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.


Kevin said...
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Glen Isobe said...

I have the 3 Degrees of Shaolin DVD and really like the format: documentary, technique and competition. I definetly recommend it. Sounds like it was a great seminar with lots of individual attention.

Aside from that, you should be thinking about putting your thoughts onto a book as you have a great ability to put details on a page.

Kevin said...

Hey Glen, good to hear from you. Yeah, I cannot belive more people have not checked out the Shaolin set - even if you do not like all of his moves (there are some really cool ones), the extras make it more than worth it.

A book is in the works right now and I'll probably be writing in several genres (not just martial arts).

You need to come down to Mike's and work out this Saturday!