Friday, April 6, 2007
Dave Kama's Jiu-Jitsu Voodoo...
For this week's Community Jiu-Jitsu trip, we decided to check out Dave Kama's at the behest of our training partner Al. Al has known and trained with Dave for years and has always talked of Dave like a hidden gem in Southern California. Well, last night, Jr., Dave C., and myself joined Al to see if it was all that it was cracked up to be. It was.
A little about Dave Kama... He is a Rickson Gracie blackbelt and his training lineage stretches back to BJJ's infancy in the United States. He has stories ranging from garage training with the Gracies and the Machados to challenge matches at the Gracie Academy. After class, we literally sat around for an hour listening to Dave share stories about the early days and how high the level actually was back then. His class is located out of an Irvine Racquetball club and is run by Dave and his brown belt Fernando. Not a lot of people go there and it is really a diamond in the rough. It appears that Kama has a club just for the enjoyment of training and well, training there is quite enjoyable.
A picture of brown belt instructor Fernando - This guy has been training longer than some first degree black belts!!
On to the nuts and bolts of the class. We started with some jogging, rolls, and breakfalls; then we transitioned into something that I found to be very special - an overlooked tool that more BJJers should utilize. We did calisthenics that were jiu-jitsu specific. Kama had us doing warmups that were completely leverage and base related. We did partner standing situps to practice base and bridge rolls to forward rolls for mechanics and leverage. Before every exercise Dave explained the grappling application of the technique and this was invaluable to mechanical understanding. The whole warm up felt very Rickson-esque and I enjoyed every second of it. I actually finished the warmup with my technical lift corrected (sit up to combat base posture) and I really felt like I understood more about body movement as it pertains to BJJ.
Next up we covered some different throwing drills. First we started with an O-Goshi belt grip and practiced entries to the bump up hip throw. Following the O-Goshi we transitioned into a Harai-Goshi leg reap throw from the same grip and practiced this all the way to the ground (Dave Kama thought I was a judo guy, but my breakfalls felt really lacking). I had actually never set up the Harai with that grip so it was very fun for me. The last throw was a single leg defense that was also very Rickson-esque. Kama showed us how to avoid the single by moving your leg back into a side sprawl and to just use your weight efficiently to prohibit their scoop. The leg that is being singled also kicks out as your hip comes through. It was such a clean movement.
In this picture, Dave C. is showing the leg movement against Jr.
After the takedown practice we did some takedown drills that I have not done since my last judo class. I think everyone should do this drill; it fosters creative throwing, technique, power, and cardio. Basically, three people stand in a straight line (one in the middle of the mat and the other two on the ends) and the middle person runs from side to side and throws the partners on the ends. Kama was very careful that we were all using good technique and throwing eachother with safety in mind. It is always a good work out and I had fun trying to work my seois (shoulder throws) and katagurumas (firemans carries). I noticed that once again, my breakfalls need more work.
For our ground technique we did another position that I would call Rickson-esque. It was a drill where both partners wrapped up their arms and started in the side control. The person on the bottom bridges slightly into the opponent, levels the hips slightly off the ground while swinging the hips, and finally bridges away from the opponent. The result: the opponent effortlessly rolls right over you without the use of your arms. This was very impactful as it showed me the proper bridging mechanics, the POWER of the upa, and the depths of BJJ.
This is the starting position. Both opponents must not use their arms until the movement is refined and note that the first bridge will serve the purpose to get the reaction back into you (hence bringing their weight forward).
Next up was sparring time! Dave partnered us up and asked everyone to roll at 80%. He told us that we should focus on technique, tapping, and moving with proper mechanics. The sparring was incredible here.
Al and Dave Kama were working some pretty cool choke, guillotine, and brabo combinations.
Dave C. working the open guard with Fernando. Fernando was rolling sooooo clean and technical all night - he is the epitome of the smooth roll.
Here I am rolling with our friend Jack who also happens to train with Dave Kama. It is good to see so much jiu-jitsu exploration in the region. I've been trying to get this type of open guard to work more as a transition point than a "go-to" and Jack was really helpful in his troubleshooting.
Rolling with Dave Kama was really fun. He played a lot with my guard and I learned a lot about pressure and feel. Dave's game is very basic and it feels like he just does everything correctly. He had great pressure and above that balance. I am really starting to see balance as the key to BJJ and life. LESSONS LEARNED: I asked Dave what I could work on and he asked me to roll again so he could evaluate me. He channeled the game so I could transition to different points and then he gave me two very good pointers. First, we discussed my open guard and the mindset of making the opponent feel uncomfortable. He had me restart with him in my triangle and he told me to really bridge my hips into the choke as I pulled him down. The combined pressures (knee squeeze, hip upa, and pull) took the fight out of him FAST. Otherwise, he was able to withstand the triangle and set up a defensive game. Secondly, he told me to add more pressure to force their options outside of the guard as well. He said light games are good for transitioning, but they become completely reliant on them. If you are slow for some reason, you will lose your position. Afterwards, I tried to crush him and he laughed! Super cool guy.
In this one, Dave and I are playing around and I'm trying to do the rigor mortis defense to the double under pass (making my body into a board). Dave liked my guard and I was definitely honored.
After this class, I was sure of three things: I will return to Dave's from time to time (he is very welcoming), Dave Kama has picked up on a lot of Rickson's game in his many years of training with him, and that I need to train with and roll with Rickson at least once in my life. Using Dave as a comparison point, I can only imagine all of the details that Rickson can show. I look forward to the day.
You can find Dave's contact information at www.rickson.com. I think it has his old academy address, but now he is in Irvine, not Laguna Niguel. Visit him, he's a bad ass.