Thursday, November 5, 2015

Workout #311: First class as a Blue Belt

So today was my first class as a blue belt. Since the majority of the folks at the gym are white belt, it's a fairly new gym, everyone congratulated me again but I knew people were going to come at me hard. Real hard, since most of the gym is in their early 20's. There are only two working professionals at the gym, including myself. The majority are college students and there are a few amateur MMA fighters who are hoping to go pro that are training there. While their skill in the Gi isn't that high, they are super duper fast and very strong. So they're tough.

We have a tall college student who is a Division 1 scholarship student as a track runner. He's long and lean, and incredibly strong. He only weighs about 170 to my 200, but he is so strong. He's been doing BJJ for only 4 months and always asks me for help and is a good young man, but he is so athletic and strong. When we spar, I feel like all I can do is wait for him to tire out. So I typically get him into guard or half guard, and try to work a sweep that feels like it takes at least 4 minutes. Then towards the end of the roll, I'm usually able to sweep him and submit him. By the time we roll a 2nd time, he's pretty tired from using up all his energy trying to submit me so it's much easier and on avg I sub him about two times. However, today I was pretty tired and he was very energetic and he passed my guard and got into side mount for the first time. The professor saw that and said to me that I can't be like that as a blue belt. This young man will continue to get better, and I have no doubt he will be much better than me very soon since he's so strong, athletic, and is a very eager learner.

The professor then decided to give me a half private right there. He said that I'm much too slow, so that when I'm sparring from my knees that I should be sure not to pull the guy on top of me but stay upright when I'm on my butt and focus on moving to the side. It's like butterfly guard, but with movement. He also said my biggest weakness is that once I make contact that I go straight in, but that I need to go in and out in and out. For example, if I'm doing a knee slice pass and I don't feel it's going well then push back and start over. If I'm in butterfly guard or just sitting on my butt, and the other guy is standing up then I too need to move my hips back so I can get out of any sticky situation or have the potential to get out. However, if I pull him on top of me then I can't do that.

I'm not sure why he thought it was best I do that, but I will drill this every night. I will practice just this move. So here are things I should be working on the next few months:

1. Stay upright when I'm seated in guard so the other guy doesn't pass my guard. 

2. Look for opportunities to move in and out, whether on top or bottom. On bottom using my hips to push out and start over, and when on top to kick back or just step back and go right back to pass guard.

3. Guard pass drill we do in class. 

4. Work on the Americana/Kimura/Arm lock trap.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Workout 310: Faixa Azul

After 21 months of training and 310 workouts total (including classes, seminars, and open mats), I've finally received a blue belt.

Some data:
  • 22 months
  • 400+ hours
  • 4 gyms (I moved around b/c of work) 
I remember at one of my gyms, I had been there about a year. People who had started BJJ way after me got promoted to blue. One female got it at 9 months, another male at 12 months, another female at 12 months, and another male at 18 months.

I switched gyms to a competition school. I didn't want a competition school, but this gym was close to my house and the professor was a wonderful guy with a background in MMA which was also interesting. Anyways, it's a wonderful gym.

So the policy at this gym is that you cannot get a promotion (including stripes) until you enter a competition. So it takes 5 competitions to get your next belt. Some young guys get it in a year, but most of us working folk take 2+ years or some even longer. You don't have to get gold in the competition, though if you do then you automatically get a stripe, but you either have to place or the professor has to feel like you had a good showing. It's not enough just to enter, but he has to see visible evidence in a competition setting that you have the skills. This was the opposite of my other gym, where the professor just decided you were ready and promoted you anytime. (Though most people did get at least one promotion per year.) At my current gym attendance is not important. At my two previous gyms attendance was important, including whether you took 2 classes in one day or not. Those gyms were much bigger and part of a bigger association.

When I first started since I was a former high school wrestler, I felt like I had some advantage. However, I was a boxer for a while and that's a totally different skill set. I also started at age 41, which is probably the biggest reason why it took so long even though I was in decent shape. I heard some gyms take 2-3 years for a blue belt. A female friend I know took 11 months to get her blue, but she also was at a competition school and she placed 1st in the absolute division for female white belts in a big tournament so that may have been the reason. Generally, it seems females get promoted faster and I see why. It's not b/c it's easier, but b/c it's much harder to be a female in a BJJ gym - not just socially, but having to spar people who are much bigger and stronger than you, one has to rely on technique.

Either way, it's a relief but also new pressure. The professor said, I hope you get to brown by 50. That's a little over 6 years from now. I hope so too.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

My 2nd tournament

I was traveling in Asia for work and so I decided to enter a tournament. I was in the senior division, ages 39+. I was told however, that there were few people there so I was going to enter the masters division ages 29-38. I didn't want to go against a strong 29 year old, so I entered at the 207 pound division.

There was nobody in my weight class. There was also nobody in two weight classes below. There were three competitors in the 167 pound weight class, and 4 or so in the 159 pound class. The winner of each division goes to the absolute, so I was declared the winner of the 207 bracket (the highlander division where I'm the only one) and was automatically entered into the slot. One of the winners had to leave, so that left just me and the winner of the 167 pound weight class.

He was a year younger than me, wore glasses and looked very fit. I found out that he's a judo instructor but he's only done BJJ for 3 months. He tore it up in his division, he took everyone down easily and submitted a few guys. In our match, I knew I had 40 pounds on him and several inches but he was really skilled at judo.

When the match started I wanted to grab him and pull guard. He's a lot lighter so I knew if I just got a grip I'd bring him down with me. The problem was that he was as fast as a rabbit. He's a 2nd degree judo black belt so he was moving really fast, and just pushing my grips away. I couldn't hold on to anything. He was all defense for close to 3 minutes and finally when he saw an opening he grabbed my sleeve and did some variation of Osoto Gari. He didn't throw me too hard b/c I was much stronger and kind of pulled him down when I gripped him, but he spinned with my gi and tried to get knee on belly then side control. He didn't get the knee, but he was in half side control but I was able to grab his pant leg so all he got was 2 points for the takedown.

I hip escaped for a good 30 seconds as he kind of tried to get side control, but one of my hands had his pants. Finally I was able to get one of my hands on his knees, and eventually was able to grab the knees with two hands in a single leg. I half turtled and then I turned on my stomach and was able to sweep him doing a single leg. I got on top of him with my chest coming down on his knees and his leg hit the mat hard and he made a loud noise. The ref came over and stopped the fight and said it was a verbal tap. I got the sweep, but they said it was a sub since he made noise. He didn't know the rules and got mad and said it wasn't a sub.

Anyways, I got the win. I would have won with the sweep, 3-2, and with my weight it would have been hard for him to escape. So I got the gold with just one match against a guy who I had 40 pounds on. So it wasn't really much of a victory, but I guess it felt good to win.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Workout 188: 4 stripes

This blog is now becoming a place where I post only when I get promoted. Today I got my 4th stripe on my white belt. I really liked the format of Couchjitsu's post "Blue Belt" so I will simply copy the structure of his posts.

I started BJJ sometime in November 2013. I went to an EXPO while I was traveling and got my first BJJ lesson from Caio Terra in a seminar. I had no clue what I was doing. I then visited a few gyms for the next month, so my first month I went to about 10 classes at about 4 different BJJ gyms. I didn't learn so much as just get used to the whole thing. Starting December 2013, I enrolled at my 1st BJJ gym. Along the way I pulled my rib, had to move to another state, and basically take several weeks off at a time. Some months I averaged 18 classes, other times I averaged only 8. One time I think I went to 20 classes in one month.

Today was promotion day for our gym, and I've been attending this gym for 4 months. I came in with 3 stripes and I finally got my 4th stripe. Our gym does not have any formal testing, the instructor just rolls with you and determines if you are ready. One lady started jiujitsu in March, and got promoted to blue belt. Another guy started in June and has 4 stripes. I'm the slowest promoted, but that may also be b/c I moved gyms and my instructor wants to see me coming more to his gym. (There are two guys in my gym who have both been training about 7 years. I would say they are pretty close in dedication, roughly 3-5x week. The first guy is in the military and has moved around a lot. This is his 4th gym in 7 years. He just got his 3rd stripe on his purple belt. The 2nd guy has stayed in this one gym for 7 years straight, and he got his 3rd stripe on his brown belt. They seem pretty equal to me in terms of ability, but who knows I'm just a white belt.)

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed as a few upper belts said that I'll get my blue this time and also that I was the hardest white to submit/best white belt at our gym, etc. Either way, I feel kind of childish admitting that I was disappointed when I'm clearly not in this thing to get promoted. The fact of the matter is that some guys, like Couchjitsu, have taken a lot longer to get promoted to blue and I'm pretty sure he is better than I am so I have nothing to complain about. (Just the rants of a middle aged guy. Heh.)

So here's what I've done so far (all in the Gi):

Classes + Sparring: 188

Hours: 235 hours (I split time between 1 and 1.5 hour classes with sparring a part of every class and/or free rolling afterwards. My guess is that it's about 1.25 hrs average per class)

If I compare this with Couchjitsu who did 526 hours, that's more than 2x as much as I did and he just got his blue belt. At our gym, he'd probably be a 2 stripe blue since most of the guys who have been doing this 2 - 2.5 years are 2-3 stripe blue belts. I noticed that different associations have different average times. For the IBJFF a blue belt seems to average around 1 year, and other organizations like the the USBJJF recommends 96 classes and roughly 1 yr 8 months.

I really like what Couchjitsu has to say on this, that promotions have so much to do with one's training schedule and in my opinion one's ability/instructor whims, etc.

As for technique I'm mostly changing from a submissions/defense based focus to a positional/sweep based one. I know that it's position before submission, but I still kept on thinking of submissions the entire time. From now on, I'll work on sweeps and passing guards/good positions. I'm still a white belt.

A blue belt friend and I talk about class a lot, and we both admit that even though we're both middle aged we're a bit childish on this topic and that it bothers us that we're not better than we had hoped. The journey has been fun, and definitely more important for me than the destination.

Monday, June 16, 2014

3 stripes

I've had to travel so much that my schedule got kind of mixed up. I should have gotten the 3 stripes a while ago, but anyways the instructor gave it to me today. Frankly there isn't much difference between what I was before, since I stayed at two stripes a long time since I was training at two different gyms. At my gym, attendance is pretty important. I've been working on a number of things. Mainly, I try to focus more on sparring. Mostly I have to work on defense since I spar upper belts, so I'm more careful in what I do. Today a purple belt that I normally spar told me he could tell I got a lot better, since he didn't submit me today. I have a few priorities: 
1. Focus on just two submissions and variants from back, mount, half mount, side mount, and guard. (Haven't worked on turtle.) 
- Back: rear naked choke + bow and arrow choke with leg over
- Mount: americana/americana variant + choke/arm bar alternate
- Half mount: americana/americana variant + kimura omoplata 
- Side mount: shoulder over head submission + mount
- Guard: kimura + collar choke + scissor sweep

2. Defense
- Back: scoop + leg over/single leg trap
- Mount: straight leg/elbow in + trap and roll
- Half mount: leg over to guard
- Side mount: leg in arm/spider guard + hand on hip/throat push away + elbow shoulder hold
- In guard: leg up push knee down w/back + leg up/pull go/knee over thigh to half guard

If I can simply get a good handle on the above, that's quite a bit. I can do all of the above, but not all of them very well. I've purposely omitted turtle, knee on belly, and north south defense and sweeps. I have some general ideas, but I'm so rarely in those positions I want to focus on this for now. I am slowly working on those positions, since a blue belt would know two submissions/defenses for all those positions. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Workout 70: Been a long time

I haven't posted in a long time. Some recent comments/thoughts:

1. I had to take the entire month of April off due to a rib injury. I couldn't even jog. I ate a lot less so I wouldn't gain weight, but did nothing.

2. I started in early May, but have been training 5x/week. I started with a few others, but they are all 3 stripe white belts now. I'm still a 2 stripe but this is not so important anymore to me.

3. The large purple belt said I got better since we last sparred, so from Mar 10 to about May 5, I didn't see him since I was out of town for work. He said I got better, even though I didn't do anything except enter that tournament. I think i just became more aware. I still suck.

4. My base is terrible. I'm too top heavy as a longer torso guy. So here are the things I'm working on:

- Passing guard by holding down the pant legs.
- In guard, look for Kimura and front choke.
- Hold base when I'm on top even if I can't mount.
- When I'm mounted, avoid arm bars in particular by keeping my elbows in/not extending.

Next step goals:

- Hold off on being mounted when sparring. Hold legs until he can't pass.
- Elbows in, arm not extended.
- Try to work in half guard at least. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

First tournament

Today I was in my first tournament. There were 7 people total in my bracket, and I lost my first match  via submission after 4:30 so I didn't get a second match. I was down 8-2 anyways. I lost to the eventual winner of my bracket. He submitted the next guy, who won his first match, in only 1:30, and then the last guy he won by like 10-0 or something. Too bad I only had one match and lost to the eventual winner of the bracket. He was definitely the best guy in our bracket by far. I think the rest of us were fairly close in ability.

My strategy was to take him down, but he got the takedown when my reverse hip throw didn't work. I should have dropped my hips and pushed him away, but he pushed me over and when I tried to throw him, he was able to push me back and get side mount, then mount. He tried an Americana but I was able to defend fairly easily. I went for a sweep, and had him half turned when he put a scissor lock on my head. He squeezed hard, but didn't tap me out and then I pulled out and tried to get side mount be he got me in guard. Immediately, he went for a triangle, but I was able to stack him and had him in a collar choke. He was still trying to triangle me but wasn't able to get my head down. I sank my choke deeper and thought he was going to tap, but he dropped the triangle and was able to push my hip away with his feet. We rolled around a little bit, and then he got me in an arm bar.

He was definitely better than me in skill and was in better shape too, he won the bracket so I knew he had a lot more experience than my 3 months. I was sick and pulled a muscle two weeks before, so I went to this tournament with only 3 practices in 2.5 weeks, but I probably wouldn't have beaten him. I was pretty close with that collar choke. I think if I had spread my legs out while stacking, I might have been able to submit him. I was so busy thinking of the choke that I didn't think about my leg positioning. I saw his face turn red, so I knew he would have tapped soon but he was able to get out of it by pulling his legs out and pushing me away on my hips. I give him credit, he was good - definitely better than any of the 8 white belts I've sparred so far.

Looking back I should have:

1. Been more aggressive on the takedown. If I dropped my hips and not tried for the throw, I may have been able to get in the open more.
2. Once I had him stacked, I should have had a stronger base by not having my legs together but in a tripod formation to sink that collar choke in. I should have twisted my hands more to get it in deeper. It would have been an upset for sure if I tapped him since he was a lot better than me and was up by a lot of points.

I only wish I didn't have him first since he was the best guy in the bracket. It was a good experience. It would be good to enter another tournament as a white belt, since I'm only on my 3rd month. As they say at Gracie Barra, you win or you learn. I lost, but I did learn quite a bit in my first tournament.