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!

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