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.


CT said...

Hey dude, I'm loving your blog, it's awesome stuff. Can i be a bit selfish and ask for a review of Saulo's soon? I'm heading there, from Ireland, to train for six weeks and I'm curious about your opinion. Thanks!

Keep up the good work!

Kevin said...

Thanks for the words CT, I appreciate it. Well, I do take requests and I will try to make it out to Saulo's in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, I will get out there before you do so you can read the write up.

Sam said...

love the blogs. im from hollywood bjj. would you ever try a nonbjj grappling school to see a different view on submissions? I can only think of Erik Paulson or Gokor's. Tim actually faced Karo when they were both blue belts in a BJJ tournament and lost to Karo. Tim told me Karo was an animal. I used to train at gokors and always wanted a bjj persons perspective on the school.

Kevin said...

Sam- I've been to Gokor's once and it was quite an experience. A lot of very tough grapplers and the place felt as humid as a jungle. If I ever go back, I will write something up. I plan on going to Paulson's as soon as his gym is ready.

Also, there is a Sambo instructor at Rio Honda College in Whittier and I plan on trying that out shortly.