knee, but he was very observant and helpful during all of my sparring sessions.

I got to see Haley and Jake spar a bit and I was really impressed and happy to see both of them stepping outside of their element. So far, community jiu-jitsu has been a wonderful experience- I have met some great students, great instructors, made some friends, and faced the unknown of sparring at another school! It is like a lower stress version of tournament competition.

Here's a picture of Jake in action and a nice class shot with Haley hunting for the armbar!

Regarding my journey of broadening horizons and experiencing the BJJ community at large, everything has surpassed my expectations. I see an emerging theme, BJJ is more connected than many people may imagine or would like to acknowledge. I have been met with great students and instructors everywhere we have visited and have not found the attitude that many feel is indicative of BJJ training. My sparring sessions have been great and I am able to take a fresh perspective back to my home academy and training. Not to be too redundant, but the experience has been a real gift.

For those future community bjjers out there, I advise everyone to talk with their instructors, get a crew together, and get out there and live up the differences that all these BJJ athletes have to offer.

So, if you are in the Anaheim area, visiting Disneyland or checking in on an Angels/Ducks game, Tinguinha's place is right there and it is a good time. Expect a solid workout, good cardio preparation, and great technique (so rest after your day at Disneyland!). If you like the Gracie Barra style game - it is all right here. Tinguinha is very welcoming and his disposition is very agreeable. As no surprise I found out that Tinguinha loves the spider guard - who would have thought. Judging from his students' skill level - he is passing on his game to a new generation. Check out Tinguinha at

Next community jiu-jitsu trip? I'm thinking of Tim Cartmell. The guy is like a BJJ zen master. Can you say, "Bagua Mount"?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lessons learned, rolling with Alberto Crane...

Yesterday morning I came into the academy for a pleasant surprise, one of my favorite authors, Alberto Crane was going to be training with us. Like always, I made sure I got to spar with the visiting blackbelt and here are some things that I took away from it.

First of all, I have been a big fan of Alberto's since watching his matches at the World Grappling Games a few years ago. Well, what I liked about Alberto is that he is not a very big guy by any means and he plays a very technical guard game and like me, he likes the cross grip position (as evident in his Kenny Bond match). This was really one of my first times seeing the cross grip in action outside of bigger or long legged guys like Pe de Pano or Tinguinha. I was left very impressed. Next up I saw some highlights at onthemat and in his sections in 101 Submissions as well as his Abu Dhabi Trials footage and I figured that Alberto could be one of the guys that I could model my game off of (due to A. I liked his game and movemement and B. our relative body size). Later, I discovered his book/DVD sets and not only was I taken aback by the value, but I really liked Crane's omoplata from the cross grip game and I really tried to make it my own.

Fast forward to our sparring match yesterday. I recently had some advice from an old friend and long time BJJer that I should always work the guard as it is the hardest position to assimilate into an A game. I took his advice (even though I should have played in Alberto's open guard as well) and pulled to an open guard everytime we started. Note: I say, "everytime we started" because I was getting tapped and passed a bit, so we kept having to start from scratch. I'll break down the sparring session into a few major themes or lessons that I took from it.

Passing my De La Riva, 2 on 1, and Sitting Up Guard. First of all, everytime Alberto got into my open guard I would somehow end up in the DLR guard and then as ALberto would isolate the outside leg, I would end up in a 2 on l type of guard like the one that Saulo shows (they are standing and my legs are wrapped around of his with my back on the ground) and I see a lot of good guys using in competition. I tried to keep my hips mobile and penetrate for sweeps, even attempting a sit up guard sweep Pe de Pano style (sitting up pushing the far leg with my foot, hugging his far arm under his own leg, and pulling the collar). Each time, he would control the pace (he wasn't nor did he have to go very hard) isolate my outside leg and drive a knee up the middle pass. He was so patient and he just worked a slow technical pass, eventually forcing me to 1/2 guard and then passing me as his foot slowly worked itself free. Lessons: Work a lot harder at preventing the knee up the middle if I am going to play these types of guards. I think I will try to incorporate some more movement and hip control instead of just waiting for the executioner. Saulo has good stuff for this on his second gi DVD and I think I need to hit the books. Also, the 2 on 1 needs to become a threatening position, and their balance and posture should be better disrupted than I was able to manage.

Defend those kimuras and americanas!!! In our first go at it, Alberto got me to side control (actually I may have still had his foot in my 1/2 guard at the time) and when I was fishing for an underhook, I got kimura-ed immediately. It was tight and it was the most basic thing he could have done at the time. Lessons for the guy on the bottom: When you are in your defensive posture on the bottom, practice a kimura/americana defense game. Why? They are relatively safe positions/submissions where the top fighter does not have to overly risk losing position (i.e. falling back for armbars or rolling into a triangle); therefore making them go to positions for many top fighters. In addition, they present themselves when ever your posture is even slightly askew and a savvy (and often times bigger opponent) will and should jump all over them. For the guy on top, don't forget about kimuras and americanas; they are one of the first submissions that we use and they are basic but they present themselves often if you are aware. Alberto's was very simple and direct and I knew exactly when I pummeled that I had made a mistake.

Side note: I rolled with Flavio Almeida the other day and he taught me a cool little trick that he does for getting the americana. He said that when you are in side control on top, often you want to start feeding your leg for them to recover 1/2 guard. Fight it a little and then use their struggle to put you into 1/2 guard as the marker. Let them get the 1/2 guard and immediately attack the americana as they are too preoccupied with recovering 1/2. I thought this was a great strategy - especially for bigger guys.

Defeating the 1/2 guard with the quarter nelson/brabo/D'Arce- At one point I was able to recover to a 1/2 guard and once again I fished for the deep underhook and Alberto whizzered to get head control. He quickly rolled me with it (turning me over with the head control - after using it to force me out of 1/2 guard) and quickly transitioned into a north south head and arm anaconda choke. The odd thing is this is EXACTLY what Eddie Bravo taught the other night and I was smiling to see the move pulled on me technique for technique. It was cool. Lessons learned: I will always remember what Feitosa told me, "1/2 guard is a fighting position, not a resting position, you have to be very active from the 1/2 guard or else you get into trouble fast." I was not active enough. As an extension of this, here is the moral: do not allow the deep whizzer!!! If they start going for it and pushing your head - go for posture and try to trap their whizzering arm with your arm - there are sweeps here and a certain measure of control. Marcelo Garcia has a good move from here on his first sweeps DVD and Flavio Almeida has a similar sweep on his new Sweeps DVD.

Here is an example of Flavio's hand position to set up the sweep on the deep whizzer when the opponent is trying to set up a brabo-style attack (from his Sweeps DVD):

If it is too late, try to play the corners and flatten out (like in Saulo's new set). If this type of defense is too late (you're in serious trouble) - you can try to spin into them like how Gustavo Machado shows in his Defense DVD - I see it as more of a hail mary though. On top, if the guy has a good 1/2, use the whizzer as a shoulder control (like Alberto did to me) and really put the pressure on their shoulder while setting up your attacks. Remember- the first goal of the whizzer is to prevent them from taking your back. Also don't forget, you can use your whizzer to hit wrestling style turnovers. Here's a picture of Alberto's position from his second DVD/Book:

The calf slicer position- Oddly enough, the previous position is something I learned at Eddie's last week and this position is something that Shawn taught a couple of weeks ago. Once again, Alberto hit a technically perfect calf slicer attack (rolling from the 1/2 back position while I was turtled - although it opens up from a myriad of places like the twister side control or reverse kesa gatame), I could not stop the roll, but I was able to prevent the calf slicer (hooking under my own foot), and I tried to attack armbars on Alberto's attacking arm. I felt the twister coming on, but I managed to kinda spazz my hips out of the way and end up in some kind of contorted position. I don't recall what happened next, I think our match may have (unfortunately) been over. Lessons: The rolling calf slicer is a great transition, even if you do not attack the slicer. If you trust your partner it is a great position as well. Also, there is a great trio of attacks here that should be added to everyone's game and the fact that it opens up the back is amazing. In addition, it is a roll - so it looks fun and dynamic and it is good to see people play like this. For the guy on bottom/being sliced - use your foot to push your sliced leg away from the opponent!!! Shawn showed us this - it is simple and it WORKS!! They may get the back, but you just saved the tap. Here's the position that Alberto and I were playing in (from his first DVD/Book set):

Alberto's game- I couldn't really analyze Alberto's game, because we never really ended up in his guard. He defended my 2 sweep attempts that I thought were my chances! However, his top game is great and I really liked seeing his rolling attacks and brabo game. Very smooth and his transitions were just flowing into eachother.

Alberto was a great guy and it was like a reverse community jiu-jitsu visit!! Instead of coming to him, he came to our school to roll and share some knowledge! I was also impressed to see how technical and open his game was. He played the whole time, the tempo was conducive to learning, and Alberto was very helpful. In addition it was great to see him pull off two moves that I had just learned at Eddie's and Shawn's - what are the chances of that happening? If you're ever in Santa Fe, New Mexico - you owe it to yourself to pay him a visit! Check him out at I'll be rewatching his DVDs tonight!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Just tried a class at Tenth Planet...

Thursday nights are going to be the night where a group of friends and I seek out other bjj/subwrestling schools to cross train and see what's out there. I'm really trying to live up to the "community" expectations as connotated by "Community Jiu-Jitsu".

Last night, Dave, Jake, Haley, and I decided to check out Eddie Bravo's Tenth Planet in Hollywood. Let me preface this blogpost by saying that we all train solely in the gi and that everything we learned was pretty new to us (at least to myself). I was hoping my friend 'Fredo would be there to meet up with us, but a las we missed him. Next time.

My first impression was that Legends was nice, it had a large area, good mat space, tons of bags, and a fully functioning locker room with showers. It professional there. We were greeted by Eddie and he is a funny and relaxed guy that liked to joke a lot and bust people's balls a little (he got Dave pretty good). I was happy to see the mats being mopped before our class and we sat outside of the main matted room and stretched for about a half hour and just talked with Eddie and amongst ourselves. I was also happy to see a couple of guys randomly practicing takedowns and rolling and no one lifted a finger; they were just all about the training.

When the class got started it was like a whirlwind - very fast paced. Eddie did something I love to see - he started warmups by drilling jiu-jitsu positions. It was all very quick and to the point. We covered three moves and each move was practiced for what felt like a few minutes for each person. I had a little trouble figuring out the complexity of some of the moves, but I appreciated that Eddie did not hold anything back nor did he treat us like toddlers. My partner Ziggy and Eddie both helped to fix my lockdown and positioning, everyone was cool and patient.

The moves (note: it will be easier to understand what I'm getting at if you have read or seen Eddie's books): (1) The first move was a D'Arce choke that originated from the 1/2 guard. Like Shawn, Eddie incorporates a lot of wrestling and I appreciated this. We started with the partner "whipping us up" with the double underhooks and lockdown from 1/2 guard. Following this the top guy sets in the whizzer feeds the hand through like they are going for a D'Arce, grab the other hand, and crank the opponents head towards their own body to pressure them to release the half guard. From here, the person on top allows the opponent to come up on top and head whips them to their back using the same control. This transitions very easily into a D'Arce from the top (kinda North South) with hips putting pressure into the choke. It was a great chain, because both partners really got to work their moves.

(2) The second move was a back control with both hooks to the twister. Starting with the back control with a harness grip, you fall down towards your top arm, remove your top hook and use the lockdown on their bottom leg, remove your harness and switch your underhooking arms, you a baseball bat control to pull their arm behind your head, use hip bumping to get your bottom arm around their head, and use what Eddie called "Wing Chun" movements (everybody laughed) to get your free top arm around the front of their head, and finally clasp your hands together and finish the spine lock.

(3) The final move was a armbar from that originated from the butterfly guard. Starting from butterfly with double underhooks, remove one hook and get a front harness grip, clasp it down by the side of their head and pull to full guard, and use a foot on the hip to stretch them out in a head and arm type of position. When they release the arm and start posturing back, take a high shoulder guard loop the arm and finish the armbar over the defense (just like Dave Camarillo likes to do and Cobrinha attempted to do to Feitosa in the match below). It was very tight.

Next up we did some positional sparring. Everyone started from butterfly with double underhooks and had to sweep or submit with the top guy having to pass. I won't get into details as to how I did, but I had a lot of fun and no one that I rolled with had a bad attitude or anyhting. We had 3-4 rounds switching top to bottom and then changing partners - it was a blast for me to start from such a dominated position and try to pass. I kept trying to use the frame to break their grip, but I felt pretty dirty. I really need to work on my no-gi game.

Afterwards, we all had some water and came back to spar. Like Shawn's, you spar with who you want when you want. I got to roll a few times and had a good time. Oddly enough no one really worked a rubber guard game or lockdown game on me. Instead I saw a lot of the butterfly, xguard, and transitioning. I kept trying to play an open butterfly to 1/2 butterfly to upside down guard game and was having some fun. My last roll would be with Eddie.

Eddie just got done rolling with Jake and I was next. Without getting to muddled into his details here is how I felt about his game: he is very TIGHT. When he passed it was tight, twister side control was tight, mount was tight, the twisters were tight, and the triangle was tight. Asides from tight grips and positions, Eddie uses this tight game to set up some very creative rolls and transitions that led to more submissions. An example was when I was defending a head and arm choke by recovering 1/2 guard, Eddie rolled me into what he called a "samurai" (everyone "oohh"ed) and finished me with a calf slicer. We talked a lot afterwards about some of the subs he got me in and he showed me how to do them on the spot and let me practice them on himself. That was cool.

Not being a no-gi guy, I was left totally amazed. The game that Eddie was teaching was very different the classic BJJ that I learn at the academy and it was refreshing to see so many people being creative and pushing the envelope. I would love to see Eddie in this year's ADCC to see what he could do in there, win, lose, or draw.

One point of disagreement that I had was the gi versus no gi talk. Although I agree that you have to do no-gi to be good at no-gi, I also really enjoy the gi. Taking a quote from a private I had with Marcelo Garcia (I asked him which is more important gi or no-gi), "Do what is fun... if you like training with the gi then do it, and if you like rolling without the gi than do that too... The only reason I train both is because they are fun." I thought that was a great perspective.

Although I could never see myself at a solely no-gi school (I love the gi!), I was really into what Eddie showed and I appreciated his candor. I will definitely drop by from time to time to check it out and experiment with my no-gi game (i.e. get tapped!). The place is really dynamic, the tuition is very affordable (I think its around the $100 area), and I didn't run into any jerkoffs - in fact everyone was really helpful and friendly.

One last note - this is what Dave's calf muscle looked like after getting caught in a really nice slicer!

LA just has too much great BJJ - so far Shawn and Eddie have lived up to the expectations and in ways exceeded the hype. For more of Eddie, check him out at

Next week? Who knows? If you're at a school and you think your program is doing some really cool stuff and it has that open minded thing goin' on - shoot me a message and we'll check it out!

Next for the blog? Just finishing up my Marcelo analysis. It should be up this weekend.