Brain Clutter

October 26, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 6

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA — brainclutter @ 11:09 am

Leading Edge MMASmaller class today… time for some Q&A!

Last night’s class only had about 8 students, so it was a great opportunity for us to ask Matt to demonstrate some cool techniques (e.g. flying ankle-lock). He also answered questions like: How can I escape a triangle choke?, What are some other ways for me to get out of someone’s full guard?, and Now that I have him in my full guard, what should I try going for?

These may all seem like basic questions but there are plenty of options and counters to each, so it’s nice to know several different escapes, subs, or submission preventions in case your favorite method isn’t working.

We also spent a bit of time at the beginning of the class working on several shoot-driven takedown techniques (single leg, double, etc.). I found this part pretty difficult because I stand 6’5″ tall and have to squat very low to nab someone’s legs. At my height, it’s very difficult to maintain a good “show ’em what you got” posture when initiating a lower body grapple. “Show ’em what you got,”  basically means that you stick your chest and ass out simultaneously while squatting low. I used to think I had pretty good balance for my height (it comes from being a hockey goalie) but these takedowns felt quite awkward…

Part of the problem is that I naturally want to lead with my right foot forward (Southpaw stance), however, my right arm is stronger than my left. I have this issue in hockey as well in that I play “normal” as a forward (stick blade to my right), but I hold the stick that way as a goalie too (catching with my right hand). It’s not very traditional. I suppose this would be more of a problem in boxing than jiu jitsu as there’s not really any striking involved. It definitely took some adjusting.

Here’s what we worked on:

  • Single leg takedown
  • Double leg takedown
  • Chin control + choke from sprawl
  • Chin control + choke from grapple
  • Escape full guard 1
  • Escape full guard 2
  • Prevent triangle choke
  • Escape triangle choke

I’ll fill these in when I get some time.


October 24, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 5

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA — brainclutter @ 9:24 am

Leading Edge MMATrying to stay alive on day five!

Yesterday’s class was exhausting but fun! This was the most packed I’ve seen the gym since I started and that’s because we have a tournament in Winnipeg, Manitoba coming up this weekend. Also, five weeks from now there’s another one down in Superior, Wisconsin (US).

Am I going, you ask? While I might be seeing signs of very minor improvement having spent a mere five weeks in the gym, there’s no way in hell I feel ready for competition. About the only thing I know how to do with any confidence is establish a position but I’m still quite shaky in maintaining it for extended periods of time. Also, my cardio is the craps right now and I’d get wrecked in any match extending beyond five minutes.

Is that a cop-out? Hells ya! But aside from not being ready physically, I’m also attending two concerts this weekend (Elliott Brood and Craig Cardiff) while my wife drive down to Minneapolis to see a So You Think You Can Dance performance. There are other competition events coming up in late 2007 / early 2008 that I may participate in, so long as I can get matched up against someone with roughly the same experience as me.

Here’s what we learned last night:

  • Shoot-fake neck takedown – Basically, you’re both standing and you want to get into a tighter clinch for the takedown. Fake the shot by dropping to one knee, then immediately stand back up and lunge in with your left arm, hooking his neck with forearm perpendicular to his collar bone (pressed tightly to maintain grip). Grab his right bicep with your left hand and start pushing and pulling him around with your body and hands. Try make him push towards you and immediately walk backwards to create a small gap between your bodies. Shove his head under your right armpit in a headlock maneuver. If you don’t have any arms in there, you might have a good chance at a guillotine. If you do, it can still be done. If you don’t have the best grip, pull him down to the mat and start working on other subs or positions, making sure you sprawl out nicely
  • Anaconda choke – From the previous takedown, you might be able to sink in an anaconda choke. In the previous maneuver, his head should be under your right armpit so reach up with your right hand and place it on his right shoulder, perpendicular to your right arm (sunk under his neck). Grip the bicep of your left arm with your right hand, which should clinch up his neck nicely. Take a quick breath to create a little room to sink it in as tightly as you can. Now, roll your body towards your left shoulder, putting both of you on your backs. Take another quick breath to cinch it even tighter and start walking your body towards his left hip, turning this choke into a death grip.
  • Arm-bar from full guard – Start out in full guard with your opponent postured up and his forearms on your belly. Reach under his left arm and over his right arm, gripping his elbow/tricep with your right hand. Bend your body and head so your torso curves towards the right. Reach behind the left side of his neck with your left hand, crossing his face with your forearm. Push his body to his right (your left). At the same time, release your guard. Take your left leg over to the left side of his head, resting your knee around his neck.  At the same time as you’re positioning your left leg, your right leg should be sliding up the left side of his body. By this point, his arm should be between your thighs. Now you want to tighten the grip. Do not cross or lock your ankles as that will weaken the pressure between your knees. Instead, try keeping your feet parallel and squeeze your knees towards each other for the most snug grip. Pop your hips while holding his extended arm and you’ve got your arm-bar.
  • Oma Plata – If your grip was loose and he managed to pop out his extended arm, you can take his other trapped arm (in this case, his left) and turn it into an oma plata. I can’t quite remember the exact steps for this right now so I’ll come back and edit it ASAP. Basically you want to have it trapped between your legs and on the outside of one of your hips. You’ll also want him with his belly to the mat. Slowly pivot your way up, twisting his shoulder opposite from the way it naturally rotates and he’ll tap.
  • Clock choke (with gi) – You have his back and you’re positioned on his left side. Bring up your right knee to block his left hip from rolling. Reach over his back and under his right armpit with your right arm. Grip his right sleeve with your right hand. Now, try trapping his left arm between your legs. Once the arm is down there, reach through the front side of his left shoulder with your right hand, sink your left forearm under his neck, and grip his collar on the right side. Immediately, swing your legs towards the front of his body so that your right hip is against his left shoulder, preferably against his left cheek. Tighten up your choke grip and start walking in a clockwise spin with your legs. He can try spinning with you to reduce pressure on his neck, so you’ll want to walk faster than him to sink it in deeply enough for him to tap.
  • Sweep (from turtled position – gave up your back) – Pretend you’re in the same position as your opponent was in the clock choke description. Remember that if his weight is higher on your body, you can pop up your hips and walk backwards and try to draw guard. If his weight is near your butt, you can posture up and try standing. If his weight is centered and you can do neither, reach out with your left arm and grip the his left pant leg. Pop up your hips and maneuver your sprawl behind his right thigh to block him posting off it for balance. Immediately roll towards your right shoulder, sweeping him over you. Hopefully you’ll land in side control or at the very least, half guard.
  • Takedown from body lock (reverse bear hug) – This is the same concept, except that it can be executed from standing. You can do two things to take your opponent down from a reverse bear hug. One is to rotate your hips and bring your right leg behind his legs and post it between them. Then grab both his pant legs and lift, using your right leg as a fulcrum against his body to dump him on his head. Secondly, you could move your right leg in the same way, but fall towards your left, trying to take him down with you. Rotate your body so his back hits the mat before you do.

As you can see, this class spent a fair amount of time on various submissions and some of them are fairly advanced. This is because of the upcoming tournament and wanting to prep people for what they might see in competition. Also, our instructor just got back from a training session hosted by Royce Gracie over the weekend and learned a couple new variations on moves he wanted to show off (anaconda choke and the arm-bar).

I spent the last fifteen minutes of class sparring five-minute rounds with three different opponents of various skill levels, though they were all much higher than myself. It was interesting to try applying what I learned in this class and others. It was light sparring, so I wouldn’t say that I earned many of my position gains through strong determination, but it was still cool to get into the flow. I ended up tapping out of several chokes and armlocks (even an oma plata) for good measure.

Of note, my dang Gi still hasn’t arrived from HCK. I’m getting annoyed at having to used the gym’s stanky gear, even if it is better than nothing. 😉

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).

October 1, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 3

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA, personal — brainclutter @ 8:40 am

Here’s a quick note on Day 3 (because I’m short on time):

Today was the first class we used a Gi since I’ve been with Leading Edge MMA. In fact, I think it’s the first time the classes have used a Gi since last spring, as they did mostly submission grappling over the summer of 2007.

Anyway, the Gi obviously introduces a bunch of new elements into your grappling game, most obviously a whole bunch extra anchor points since you can grab the loose fabric almost anywhere for a good grip on your opponent (or even yourself). Here are some of the moves we practiced:

  1. Suck in our arms and shrimp away to prevent your opponent from getting an anchor for side control (we then tried to draw full guard again)
  2. Two different chokes (from mount and from full guard)
  3. An armbar technique (from mount)
  4. A scissor-sweep from full guard

Once I get some more time, I’ll write up detailed descriptions for these moves.

I’m thinking of ordering my own Gi for training, and standard single HCK (Howard Combat Kimonos) is looking like a great option for beginners like myself. They’re cheap, durable, come with a jacket, pants, and a belt, and the single weave will hopefully keep my poorly conditioned self from sweating into a puddle.

I’ll keep you posted on how that goes!


September 28, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 2

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA, personal — brainclutter @ 11:19 am

Leading Edge MMAI missed the Thursday class on September 13 due to the neck injury and both classes on the 18th and 20th due to a pre-planned vacation to Vancouver for my best man’s wedding. However, I have started back up again and my second class in my BJJ training happened on Tuesday the 25th!

Cutting to the chase, here’s what was covered:

  1. Arm drag to leg control (from standing)
  2. Arm drag to body lock (from standing)
  3. Sweeping from half guard to get opponent’s back
  4. Sweeping from half guard to enter opponent’s half guard
  5. Escape from half guard to neutral position
  6. Knee lock from opponent’s half guard
  7. Knee lock sweep from crouch (if you gave up your back)

This was also the first class I participated in light sparring at the beginning and end of class. Each of my opponents was fairly advanced in their technique and very helpful in walking me through some of the moves and steps to achieving those moves. I didn’t roll too long or too hard though, and didn’t really accomplish much except trying to defend myself against my opponent achieving a better position or submission.

Some of the techniques they’re teaching may sound pretty advanced for a beginner and I agree to a point, however, the class is comprised of mostly experienced fighters and the majority of them are interested in the MMA game. They do 1.5 hours of MMA fighting, concentrating more on striking and cardio/stamina, then the next 1.5 hours is Jits, which I’m taking part in. The majority of the students want to participate in MMA tournies, while my goal is to eventually partake in the sport BJJ tournies (submission wrestling and gi).

Some people have asked why I wasn’t joining taking the MMA portion and I tell them that I’m really not too interested in trying to KO someone with my fists, elbows, knees, or feet and I’m REALLY not interested in having it happen to me. I’m not a wuss or anything, but I’m married to a very protective woman and I have a career in the public service. It would look bad for me to sustain black eyes, chipped teeth, a broken nose, or other, much more debilitating injuries at this stage in my life and career. Also, I play hockey and lift weights at the gym, so I need a balance in my weekly fitness routine. I also have other priorities to balance, and 3 hours per Tuesday and Thursday, from 6-9pm doesn’t fit in too well right now.

September 12, 2007

Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie: Day 1

Filed under: brazilian jiu jitsu, fitness, health, martial arts, MMA, personal — brainclutter @ 1:46 pm

Leading Edge MMAShrimping. Drawing guard. Sweeping to a dominant position. These were just some of the elements we practiced in my first ever Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class last night at Leading Edge MMA.

Hello. My name is Brooke, and I’m a martial arts newbie! This series, Confessions of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Newbie, will be my way of tracking some of the exercises learned in my BJJ classes. I’ll also link to useful outside resources in an effort to make it somewhat comprehensive and usable by people other than myself.

Alright, let’s get started!

Let me start by explaining my sports background and reasons for starting up BJJ classes. I’m a fairly active guy who plays hockey one to two times per week (as a goalie) year ’round, softball twice per week in the spring/summer, and lifts weights at the gym (moderately two to three times per week). My current statistics are 27 years-old, 6’5″, 205lbs with about 14% body fat. The primary reasons for learning BJJ are to increase my stamina, focus, and flexibility, and yes, even to learn some of the moves I’ve been such a fan of in Pride FC and UFC (joint locks, choke holds, and sweeps).

In preparation for my first class, I read a few articles so I wasn’t a complete noob:

Armed with this rudimentary knowledge, I set off to the one and a half hour class with a pair of sport shorts, a fitted t-shirt, twenty groomed finger and toe nails (perhaps the most important step of all?), and an open mind.

I arrived a few minutes early to introduce myself but couldn’t immediately distinguish the instructors from the students because the previous MMA and Combat Hapkido classes was still in progress. Once the classes were over, myself and two other newbies (though they each had four months of training at a different academy) asked if we could participate in a free, introductory session to feel out the class. We were welcomed and asked to join the other students on the mats.

Warm-ups consisted of about 15 minutes of rolling (free sparring) at 50% intensity (tournament intensity is considered 100%), which I didn’t take part in because I wasn’t very comfortable with having never taken a class before. Also, some people were putting in a lot more effort than 50%, so it was slightly intimidating. Instead, I spent the time observing and stretching.

After everyone was warmed up, the instructor came out and started giving us some drills. He took note of the newbies in the crowd, and since this was the first session back after a bit of a summer break for many people, he concentrated on some of the “basics.”

  • Shrimping – A fundamental hip movement from your back used in many escapes
  • Two escapes from a kneeling position (when you’ve given up your back)
    • Variation one: You’re kneeling with face to ground while opponent is trapping you down in a forwards facing clinch. Step one is to plant your hands near his knees and lift your butt into the air while your toes stay on the mat. Step two is to creep backwards to throw off their balance – they will now be leaning forwards with a weaker center of gravity. Step three is to pop your head out to the left side (can be done to either side) while maintaining contact of your cheek to his ribs, plant your right knee firmly on the mat towards the same side as your head (left in this case), and reach your left elblow and shoulder towards the sky, while looking up (maintaining face-to-rib contact). This step should result in breaking his grip around your torso/stomach/hips. Step four is to bring your left leg, followed by your body around to the left side, rolling your face to the opposite cheek. This should take you out of his dominant position. Clinch up around his torso with your arms or legs and try to gain his back (leading you into a potential submission).
    • Variation two: Start in the same position and buck up the hips in the same fashion as the previous example. Now, pop your head out to one side and shoot the leg from that same side between his legs and hook his opposite leg (to your head). If successful, you’re now in half guard. You can then try for a half-guard sweep shown in this image. You want to grab under the knee of the leg that isn’t trapped, bridge with your hips, and roll over the trapped leg.
  • Upa variation – A bridge-and-roll technique from half guard
  • Basic guard 1 – One person tries to pass from standing, while the other defends with legs and hands from his back
  • Basic guard 2 – One person tries to pass from standing, while the other defends with hook pressure of the feet only (no hands allowed), while on his back
  • Basic guard 3 – Transitioning from full guard to butterfly guard to half guard, and back again

After these drills, which took about 45 minutes of the class, we were left with about 30 minutes for free-sparring. This is the time when the students are supposed to apply what they learned in the class and do a little bit of medium intensity freestyle, putting themselves in various positions (dominant, neutral, or submissive). Again, I opted out of rolling for a bit of discussion and one-on-one training with the instructor. I asked several questions about belt grading, tournaments, scheduling, training costs, gi vs. no-gi, etc. I explained my goals for BJJ training to give him an idea of what I was in it for.

It was explained that I could also participate in the MMA or cage fighting side of BJJ, but I think it’s a bit too early to make that judgment. I’ve never been much for striking, or for that matter, getting struck, so I doubt I’ll pursue that avenue of training. I’m definitely interested in advancing through the different belts and participating the sport BJJ tournaments as I’m driven by a sense of competition.

Overall, I had a very good experience with the training. I started out with a bit of trepidation because it felt slightly intimidating seeing a bunch of guys with much more skill than me free sparring against each other. After learning a few of the basic moves, I feel confident that I’ll participate in the rolling component in the near future. According to one of the articles I linked to above, the motto should be “position before submission,” so that’s where I’ll be focusing my efforts. In the tournaments, you can flat-out win by submission, but if the match goes to the score cards, all your points will be coming from the various positions you gained during the fight.

So, those are some reflections after my first class of BJJ. I should mention that I did sustain a bit of a pulled neck as I turned my head the wrong way whilst getting swept by a 250lb gentleman. I’m going to have to take it easy on that and pop a couple ibuprofen before my next session on Thursday! I believe we’ll be introducing the gi tomorrow, and I’m pretty excited about that!

My plan is the write up a summary after each of my classes, so stay tuned if you found this interesting.

Update #1: Dangit, I can’t make it out to class tonight because my neck is still pretty sore. Next week I’m off to the west coast, so I’ll be missing two classes there as well. The plan is to get into a good routine starting on Tuesday, September 25, 2007. A friend, who is an out of practice black belt and previous national champion in Judo has challenged me to a sparring match this Christmas when he visits town. There’s some major motivation for ya! =P

Blog at