Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Class '08

BJJ (12/31/08 9:00AM)

So this was it. The last training of 2008. There were four of us on the mats today. Myself, hence the post, David (previously Dan/Dave) and Neil. Which reminds me, I forgot to mention why Neil failed to show up to train yesterday. It seems that somehow during rolling on Monday morning his toe got hurt and looks like it might have one of those pesky hairline fractures that we have all had. To use his words, yesterday it looked like he had a "sausage toe". Today the swelling had subsided enough and given way to bruising so, time to train.

We began warm-ups as normal. But today we were being led by Kazeka. Our head instructor, our coach, our general. After the "easy" part of warm-ups (where my brain malfunctioned yesterday) rather than heading to the wall for the traditional rolls, shrimps, monkeys and the like, our fearless leader had something else in store for us.

Kazeka announced that we would be doing "50/50's" meaning that the first fella would pick a type of push-up and we would do 50 of them, the next guy would pick a type of ab exercise and we would do 50 of those, then guy number three picks yet another push-up variant for 50 more reps of joy to lead us into guy number four's final 50 amorous abdominal adventures.

It went like this:
50 Standard push-ups
50 Kick-outs
50 Push-ups with the hands making little diamonds
50 Bicycles

Kazeka stood there in a state of Schadenfreude, watching our bodies collapse. He asked "Was that enough or do you want to do one more round?" Being that we are not very bright and we were all feeling pretty gung ho, we said of course we want to do one more.

It went like this:
50 Kunckle push-ups
25 Kick-outs to the right 25 Kick-outs to the left
50 Side to Side push-ups
50 Banana boats (which ended up being about 70)

My arms are still like over cooked pasta as I sit here typing. I have NO upper body strength as it is, and this exercise in arm destruction was particularly brutal. But I love these days. We may all complain and cry, but really, who doesn't love to push and see just how much they can do?

Then we started training, wrecked bodies and all. Kazeka showed us wrist locks from a standing position. Starting when an opponent grabs your lapels (or shirt in a practical application) to secure the wrist with one hand, come behind the elbow with the other to apply pressure then with both hands drive that pressure into you to finish the lock.

This move was very reminiscent of my Japanese Jujutsu days. But in that training, we would have never let go of the wrist. I must admit that I have really come a long way in being able to "unlearn" what I have learned from other systems when int comes to my BJJ training. In the beginning I used to get hung up quite a bit between the way the Japanese art did things versus BJJ. Now, I have a deeper understanding of the "why" behind the "how" so it is a lot easier to just do it.

Kazeka then showed us how this wrist lock can be used from virtually any position. He showed it to us from the guard, from side control really anywhere that your opponent grabs on to you. I love this lock. Being on a quest to ever improve my guard game, this gives me yet another weapon to have at my disposal. One thing I loved when I was working with Neil from my guard on this was, if I would go for the lock and miss there was something else there.

There was an instance in going for the lock that it slipped and I had an Oma Plata. There was another time when going for it when if it failed I could have finished with a triangle. So many options. Its great to have another tool in my limited tool belt to pick from. It gives a bit of confidence that when I attempt something and it fails, not all is lost.

We worked on drilling this technique for the entire rest of the class. When we looked up it was already fifteen minutes past the scheduled end of class. David had already left. Neil and I told Kazeka, who had snuck behind the desk, that we needed to be getting on with the day. He came back to the mats, sat down and we all sat there for a few minutes having a pretty informal chat. One of those moments you typically don't get enough of with Kazeka. We sat and laughed, helped move some mats so that our new Octagon MMA cage can be properly set up by Monday, and called it a day; a year. No rolling, no epic battles. A pretty mild, relaxed day.

All and all, great way to spend the last class of the year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stupid Brain

BJJ (12/30/08 9:00am)

Didn't sleep very well last night. BJJ on the brain. But I woke up surprisingly well rested and ready to roll. I was really focused on Jiu Jitsu this morning. Today I was prepared to let it all hang out when rolling. I was going to initiate, take chances, be loose and be aggressive. Basically, I was in a good place mentally. Lets head to class!

When I arrived at the gym, I noticed that Neil wasn't there. I figured that something must be wrong, we'll get to that later on. There were four other guys in the line up this morning plus Fritz and Carl leading us. The gym was a meat locker this morning. I like it on the cold side, so that's fine with me but its fun to watch the warm weather guys struggle.

We began warm-ups. Nothing out of the ordinary. Jogging, high knees, high heels, sideways, push ups, jumping jacks, jumping jacks to the front, jumping jacks kicking to the front, to the side, clapping under the legs, rotating wrists and ankles.......and then it happened. I realized that I couldn't see anything.

There goes my brain again, getting in the way. For those who don't know, I suffer from too many neurological conditions among them are Migraine ( with Aura ( The Aura precedes the onset of the pain phase of a migraine with delightful disturbances in vision that in my case look like geometrically formed lightening bolts across my field of view. It starts off small and gradually increases in size until it overwhelms the entire field of view. The fun part is that, you still see these lightening bolts with your eyes closed. Because its in the brain, not in the eyes.

So, I had to excuse myself from the mats, pop my rescue med (which is always in a handy container on my key chain) and sit in the cool, dark, heavy bag area with my head covered until my vision cleared up. How embarrassing. I hate it when my condition takes me away from doing things I love, but I hate it even more when it makes a spectacle of me. I don't want that kind of attention and when you tell people "I cant see" or "I'm getting a migraine" they don't understand.

When people hear the term migraine, they often think of the diluted word that is used by many to describe common headaches rather than sever clinical, neurological bombs. I am always fearful that people are lumping me into that group. That they don't understand the realities of my condition.

Anyway, there is one last training session for me in this year...I intend to make it count!!! My next post will be an account of that class. Following that post will be a recap of the year and a look at my goals for 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Good Morning Jiu Jitsu

BJJ (12/29/08 9:00 AM)

So, being off for the week leads to some interesting opportunities. Normally I am hours into a long work day by 9:00am on a Monday, but today I was able to don my Kimono and hit the mats for BJJ class in lieu of my normal 6:00pm time slot.

Traditionally, I am not too much of a "morning athlete". The last time I attended an early class (6:00am a few months back) I was quite nauseous the entire time and had absolutely no gas. I am one of those people that just cant eat in the early morning, if I do I have a upset stomach all day long. No food before training = no energy for training; so do the math.

Fortunately, 9:00am doesn't seem to be too bad for my system. I'm used to riding my desk pretty vigorously by that time so what's a little added exertion?

It seems people are still taking holiday time off from training too. Neil and I made a pact to attend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 9:00am, this week to finish out the year strong. Besides the two of us there was one other guy I've never trained with and being that I am terrific with names, I'll venture a guess that his was Dan....or was it Dave.....whatever it was, he is one heck of a nice guy and was great to roll with.

We ran a perpetual motion drill for the entire class until it was time to roll. The drill was all about movement and it broke down like this:

Guy #1: Armbar from guard
Guy#2: Defends Armbar, stacks Guy#1, Passes to Side Control
Guy#1: Escapes side control to the knees, shooting taking Guy#2 down to Side Control
Guy#2: Escapes side control by hipping and regaining guard
Drill Repeats with Guy#2 now initiating the Armbar

We rotated among the three of us for a while until Blue Belt Carl came in to help out his brother Fritz (our Purple Belt Instructor); at which point Carl and I drilled. I love these perpetual motion drills because it really helps with the repetition that you need in BJJ.


In my never ending quest to get better at the guard, I started each exchange from the guard. Its great that everyone is always willing to let me pull when I put it out there. If I say "hey I'm working on my guard, do you mind if I pull?" I have never once had anyone disagree.

First I went with Dan/Dave and it was pretty good. I didn't pull of any of the sweeps or subs I went for but I was feeling pretty comfortable in looking for things and regaining control when my attempts failed.

Second was with Neil and his monkey-like strength. We had a pretty good roll going. Of course my guard game got sloppy and he passed like universal health care in an Obama administration. He got to mount, when I was hipping out of it he half got my back and sunk in a collar choke from the back. Thank god we drilled all those escapes a few weeks ago. I was able to weasel my shoulder in, turn into the choke and get into his guard.

Third I was with Carl who was awesome. He actually coached me into tapping him out. He showed me things as they were developing. He gave me new eyes while we were rolling. Showed me what I was missing and helped me recognize opportunities I was missing because I was too dang tired. THANKS CARL!!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Post-Christmas Jits

Open Mat (12/27/08 10:00am)

Neil and I met up for open mat on Saturday. The gym has limited hours during these holiday times so we decided to take advantage while we can. There were no normal classes on Saturday (i.e. No gi, Fitness Kickboxing) but instead open mat ran from 9:00am to 1:00pm. That's pretty awesome. Actually, I wish the open mat time was like that every week. I find that time invaluable because I really learn a lot in that environment.

Neil had said that he had wanted to learn from me so, that was interesting. Particularly because at times I feel like I don't really know anything!!! But as it turns out I had plenty of things to show him. He wanted to work primarily on sweeps from guard and on some side control escapes. Both of those are things that I always want to work on because of how practical and necessary they are.

We went over the pendulum sweep; he got that one down pretty well quickly. We also did the normal scissor sweep and thanks to my new Jiu Jitsu University book (Thank you Saulo Ribeiro) we worked on a nifty sweep from the guard that makes it easy to take your opponent's back. I love that book. It doesn't teach anything new and flashy but it sure puts the polish and perspective one things.

We reviewed different side control escapes and I helped him work on his phobia of being trapped in side control. This was good for both of us. I have always had a really strong side control so working with someone who is really wanting to learn to escape was beneficial for me in terms of positional awareness when I get it. Also, who doesn't hate being in side control? It sucks. So why not work on getting out of it whenever you can.

We did take some time and I taught Neil that choke the Doctor and I learned from Dennis during the last open mat. I was actually pulling it off pretty well this time. I like it now and I think I will be using it during rolling as situations arise.

We finished the session off with some specific drilling. Starting from guard, the other would try to pass while we would attempt to sweep, submit, retain guard or just survive. It went well. Neil did an awesome job. He tried out a nifty choke from inside my closed guard that worked surprisingly well, so we'll try that out some more and report back later.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Judo Night Makes a Comeback

BJJ (12/23/08 6:00pm)

Our head instructor Kazeka Muniz, besides being an all around bad ass, holds a black belt in Judo as well as his BJJ black belt. Not only is he belted, he's quite accomplished as a judo player. In fact, when I first started training with him (we were under the Gracie Barra banner) every Wednesday night was known by the guys as "Take-down" or "Judo" night because all we did on Wednesday were throws. Brutal, bone crushing throws.

Over time, the attendance at the Wednesday night classes started to dwindle, Kazeka was traveling to train Michael Bisping for his UFC fights, and not too many of the guys complained that they weren't being thrown on their heads any more. As a result "Judo Night" went by the wayside.

Well, last night we had a bit of a reprisal. When I got to the gym, the kids class was in full swing. And there they were, chucking each other over their shoulders like coffee farmers unloading gigantic sacks from the days harvest. I watched for a minute, the remembrance of "Judo Night" and my time spent at the Japanese Ju Jutsu school all began to flood back. I knew to take extra time in stretching out my back and preparing to RELAX.

So after a pretty intense warm-up we began the training. I think that Dr. Evil and I were probably the only guys in there who have been through Judo Night before. The rest of the class had never experienced the joys of being thrown over an opponents shoulder.

When I asked the Boss what the name of the particular throw we did was he said....."shoulder throw" and I let it go at that. When I looked up throws online, according to a couple of sites it seems that we were doing the Ippon Seoinage. Just a single shoulder throw.

The really cool thing was that I picked right up like I had been doing them the entire time. Kazeka even said "Perfect" a couple of times when he was watching me. That was pretty awesome. I''m hoping that Judo Night makes a comeback in 2009.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thawed Out but Still Dripping

Open Mat (12/20/08 12:00pm)

Dr. Evil agreed to meet me for open mat today. I really needed it. Unfortunately Neil couldn't be there because he had to attend a funeral. Sorry buddy, I'm thinking about you.

The Doc was wiped out from no gi prior to open mat and I am still fighting off the remnants of this cold. The congestion is suffocating me and the runny nose is irritating so after a few minutes it feels like we've been working for hours. That put us on pretty even footing for the session.

My goal was to work on my sweeps from the guard. Specifically, countering when an opponent attempts to pass. We began by warming up and reviewing the basics: Scissor, Pendulum, Sit-up, and the Doc showed me one that he always catches me in which is a variation of the pendulum.

The drills went well, we were both a bit drained for our own reasons. Toward the end of the session I asked the doc to just start trying to pass me and I would work to attempt sweeps, retain guard or submit. Basically, I wanted to be able to put some of these techniques to use in a "live" environment. Surprisingly, it went very well. Even when I didn't get the sweep I was able to come out on top in the scrambles that ensued. I remembered the Kimura option when your opponent defends the sit-up by posting forward, and I actually pulled it off!

Dennis, a strong blue belt showed us a vicious choke to pull off starting from the knees, standing or in a scramble. I don't even know how to explain it, and no one had a name for it, but this thing was brutal. Basically it involves snatching the head, shooting your own head and arm under, rolling yourself and your opponent over and ending up with a heck of a choke that resembles a clock-choke. We worked on this for about 15 minutes or so, until we were both hurt in one way or another, then went back to sweeps.

We were probably going at 80% or so, not for lack of trying, he was exhausted and I congested. Hopefully by Monday, I'll have lungs as clear as my mind and a body as strong as my willpower. Hey, I was pretty sick, I have to hope for small advances.

I think my next post will focus on my "GOALS" for 2009. I don't make resolutions, I have a systematic method for goal setting, so look for that to come. I'll be counting on all of you to help keep me accountable for attaining them.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rolling with Mighty Whitey

So we rolled. Now, I've hardly ever rolled with this one before. I must say just the sheer enormity, size and strength was intimidating. But there is something so fun about it. Living up here in the desert, we don't get a visit from him often so when he comes around we have to get in as much rolling as we can.

This week, he came and he came to dominate. This dude was cold. No matter what I did, there he was. No matter what trick I tried to pull, he had a counter. Cool and calculating.

Now I never roll with emotion, never with fire and anger. But when I finally started to I could feel him melting underneath me for a moment. But alas, he was too massive, I was mounted in what seemed a blanket of white. The pressure was too much; I had to TAP.

That's right folks...SNOW, in the middle of the desert. Not just snow, a bunch of snow. I've lived here for, well, too long now and I've never seen it like this. Needless to say, we are not well equipped to deal with such conditions in California's high desert so getting to work let alone training is questionable. But hey, we only get a good snow day once a decade or so; might as well enjoy it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sniffles, Sore Throat and Saulo's new Book

Feeling sick as a dog today. I actually called in sick to work, spent the day on the couch watching bad TV, eating udon soup, and periodically thumbing thru Saul Ribeiro's new book Jiu-Jitsu University. I would like to have read more but it was just too hard to focus and I really want to absorb the content.

This book is amazing. I'm a very visual learner and the level of detail they put into each principal and technique are astounding. I have a number of other books from various Gracie's and other superstars; while I by no means wish to disparage their work, this book is just head and shoulders over them. In my humble opinion anyway.

The content of the book is laid out in a logical progression from white to black belt and focuses on the foundational strategies at each belt level, rather than just technique. I understand that the Ribeiro's created this to be used as a textbook to accompany their school's on the mat instruction and I think that is just brilliant. That is something I have long wished for, and when I participated in Japanese Ju Jutsu, we did something similar.

Anyway I cant wait to be over this head cold, or whatever it is. Sniffles and sore throats are the worst things in the world (at least at the moment).

Rolling with Metallica

OK, so this post isn't as epic as the teaser title sounds but hey it was a great time. Read on and somewhere toward the end I will try to weave some BJJ relevance into my story.

So at some point during the week, I get this text message from Dr. Evil which basically read "My kid wont be able to go to the Metallica concert with me on Friday night, do you want to go?". It took all of 45 seconds for that to process thru my internal mental computer.

Being a lifelong metalhead, its a shameful admission that I must make here to explain why this is such a big deal. I have never seen Metallica in concert before. I survived Jr. High and High School buried deeply in Master of Puppets and And Justice for All. Being a fan for so long and never seeing the band in concert when I live this close to LA is inexcusable. And today, while I have probably the most eclectic musical taste of anyone I know, I still consider myself a huge fan even after that dark time of disappointment called the 90's and early 0's in which the boys in the band gave us nothing worth listening to.

Now, how is this BJJ relevant? Why does it belong in my blog? Well, first off I think that of any this was a good reason to miss training on a Friday night. Secondly, how often do we really get to know the folks we roll with away from the mats? I know many of you out there might have a different experience than I do, but for me its pretty much; go to the gym, see the guys, catch up, roll, laugh a bit, go home....repeat.

Being able to hang out with a teammate outside of the gym was an interesting adventure. Interestingly, we only talked about BJJ for maybe a combined total of 15-20 minutes. Not too bad. Here's proof that BJJ can bring folks together with common interests and they don't have to only have BJJ to talk about.

One last note on relevance; what better to listen to when getting ready to train? Ok that might be a stretch, but hey the show was awesome. So thanks to the Doc, see you on the mats.

Here are the show Details:
Citizens Business Bank Arena
Ontario, CA

Here's the set list (A good mix of old and new):

That Was Just Your Life
The End Of The Line
Ride The Lightning
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Broken, Beat And Scarred
Sad But True
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
All Nightmare Long
The Day That Never Comes
Master Of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman
- - - - - - - -
Stone Cold Crazy
Seek and Destroy

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Good to be Home

BJJ (12/08/08 6:00pm)

So I hit the mats again last night after my substantial bit of time off as of late. It was good to be back in the mix again. The old saying, you don't know how much you miss something till its gone, always seems to hold true.

Its so funny, back in the early and mid 90's when I was heavily involved with Tae Kwon Do I used to believe, as I'm sure many do, that BJJ was a sport full of cocky, arrogant, disrespectful brutes who didn't deserve the title of martial artist. I know that this misperception is false at its core and is often perpetuated by those with a vested interest in the "traditional" martial arts.

Over my last year of training, I have come to find that the people I train with are by far the nicest, most humble, selfless and respectful folks I have ever dealt with in any sport. These people truly become a family. When I returned last night, there were so many warm welcomes and people asking "where you been?" after only a week or two; compare that to the times in TKD when I could miss months without anyone noticing, unless of course I missed a payment!

So, training started off as always, with one notable exception. Kazeka was leading class from the beginning. It has been a long while since I have had an entire class lead by him. Normally he'll have Fritz warm us up or take over some aspect of the class, but not this one.

Warm ups with Kazeka can either be extraordinarily brutal or feel almost easy. Last night was an almost easy feeling with some difficult movements added in. A lot of handstand walks and other balance oriented movements.

Drilling focused on defending chokes from the rear when your opponent has his hooks in. The first one dealt with taking advantage of that cardinal sin, when the opponent crosses his ankles. I have actually used this one before actually "learning" it. I didn't make my opponent tap, but it did allow me to reverse to his guard.

We then learned rolling your opponent onto their back, plant your head on the mat, work your shoulder into the choke to nullify it and defend their opportunity to take mount. I felt that once that shoulder was in between the choke, I had a wide open path to start an escape and was able to scramble to side control most of the time if not half guard.

Rolling was awesome. I went with the Doc first, we had a good back and forth, I got to his guard, he swept to mount, I swept to his guard, passed to half, in the scramble got his back, then he turned out, more scramble, he got my back, and stalemate till time was called.

Kazeka had me sit out the next round.

The last round I went against a brand new wrestler kid with three classes in. I went nice and easy, took him to his guard, passed to mount in seconds, let him upa me over to my guard (cause I wanted to work on my sweeps). I pulled off a pendulum first, got to mount, threatened the collar choke, let him escape again, next I did a scissor sweep, started working for an armbar, lost my own balance, in the scramble I just pulled guard, and actually pulled off a sit-up sweep. I’ve NEVER gotten that one before. I just never have the explosiveness or the timing. So big surprise.

Pretty good night. I’m a bit sore, needless to say, since I haven’t trained in weeks but it was good to be back on the mats with the mindset that I can do what I can do and I wont stress about how much or how little that might be this time of year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Something New

So this last week I tried something out of character for me. I took a week off of training. Now I know what your thinking...."Jay, you miss training all the time", I know, I know, but this time it was different. I chose to take a week off.

With the stressful year end schedule at work, combined with the normal abnormalities that this time of year brings, I figured that I deserved a little bit of slack. I knew going into this week that a normal rest/recovery schedule would not be possible and that if I threw training into the mix I might just end up on my butt by the end.

I resigned myself to the fact that at this time of year there are many times when total control is a luxury that I cannot afford. Isn't that something that BJJ teaches us anyway? To learn to pull when pushed; to roll with the flow until we find that optimal situation? So, this week I hung up my Kimono, put the focus on the other aspects of my life. My wife and I even went to a concert to see her favorite band. We didn't get home till about 1:30am on Tuesday night so just imagine how difficult that would have been to get virtually no sleep, work a full day and then go train. Rather than add to the mental stress, I allowed myself to take the time off.

And the result of this week away? Well, we'll see. I'll be back on the mats tonight. I'm sure that my cardio will suffer and that rolling will be much more difficult than when I was last on the mats but I can assure you that I will be excited to be back. I miss the gym when I'm away, but that's not to say that I don't enjoy myself outside of there either. Oh, that elusive balance.

The rest of this month I'm sure will prove just as problematic for me from a training perspective. I will probably be luck to squeeze in one or two sessions this week and next, and that's it, the year is virtually over. So when I hit the mats tonight and every time "this year" I will do so with the mindset that I am doing the best I can with the circumstances I am in, Sure I would like to roll more or make more gains before the new year but I will be content to remember that I am doing something love in spite of the impositions that life is making along the way.

Wish me luck tonight!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Stuffed with Turkey; Starving for Jits

The Best Laid Plans of Men....and Turkeys

Last week was a challenging one to say the least. Between the news from my neurologist and the hectic pace at work we had to keep up in order to ensure a holiday could in fact take place, no training at all was able to commence. Anyone who knows me, knows that this is problematic as my general mood and my subsequent performance upon returning suffer.

Luckily, my co-worker and open mat partner Neil told me that he heard open mat would go on as scheduled in spite of the holidays. At least that's what the guys behind the desk had told him. But we'll get to that. So after copious amounts of Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatos and all the other good stuff that comes with good ol' American style Thanksgiving, it was good to have a light bit of rolling on Saturday to look forward to.

After texting back and forth Neil, Dr. Evil and I were all committed and eager to attend Open Mat. Side note: what's the deal with texting? I understand chicks do it, and I can only assume its because they really don't want to talk to each other. But when guys use it, even though I'm guilty at times, I just don't get it. At least there's no, LOL, TTFN and all that garbage. With my friends the only acronym we use is MPH, when we're bailing from training.

So I arrive at the gym about ten minutes early. I decided to sit in the truck, listen to the radio, finish my coffee and wait for Neil and the Doc to show up. As I sat there, I received a text from the doc which basically said "MPH" and he's not showing. That's cool, we've all been there, at least Neil's coming.

He showed up and we headed inside. The front of the gym was dark. Light and banging noise greeted us from deep in the back. We pensively walked in foot by foot, then Angel emerged no doubt surprised to see us. "Dudes, were closed today" he said. Neil, immediately said "But Tom said...."; and Tom overhearing this reacted with...."Yeah, I was misinformed" , which in Tom speak means "Sorry guys, my mistake, I hope I didn't inconvenience you too much".

So we left. Walking past the wide, open, mats; longing to be rolled upon. Outside we stood. Still suffering from tryptophan poisoning, yet feeling dejected. Sure, we could have left there and sought other ways to work out, but of course that didn't happen. There is always the next week to conquer!

***Side Note***
Went to see "Four Christmases" this weekend. Besides being rather unfunny, it calls MMA "Human Cockfighting" two or three times and the portrayal of the redneck fighter (the normally funny Jon Favreau) would have been better served by actually performing a Triangle rather than the absurd maneuver he applies in the film. Come on Hollywood, do better.