Brain Clutter

October 22, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 4

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, health, martial arts, MMA, personal — brainclutter @ 1:50 pm

Leading Edge MMAOh so many missed classes…

Since I started training BJJ in early September, I’ve missed more classes than I’ve attended. Booerns to that. First I got a minor neck injury, then I went out of town for a week, then I caught an eye infection and a flu bug that put me out for two more weeks. All in all, there have been a lot of lame reasons for missing out on some valuable lessons.

Fortunately, there isn’t necessarily a theoretical training regiment for this martial art, at least, not at my gym. The lessons are definitely structured in terms of having a warm-up session, demonstration period, demo practice session, and light rolling match to end the class but there’s no linear pattern of learning the various techniques. When I first started, we did learn some basics like shrimping, positioning, hooks, etc. and that served as the foundation for everything else we learned but it wasn’t heavily drilled into us. Instead, we learn various kinds of moves each class (passing a half guard, stand-up grappling, holds, submissions, etc.). During the demonstrations and practices we refine some of the finer movements but our instructor’s motto is that there’s no better way to apply what you’ve learned than to work it into your end-of-class sparring.

I like that. It means that I’m not completely screwed if I miss a class. It also makes the classes more free-flowing and dynamic, in my opinion anyway. Each class is well rounded and focuses on various elements of the game. There are so many intricacies in a fight that there’s no perfect pattern of doing step A then step B then step C. Each move might be set up by various steps but if you get tripped up along the way, you need to be able to adapt and try something else. Sure, you could continually try to set up an arm-bar over and over and over, but that’s not going to be your best strategy in terms of keeping your opponent off balance. According to our instructor, you want to try for move A and if that doesn’t work, flip it into something else, etc.

Last class we learned a couple side control holds that can become very uncomfortable and difficult to escape for the guy on his back. If you can sit it out until the end of the match, you’ll win via points, but another benefit is that he may start to panic, which gives you potential openings to exploit.

Here’s a list of some of the maneuvers we put to the test last Thursday:

  • Underhook shoulder control (standing) – Try keeping him off balance by pushing and pulling his head with one of your left hand from the side and back of his neck. Sweep in and underhook his left arm with your right arm and close the gap, pressing your head against his shoulder. Grip his left shoulder with your right hand. The goal is to control his legs with your knee, trying not to allow him to bring his left leg between yours. You can then push or pull him around the mat. If he brings up a knee, grab it and keep him bouncing around on one foot. From this grapple, your intention is to take him down by either blocking his right posting leg at the knee with your left hand and pushing or grabbing the raised knee and lifting straight up (easier for the taller guys or against less flexible/balanced opponents).
  • Half-guard escape to side control – In this example, you’re in your opponent’s half guard and you want to gain side control. First, you want to flatten him on his back rather than allowing him to create space by rolling out his hips. Your right leg is locked in his guard, so first you’ll reach over his right shoulder with your left arm and tuck it behind his head, pressing your left shoulder up to his face. Your head will be on the other side of his face near your left hand to lock up his neck. You want to grab his left shoulder with that same hand and try limit his movement by pressing yourself tightly against his body. Next you’ll block his left hip with your right arm then block his right hip with your left knee. He should be pressed flat on his back with very little space to wiggle. Start to pry at his guard with your right hand and sneak your knee up towards his belly. From there, you want to work it out so that your trapped right leg’s knee slides towards your left leg and hits the mat. Slide it out completely and you’re in side control.
  • Half-guard escape to mount – This is basically the same setup. Rather than using that right arm to loosen up his leg hold, use your right foot. Keep bringing your knee out of his guard until it’s right around the pelvis. Rather than freeing it towards his chest and sideways for the mount, try angling it sideways and slightly backwards as you free your right leg. In this case, he won’t be able to block your knee with his free left hand.
  • Side control torso lock – This move has you keeping the opponent on his back in a fairly uncomfortable position (as uncomfortable as you want to make it really…). You’re in side control, so you’ll want to take your right knee and press it against his right hip with your left leg stretched out to prevent a sweep. This leg will also provide leverage to put pressure on his chest and face with your upper body. You want to reach under his neck with your left arm trying to get your elbow on the other side of his face (above his left shoulder). You then want to underhook his left arm with your right and clasp hands. You can now push with the toes of your left foot to tighten the hold. The goal here is to maintain your dominant position and win the round. Additionally, you could loosen it up allowing him to try work his way out by exposing an arm, neck, or back for submission. That’s only something you might let happen in the last 10 seconds of the match. If you can win by pinning him, why not, right?

This class had me seeing stars. I literally left the gym with zero energy and a pounding headache. I can attribute it to several things, including dehydration, the six chokes I tapped out of, and not being fully recovered from the flu.

I’m feeling a bit stretched on my fitness schedule though. So far, I’m playing hockey on Monday (sometimes twice – noon and 9pm) and BJJ on Tues/Thurs. In the spring, my wife and I bought a gym membership that we’re locked into for a full year. It was really great when all I was doing was playing hockey and working out, but once baseball and my summer hockey kicked in, I just didn’t have the drive or determination to keep going. Now that I replaced baseball with BJJ twice per week, I’m in the same situation. I think the only solution is to create a two-day gym routine and try fitting it in on Saturday and Sunday because after BJJ, I’m just cooked. I also want a couple weeknights to just relax.

I’m seriously considering not renewing the membership next year because I just don’t have the time. Plus it’s expensive ($40/month). Right now I’m just pissing that money away but not taking full advantage of my membership (currently attending maybe once per week).


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