Sunday, December 11, 2011

Training week, RGL coming...

I did not get to the gym this week (phone problems, don't ask, but I did train at home a little bit, doing bodyweight exorcizes and jumping jacks, and I got to ECU BJJ on Thursday.

This week our warm-ups were different. Instead of the usual rolls, sprawls, and other movements across the floor, we did hopscotch and what I call "bridge-and-tunnel." The we studied the arm-bar, a way to block it, and a way to counter the block, then we drilled, drilled, drilled. When we were done drilling, we had three rounds of sparring.

My first round was with another white belt, stronger and heavier than me, but will less experience. Though I was not able to submit him, I was able to try an execute several technical moves, including some interesting angles on which to apply a triangle.

In the next round I went up against a much more skilled and experienced fighter. He was able to deny every attempt at passing the guard and submit me a couple of times. At one point I stopped to examine method of passing guard by getting both arms under the opponent's legs. I had been getting caught in guillotines when I had tried that recently, and I learned a few new principles. It seems that it is trouble to leave your head in the guy's stomach when getting a group there. You have to either be buried between his legs, or sit up fast ti pull his legs up and get his hips close to yours.

The last round was with the strong, aggressive white belt I had trained with my first week back. After he got me in a quick guillotine, when we re-set, I was able to deny his speed and aggression by going to my back and getting him in guard. He was strong enough to keep me from executing any submissions at that point, but he never got past my guard in over 5 minutes.

After class, I asked the experienced grappler about the execution of a certain type of sweep from guard. It involves bringing your chest up, and I kept on getting stiff-armed in the chest. we figured out that what I need to do is get the stiff-arm hand blocked away from my chest for the duration of the move. There is a way to do that which involves using my arm to guide the opponent's arm out of the way as I sit up. We'll see how that works.

One of the instructor's said I was getting better, showing good technical work in the rolling today. That makes me feel good. I still feel I am lacking a lot of skill and some aggression, and I certainly have forgotten a lot over the couple of months I missed training this summer. I just hope I can pick it back up soon.

This weekend I have been invited to compete in the Renegade Grappling League tournament at an event in the Bronx. This is the same organization that gave me those epic, three-round matches that you can see on YouTube. We will see how I do this time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

SO I took a week off from working out, swordfighting, and bjj last week as a result of Thanksgiving schedules, though I did run twice, confirming that I have about 75% of the stamina I had about a year ago, when I started with ECUBJJ. This week, I worked out with G.A. West twice, with a new emphasis on cardio and less on weights. In addition to trying to up my endurance, I am also trying to drop about 5 pound to make 185 lbs since Peter Storm invited me to compete in the 185 lbs division of his Renegade Grappling League tournament on December 11 (will post details as soon as available). So in between sets of bodyweight exercises, I did jumping jacks. Jots of jumping jacks. A total of 1000 for the work out. My right calf, already sore from running, is still feeling it.

So I went to ECU last night. My across-the-floor warm up is beginning to pick up pace. My push-ups are deeper, and my sit-out drill is slowly creeping up in pace.

WE focused on a particular method of gaining the triangle choke from guard., involving swinging the leg like you do in part of standing up in base from a sit-out. This started feeling like the kind of jiu jitsu that is a step above "basic." To me, "basic" involves being pretty much rooted to the ground and doing things that are slow progressions. This particular move feels dynamic and "swoopy." It's actually kind of fun. We drilled the heck out of it, which is very good for me. I noticed that one par of the move, in which the hips are lifted to move the opponent's arm across his face, can flow organically out of the move where the legs are crossed behind his head. By the end of the drills, I felt very confident about the move, and like a more skilled fighter.

Then we rolled. I was first partnered with a fellow who had advanced from white to blue belt some months ago, and whom I had gotten into that "Tarzan" hold two weeks ago. He must have been very fatigues when I fought him then, because he showed be a degree of skill and energy that I had never seen from him before. He was aggressively moving all over and around me, while I felt pretty much rooted to the ground and lacking dynamism in my game. I was able to hold off a few submission attempts and even escape from a few dominant positions he gained on me, bus his techniques and energy were able to deny and escape anything I tried.

Next I fought the skilled, technical guy I had fought the previous class. He was pretty conservative in his game, which didn't matter too much because his strength and skill were greater than mine, but I did manage to escape a pretty tight rear naked choke from him and survive being under full mount and side mount. I tried the side-mount escape in the latest ECUBJJ YouTube video, but he was too strong for me.

Finally I fought a brand new guy, bigger, stronger, and younger than me, but had only started a few months ago. I was able to mount him twice, and he mounted me once, but I failed to gain any submissions.

Jojo is being very encouraging to me, talking to me about what it takes to advance and get better. I will be bringing my camera to some upcoming ECU seminars and new locations soon.

Here's that video of the escape from side mount I referred to...

I have got to figure out a way to get more training into my life.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Return (again) to ECU BJJ!

Well, after three weeks at East Coast United Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a new work schedule and an illness kept me away for another three weeks, but I finally got back today (Thursday). This was in a week that I also returned to SCA fighter practice on Sunday and working out with G.A. West on Monday and Wednesday. So my body was pre-fatigued and word when I got there, and I did not slack in the class.

There are certain warm-up exercises moving across the floor that I still can't seem to do as fast as the other guys, and it's a little embarrassing. I hate being the last guy, struggling to get those sit-out's across the floor, as the rest of the class is getting ready to do crunches.

We learned a new way to get out of side mount, of which I will post video soon.

When it came to the free rolling portion of the evening, I was first paired with a fellow with great physical mechanics. He pretty much wiped the floor with me, once he was able to get a hold of me.

Next I fought a member of the competition team who rolled with me when I first started coming to ECU, but not much lately. While he was able to beat me several times, he said that I am getting stronger. Where he used to be able to sub,iot me at will, now he has to work at it. He may be right. I did actually feel like I was able to avoid getting trapped in a submission several time. I specifically found moments where I was saying to myself "guard is better than mount! Guard is better than mount!" (meaning that I should try to get om ny knees with him on his back, rather than letting him sit on my chest)Similarly, I fought hard and maintained half-guard and denied a kimura, and was able to avoid several other submissions.

I sat out one round, and in the final round of training I rolled with someone closer to my skill leve. He tried to pass into side mount right away, but left himself open for me to put my leg in front of his neck while seizing his arm for an attempted arm bar. While he was able to get his head out from my leg, I somehow managed to get his other arm with my legs. I had him in a wrestling hold exactly like one I had seen in a Tarzan comic book!

I didn't really know what to do from there. He was unable to escape, so I tried to twist his arm back, but he escaped. I had him in a few advantageous positions, but I lacked the strength, or technique, or killer instinct, or energy, to finish him off, and he submitted me. In the last minute of the round, I was so beat, that I stole a glance at the clock, When I saw there were 17 seconds to go, I decided to see how little I could do and still avoid being submitted, and succeeded.

When I was done, I felt more beat up than I remember feeling. Hopefully, if I keep my training up, I will be able to fight more before getting that feeling again. some things that bother me: I always seem to get my wrists grabbed by the other guy, and I never seem to be strong enough to get out of it. On m y back, a standing opponent seems to be able to grab my ankles and throw me around at will. I need a more effective escape from guard.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Return to ECU

After spending a few months away from East Coast United Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I returned to classes a few weeks ago. They have a new location in White Plains, which will save a little travel time.

Thursdays are kickboxing and no-gi night now, though. I've never done kickboxing before. I am comfortable with the concept of a stand-up striking game, like SCA combat, but the hazard of getting damaged and the punching and kicking techniques will take a little getting used to.

In the grappling, I am finding that the layoff did me no favors. My endurance is down, and my technique is rusty. Training without the gi is no big deal, I hardly noticed that I could not grab my opponent's clothes or that my belt was coming undone. I did notice that one guy I was training with seems to be more aggressive than he used to be, and he was always aggressive. I seemed to have a better handle on the technique we were learning, but his killer instinct put me in deadly positions anyway. I think I am beginning to get his number, though...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Latest news

Since my win I have had about as many weeks not going to East Coast United Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as weeks that I have. Work opportunities, deadlines, and once simply missing the train kept me away. However when I have gone, interesting things have happened.

There are a few new people in the beginner's and white/blue belt classes. I have been able to use this as an opportunity to try moves that I could never execute against anyone better or stronger than me. At times I have come home thinking I am actually getting better. Then the next class I will spend most of the free rolling time with someone sitting on my chest.

I have learned about opportunities to look for pulling guard. I am getting a little better hip movement from the bottom. My strength training with G.A. West must be helping a little, because after three weeks away, I was able to do a sit-out drill a lot better than I ever had. I even got out of a triangle choke and successfully executed a particular takedown more than once.

My training and grappling competitions are taking a bit of a break, though, as I prepare for the Pennsic War, an event of my other martial art: armored swordfighting. I am shooting a video there.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Captain Zorikh wins!

I finally got around to posting the video of the first grappling victory I got on camera!

I will be at the Acom Sports Prestige Grappling Tournament this Saturday in Fishkill, NY, competing and promoting "Hit the Mat" and "Redemption."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Some thoughts on the workshop for "Hit the Mat"

So the day of the workshop arrived and what had been looking promising was beginning to look bleak. Two people who had promised to be there (including one with his girlfriend) got called for work, one got sick, several others, it turned out, had decided to go to Santa Con.

Fortunately two friends came through, and I called on another originally to hold the camera, but he wound up participating in the workshop as well. Then, while we were waiting for the workshop to begin, two separate people literally walked in off the street to find out more about East Coast United BJJ. Jojo Guarin, the owner, was not present, so after I gave them what little info I had about it and told them that he would be back later, I decided to tell them about the workshop and invited them to participate. They both agreed. And while Jojo wound up getting called away on family duty, he was good enough to call in Walter, one of the ECU black belts, to lead the BJJ instruction portion of the workshop.

Walter led the six of us, a group diverse in age, size, and experience, in basic instruction in forward and backward rolls, breakfalls to the front, back and side, and the basic positions of BJJ, as well as how to do a rear naked choke. We then took a short break and I asked him to show us the proper way to do a leg-sweep takedown. We adjusted the takedown to allow the “victims” to control their own fall by executing a breakfall.

After the group had gained familiarity with that move, I spoke a few words about what we were doing here. To me, theater is like BJJ in at least one way: it is about “position to submission.” In both you are trying to get your opponent or partner into a position to submit them to your will. Everything in a play is designed to set the audience up for the emotional climax. If they laugh when they are supposed to, cry when you want them to, and give you a standing ovation at the end, you know you have made them tap out.

So we got started. I began with an exercise known as the “grid.” It involves the performers walking in straight lines and right angles as if on a grid. When two people are about to bump into each other, they must make a choice to engage or avoid engagement my moving on the grid. With these directions, the workshoppers seemed to avoid contact. I then told them to make a choice of an attitude. They could be confident, insecure, aggressive, or even a dick, if they wanted to.

With this new direction, they began moving with more purpose, seeking out engagement. Then I said that when two people came in contact, they could choose to engage in a takedown, and that they would have the option of deciding between themselves as to who would be taken down.

Here is where things started getting interesting. The people’s individual personalities began to come out, frequently influenced by their level of skill. Some people were more aggressive, some were more passive. Some avoided contact. One of them made a point of using as many different modes of ambulation as possible. One of the fellows allowed himself to be taken down each time. I told him to take down the next person he saw, which he did. Then he turned around and someone else took him down.

In a later episode, that same guy got trapped against a wall by three others and went down without anyone touching him.

Next I said that everyone who was taken down would stay down. Soon all of those down ganged up on the one person left standing and took him down.

One of the attendees happened to have their grandfather with them. I placed him in the exercise as a “force of nature.” He was allowed to roam in any manner he wanted, while the others had to avoid him. When once again the scenario led to all but one on the ground against one standing, he was quite effective in interfering with the pursuit.

After all this was done and we took a short break, I lined everyone up and explored some very brief, very simple choreography.

This whole workshop helped me blow through some preconceptions. I had been thinking that the grid would be an exercise in exploring the relationships of bodies in time and space like a modern dance or movement study, and that any stories told with it would be silent and subtly dramatic. I discovered that watching people’s personalities, people simply being themselves, is incredibly entertaining and fun. It gave me the idea that the performers should let their individual personalities shine forth in this show far more than I had originally conceived. Exploring the relationships of the personalities may be even more interesting than simply exploring bodies in motion. In fact, the motion of the bodies can be the tool by which we discover the personalities.

And in the category of “well, duh,” having a group of people do unified precision choreography requires a group of people with skill and precision in the movement vocabulary of the choreography.

There have been further developments in the concept of “Hit the Mat” since the workshop. I will elaborate on them in my next post.

Video coming sooon.