Monday, January 26, 2009

Cardio, Weights and Loss

Home Gym (1/27/2009)

I left work late again tonight because a co-worker told me that he would be taking his son to Cedars Sinai tomorrow. His kid has been battling a heart problem all his young life and is facing the prospect of yet another surgery. So in order to support him and to get a critical report out on time, I stayed late (past the 6:00 BJJ start time) to get things wrapped up.


So I went home and stuck to my guns. Since I couldn't scratch my BJJ itch I worked out in my home gym. I got on the treadmill and ran my little heart out. Now I generally have a rule about that. I DON'T RUN UNLESS SOMETHING IS CHASING ME!!! So, needless to say there will be no distances nor times posted here because they are quite embarrassing. The key point is that I got some cardio work done on a night that I would have previously written off.


After my running from nothing, I hit the weight machine and did an upper body circuit. I worked arms, chest and shoulders. I often joke that "I tried lifting weights once, but they're just so heavy". Honestly weight training has always been challenging for me. I find it tremendously difficult to get and stay motivated to do it. Tonight it was the work-out of last resort, so in a way I was "forced" to do it, and that helped me power thru it.

Bottom line I'm so glad I was able to stick to my commitment. Even though I missed BJJ, I did not falter in my plans. Normally, getting out of work and missing class would have derailed me. but tonight I was able to overcome it.


Tonight I also got a call from a friend and former co-worker that a former boss of mine passed away over the weekend. He had gone into the hospital with what he thought was a severe stomach flu. As it turns out, he had a severe and rare form of stomach cancer that was widespread and untreatable. By the end of the weekend he had passed. Steve Barton was only 62 years old and was looking forward to retirement this year. This kind of thing really makes you reflect on your own mortality and just how fleeting life is. It also makes you realize that things are not always as they seem; from stomach flu to untreatable cancer. You will be missed Steve.

The Slide Ends Here!!!

Ok, so I'm the first to admit that the last few weeks have been, how can I put this....challenging. I've been working late most nights and definitely not eating right. Combine that with not being able to get to the gym because of the time (and because of MPH) and it wreaks havoc on me. Of course its winter so I'm not doing any cycling to counteract the lack of BJJ which makes me a completely sedentary lump. My cube mates and I have been so busy that we have not even been doing our lunchtime two mile walks in the hangar.

Of course I could have been mitigating some of the affects by watching my diet; but alas not the case. I've indulged in copious amounts of delicious yet deadly foods. My wife has stocked the fridge with wonderful, healthy foods and I have stocked the cabinet with dozens of takeout menus, guess which has won out as of late?


What the hell? This ends today. I am getting back in control. No more sitting on the sidelines, no more passively deciding what to eat, no more excuses, no more MPH.

I need your help. Because I have classes at work on Tuesday and Thursday nights, I am re-dedicating myself to hitting the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I could use some help in maintaining accountability. If there is no post detailing some kind of strenuous activity on one of those days, someone please call me out on it!!! No excuses.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Warning: No Jiu Jitsu Content

I should have had a T-shirt printed with that saying on it for last week.

Yup, my life was a Jiu Jitsu free zone this last week. Unless you count what goes on inside my heart or my head. Worked long hours so I didn’t get to the gym, even the one night when I could have made it I was so tired I just didnt have it in me. That’s not to say I didn’t do some good stuff. I bookended the weekends with some fun stuff, so at least I can write about that!

On Sunday 1/11/09 we went to see the finale of Wicked the musical in Los Angeles (sat right in front of Diane Keaton). This marks the 5th or 6th time my wife and I have seen the show. Needless to say we’ve enjoyed it each time. Enough to go back again and again. It was sad to see it knowing that this is the last time, unless we go to San Francisco now that its moving there.

The rest of the week at work was ridiculous. I mean crazy, hellacious, absurdly busy. Without going into detail that would be both boring and inappropriate, we in the land of DoD contracting often get bombarded (that’s punny) with existing and new work. Holidays are great, but the clean-up afterward is brutal. So I spent pretty much every day staying late to get caught up. Fortunately, I think I’m there.

On Saturday 1/17/09 my wife and I were off to see Jeff Dunham in Los Angeles. We went to see him last year in Long Beach so we had a fear that perhaps he would recycle a lot of the same material. Fortunately, he packed a bunch of new stuff into the set. It was like a homecoming for him, so he gave a great show. A lot of fun.

So no Jits, but a lot of other stuff. Mostly work, but hey it pays for the opportunity right? Anyway, weeks like this happen. The point is to not let them become a discouragement.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Structured Saturday???

BJJ (1/10/2009 11:00AM)

So what was strange about this Saturday morning at the gym? Virtually everything, that's what. Normally when me and my fellow compatriots meet up for an hour or two of mat time, its the standard open mat format. But as I often say, the only constant is change.

To go along with the new year, the gym has now instituted a new schedule, which I am largely in favor of. It makes my life considerably easier. One thing that is very interesting is the addition of a Saturday morning (11:00AM) BJJ class. This class is then followed immediately by a nogi BJJ for MMA class at noon and then open mat begins at 1:00PM and runs thru three.

This is a drastic departure from the past schedule. You see, previously there was a 10:00 nogi class and then it was open mat afterward. That's it. Nothing else. Being one who has yet to feel comfortable enough yet in the gi to venture out of it for additional training, Saturdays to me were strictly for open mat. And that was fine. But now there was a choice. There is a gi class to partake in BEFORE the open mat, how perfect is that? So with a bit of gumption, Neil, Dr. Evil and I decided that we would meet up for that gi class, recover during the nogi portion and then hit the open mat. Sounds good right?

We began the warm-ups as normal felt like any other class. But once we passed the "easy" portion and hit the wall for the back and forth section, things got ugly. We didn't do anything out of the ordinary, the work out just didn't stop. Whenever we thought we were on the last exercise, there was one more waiting. And each time Kazeka and Fritz along with a crowd of onlookers laughing at our obvious pain from just off the mats. It seemed to be a "lets see just how much we can give them" kind of day. That's good every now and then, I guess today was the now.

Today's drills were focused on Knee-on-Belly (KOB for the rest of this post). We worked on getting to KOB from side control properly. We also worked on getting the right posture once KOB is obtained. I was drilling with Dr. Evil and Chris who is a yellow and white belt kid (I'd guess 12ish) with amazing skill. His dad is Matt, one of the gym's Blue Belts and a great guy. Chris takes the adult classes with us all the time and rolls with all of us despite being only 3/4 our size.

Once we worked thru properly getting to the KOB position we worked on an armbar that is predicated on your opponent attempting to defend. There was one thing I really liked about this move and a couple of things that bothered me. First off, its a great armbar. The angles are there and it's easy to transition to. I had difficulty smoothly sweeping around the back and kept stutter stepping, but that's easily corrected.

What I didn't like was the fact that it was a countering attack. I need more of those but I also need some more purely offensive moves. I suppose that I could dig in for it but it seems to defeat the purpose and would probably rush things and ruin it. The next move was a Kimura from the same set-up that comes about when the armbar fails because the opponent defends. Again, offense predicated on defense from an overwhelmingly offensive position, but hey its a slick move so I'll put it in my bag of tricks.


I started off against Dr. Evil. As always it was a great battle. One day I need to get one of our rolls on video. If nothing else it will shatter my image of what we look like for the reality of the situation. Insert image of toddlers fighting over cake here. We are always changing leads, barely missing submissions, escaping, gaining positions; just very evenly matched. Always a learning experience and always a lot of fun. Stalemate.

My next round was with Chris, yes the kid. There is a heap of stress. On one hand, you don't want to hurt the kid, your friends son. On the other hand you don't want to get owned by a little kid who doesn't weight 100 lbs. or isn't near legal shaving age yet. This kid is awesome. What he lacks in strength he makes up for in technique and skill. He's quick, has amazing hips and his BJJ mind is always going. I managed to pull off an armbar on him and I felt so lucky. He was formidable to say the least.

Next up was Alex. I hadn't seen him since the "My Epic Night" post. He's a great guy and like many of us, life had kept him out of the gym for a while for a while so its good to have him back. When I got him he was already wiped out. He told me that he had nothing left so I told him that I'd just pull guard because I could use some work from there anyway. Alex outweighs me by quite a bit, he's probably walking around at about 220 or so and I'm holding at 163. So I had a big, tired guy in my guard. I was working to push the pace but he really was tired and postured up. Eventually I went for a sit-up sweep, didn't get it because he has an awesome base, he pushed me back down so I hipped out and managed to catch the Oma Plata. He rolled out of it, I rolled with him, hit it again, caught his hips and finished it.


So, this guy named Mark who is also considerably larger than me basically called me out. He came crawling over, and picked me. Now, the last couple of times we've gone he's pretty much had my number. He's got size and strength to his advantage but he's also pretty skilled. We were all exhausted and it almost felt like he was coming to me for an easy ending to the day. That made me kind of mad. I was so happy to disappoint. I really went after it with him. Even though I had nothing left, I dug deeper and refused to give in. We traded positions and had a very EVEN match. I know that caught him off guard. When the match ended with me in his guard, standing and working for a pass, I knew that his opinion of me had changed.

That was four rounds we did. Four, Five minute rounds. Since I work in finance I was able to do some calculations and I know that we rolled for 30 minutes!!! I know what your saying. Four times five is only twenty, how do you get to 30? Well, I'm sure that our gym is not the only one that forgets to look at the stopwatch while rolling. I know that it was 11:50 when we started and 12:20 when we ended, so somewhere in time ten extra minutes sank in. We certainly didn't rest for ten minutes.

Open Mat:
Yeah, that idea was out the widow. After the warm-up and the four rounds of sparring, we had nothing left. So, Saturday's might look a bit different from now on. Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Keeping Consistent; Meeting Zeek

BJJ (1/7/09 6:00PM)

Tonight was a continuation of the Butterfly Guard sweep we worked on Monday night. Its funny how Kazeka can teach the same move in very different ways each time emphasising very different, yet important, things. Much of the way he taught the technique tonight was quite different from how he taught it on Monday, and for that matter how he taught it a couple of months ago.

Tonight he showed how getting to Butterfly resembles going for a scissor sweep. Or a failed scissor can be an opening for it. I got the point. He needed an example for folks to help illustrate the necessity of hip escaping in order to make space to get into proper position.

I was paired up with Dr. Evil, oddly, he had never seen this sweep nor had he seen anything from this guard. That is really funny. It shows how fickle BJJ schools can be at times. Not that I am in favor of a strict curriculum 100% of the time, but to reach Blue Belt without having seen something that I have seen twice since I have been there illustrates the hit or miss nature of instruction at some schools. It also demonstrates why consistency in attendance is so important.

Specific Drills:

We did the standard Passing / Defense of the guard. I started on the wall and my first opponent was Dr. Evil on his back. I was able to pass with a double under (first time ever I've used it). Kazeka gave the Doc a bit of a tongue lashing for allowing me to pass his guard. So I felt a bit bad for that but I felt good to have a pass.

My turn to defend ended almost as quickly as it began. I had some pretty decent hip movement but to no avail, I opened my guard began looking for opportunities but got too loose and gave up the pass. The rest of the drills saw me getting swept each time. I got caught in the sit-up sweep twice tonight. I should pull that one out and try it live more often, it seems to work for other people.


My only real roll tonight was with Dr. Evil. "Big" Mike wanted to roll but called me just after the Doc had so I gave him a rain check for another time. I like rolling with Mike because he is so big and so strong that I am forced to be quick and forced to use technique in order to just survive. The last time I rolled with him I had ah Epiphany about head and hip control and my scrambles have been exponentially better ever since.

The Dr. and I started from the knees. He began to pressure into me so I sloppily tried to pull him into a guillotine choke. He avoided perfectly and pressed into side control. I landed on my side, shrimped my hips out and managed to get to half-guard. Facing the outside. I immediately switched my hips, faced the inside and began to fight for grips while getting to the deep half guard.

He kept trying to flatten me out but I was able to persist in staying on my side, scooting my hips out and I got the under hook. At one point I actually realized that I was in the correct half-guard position!!! I had a deep under hook, I was blocking his other hand and there was nothing stopping me from taking his back. So I started to go. He sensed this as well and the scramble began. I was in a superior position and ended up in side control.

I mentioned before that side control is probably my best position. I was able to get there and get my shoulder pressure established but he was quick and got me to half guard, trapping my right leg. I increased the shoulder pressure while I worked to free my leg. During that time I snaked my left arm under his neck and was able to grab his opposite shoulder. I began to exert so much pressure that he eventually gave up the mount to get me out of side control. I already had the grip around the back of the neck I started to go for and became obsessed with the Ezekiel. Even though I had many other options in front of me, I was fixated on that Ezekiel. When I finally had it locked in, the Doc was finally able to upa me over after numerous attempts. And then the dreaded "TEMPO" was called.

All in all, a great roll for me. I felt really good about it. I still need to work on my guard passing and my mount retention though this time we held it for quite a while.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Normality Creeping Back

BJJ (1/5/09 6:00PM)

So tonight was the first night of class after a full work day in this new year. Back to normality. While I really enjoyed being able to go to the 9:00 am classes during the holiday break from work I did miss the camaraderie of the normal group of guys at the nightly 6:00 pm class. Again, BJJ forms much more of a family family atmosphere than any other sport.

Tonight we worked on a butterfly guard sweep. The one and only other time I have learned anything about butterfly guard in class it was this very sweep. At least this time it felt a lot better. I was getting my movement down a lot crisper and was able to get to the butterfly position without too much hassle.

The last time I drilled this technique I was paired up the "Big" Mike, the name doesn't apply any longer because he's been on a BJJ and Fitness kickboxing diet and has dropped a substantial amount of weight. This time I chose someone much taller than I (not hard to do) and went with Bill. I figured that it would be good for both of us to have very different body types to adapt to...and it was.

The drills went great. I felt good, my sweeps were crisp and we were both using leverage and NOT strength. At one point Kazeka made us not trap the sweepee's arm in order to allow them to post so that we could see that the technique works, even if they try to defend. The awkward part of that is knowing what to do with your own hand. Once I grabbed his lapel I was good to go and sweeping thru his defense like a Janitor thru Time Square confetti on New Years Day.


We started off by doing Guard Pass / Submit or Sweep drills with a twist. The guy on bottom had to start with one hand tied up in his belt. The point being obviously to use the hips more. I started off on top against "Not-so-Big" Mike; yeah not the same...back to "Big" Mike. He still has unbelievable gorilla strength after all. Anyway, I stood up in his guard and was pressuring his hip to make him open up when he released a "chemical weapon", embarrassed he chuckled, which made me chuckle but then spurned me on to pass his guard rather rapidly.

I then went on to have my guard passed just before the two minute time limit, by Brandon (who got a stripe tonight...congrats!).

I had a great time trying to pass Jerry's (who also got a stripe...congrats!). He worked everyone over. He is masterful at spider guard in regular rolling but even one handed, he's a phenom. I want to work on my game and get it there. He got me in an Oma Plata, I rolled, he rolled, caught me and finished. Just awesome.

We then did two rounds of rolling to finish the night. I went against "Sarge" (Ruben) to start, he always gets my back right off the back, and did again. I turned over into his mount, Upa'd out but left an arm too exposed and gave him an Armbar appetizer to start the night.

Next we started off, and went for much more of a see saw, and when it finally finished I had worked into his guard. That is a win against "Sarge" any time. He just got another stripe the other day and should be getting his Blue very soon. And deservedly so.

I went with Bill next. I'm 5'7" and Bill is 6' a lot with long legs. As soon as we started he pulled guard. As I posture up, he's able to break my posture down. I began to realize something as he did this. As much as I want to improve my guard game, I really NEED TO WORK ON MY GUARD PASSING. Perhaps I need to add that to my list of goals of 2009. Consider this an addendum. Especially because he was able to break me down, latch onto and isolate my right arm and basic armbar me. Tap.

Next we start again, de ja freakin vu, he pulls guard again. Starts to go for the armbar again. Luckily I am able to start defending right away. I get my arm tight to me, put my other hand to his thigh, start to stack, get him over to his side and pass. Finally, I am in side control. I start to put some tremendous shoulder pressure down while faining a pass to mount. All the while I am setting him up for either an Americana or wristlock on the far side. He started to push into my hip with his hand underneath me and I felt the opportunity to go for the wristlock there, just as I went for it Kazeka called time. So close yet so far. At least I had a few places to go.

I was better able to relax tonight. Hopefully I can keep it up and the stress of normal life doesn't become a cumulative thing that builds up and inhibits performance / learning.

Back to Real Life

At Work (1/5/09)

Well, its Monday. Like many people I'm back at work after a bit of a break. This marks the official end of "Gauntlet Week" as Neil and I were calling it. We had intended to hit it hard and attend class each morning that the gym was open leading up to new years day and to do open mat the following Saturday. We both had issues that kept us from action during that week...his sausage toe for a day and my Migraine for one, but we made a good run at it.

I did realize one thing during this time when I wasn't working and was able to attend BJJ without putting in a full work day first. I wasn't nearly as stressed or feeling the same mat anxiety as normal. Could there be a pattern here? I'll try to be cognizant of this for a while and see if there is in fact a correlation.

I know that BJJ is an excellent method for relieving my stress from work, but on the other hand is all that stress from work inhibiting my BJJ? I never thought of that pickle before. That feeds right into my underlying theory....STRESS IS BAD.

Perhaps instead of getting an MBA, I should have studied psychology. It seems I have the knack (on vinyl none the less). Well, like I espoused in my post about goals for 2009; Relax. Easier said than done I know. So, I'll take it one day at a time and see how it goes. I'll start with tonight. I'll hit the mats at 6:00 and consciously try not to be conscious about anything. I will just be. Man, I'm sounding like some kinda granola eating, Birkenstock wearing, patchouli stinkin hippie. Hey, if it helps my Jiu Jitsu, pass the beads.

Please don't take any of that too seriously. I guess that's the point isn't it? don't take it too seriously. Relax, flow, let the learning happen. Stress only stops the progression. So stressing about stressing can only doubly inhibit performance. Stress tenses up muscles, inflames blood vessels and drains energy. All the things that lead to flat out poor grappling.
Like I said in my thesis above: STRESS IS BAD

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Good Morning Wrist Lock, Hello Oma Plata

Open Mat (1/3/2009 10:00am)

The Doc and I met up for Open Mat. Neil wasn't able to come because his wife is under the weather and in his words he's "playing Mr. Mom". Hopefully she doesn't read this, actually I could use the readership....Neil, sign her up.

Dr. Evil and I met up, did a ridiculously long warm-up and started in on technique drills. We did the same drill as described on 12/22/08.

Armbar/Armbar Defense to Side Control/ Side Control Escape to Takedown/ Side Control Escape to full Guard/ Repeat

We did this drill till we both got tired and our technique began to suffer. Then we moved on to another submission series flow drill from the guard.

Back to Guard
Back to Guard
Oma Plata
Repeat, attacking the other arm

While doing this we were having trouble rationalizing the way that we were setting up the triangle. It seemed like we were leaving way too big a hole to allow for an easy guard pass. We knew something was wrong. We made a mental note to ask Kazeka how we were messing it up. To keep going, I showed the Dr. a setup that I learned from the Ryan Hall triangle e-mails I've been getting wherein you set up almost like a scissor sweep, trapping an arm, but launch a triangle instead. So we incorporated that into the drill.

Again, we did this for quite a while until we began to break down in stamina and technique. Then we opted for a "light" roll. Amazingly, we kept it pretty light for once. We started from the knees and as always we are pretty evenly matched. Its strange. I can have so much trouble with non-experienced white belts but I hold my own with the Doc. Likewise, he can plow thru so many folks but he struggles with me and my lowly single stripe. Pretty strange, alternate universe kinda stuff.

The only tap was on our first roll when he got mount and I wasn't quite fast enough in escaping. He caught me in an Americana. I tapped mostly from gassing but he had a legitimate lock. The next roll went for like 10 minutes non-stop. Back and forth. I half-way got his back, he mounted, I escaped. A real see saw battle. We finally ended with me on top in side control fishing one hand into his lapel and wrapping the other around an arm. At which point he called TEMPO, and I agreed, even though I was the closest I had been all day to a good submission.

At the end Kazeka was at the side of the mat and we asked him to show us what we were doing wrong with the triangle, its now clear as day. Here was my one submission of the day. While we were showing Kazeka what we were doing wrong, he received a phone call so he was half watching us half talking on the phone. At which point, the Doc and I began to monkey around. He was in my guard and started trying to pass. I started breaking his posture, fishing for an arm, he resisted....and there it was. The perfect opportunity to pull off the wrist lock Kazeka had just taught us on New Years Eve. I locked it in and Dr. Evil Tapped. Kazeka started laughing, which made me laugh (didn't mean to) and he described what just happened to the person on the phone. It was my own little play by play.

Kazeka asked me "did you just use that wrist lock I showed you last week?", I told him I did and he was so amused. At least I finally did something good in front of him, the only bad thing was that it was at the Dr.'s expense. Needless to say I like this wrist lock. And doing those drills I also have formed a love of the Oma Plata. I half pulled one off in live rolling, got to the sweep any way, and I had one the other day. I'm going to have to play with that one a bit more regularly. I think I have good enough hip movement to make it work.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Goals for 2009

Goal Setting (1/2/2009)

I'm not one for waxing nostalgic. Not one for waxing anything really; cars, moustaches, surf boards, lower back hair....but now I'm getting off topic. This time of year its natural, because the media tells us, to review the year that has past and to look forward to what is coming in the next.

Far be it for me to shrug my duty to dwell on my shortcomings and to make plans to better myself so here we go! Please realize I am typing with tongue planted firmly in cheek. I do not make resolutions. Those should be left to marketing professionals who need to sell gym memberships and weight loss meal delivery plans. I set goals.

In my business life I set, as many do, SMART goals. That is, they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. I go thru this whole process in evaluating and setting the goals with different intervals wherein I will check back and gauge my progress. With BJJ however, well its a bit more fluid of a thing. I cant make a goal that says "Master the Triangle choke by June 1, 2009" and have that be anywhere near valid. So I set a path of areas to focus on and improve. So, keep that in mind and take a look below. From time to time I will post reports on how I am progressing in the areas I have listed.

Here is a quick summary of 2008:

  • Beginning weight 195, Ending weight 162 (33 lbs.)
  • Met a lot of great folks
  • Got a fancy stripe on my belt
  • Had so many work outs that I never thought I'd survive
  • Learned so much
  • Taught some of what I learned
  • Had a couple of mini strokes (TIA)
  • Wanted to train even more

Here are my BJJ related goals for 2009:

  • Become a better BJJ player (Easy one eh?)
  • Train more consistently
  • Attend minimum of 3 classes/week
    -Attend Open Mat more frequently (it rocks)
  • Improve my guard game
    -Work on it every session
    -Drill techniques at open mat
    -Start some rolls from guard
  • Make the Triangle my go-to submission
    -Train it weekly
    -Try it in rolling / record results
  • Improve my conditioning
    -More BJJ classes
    -Fitness kickboxing classes
    -More cycling (Mountain / Road)
  • Keep my head in the “right” place
    -Allow the flow back in my rolling
    -Don’t let mat anxiety freeze me up
  • Get more photos during training
  • Write more
    -MMA Blog
    -Cycling Training Blog

There they are, my goals. Those are the things I want to work on. Some are concrete and measurable like the number of training sessions but most are intentionally vague because our sport is organic. Learning in our sport is organic. Progress in our sport slows when you push too hard. Its the paradox of force. So I wont force it, I will put myself in the best position to learn and improve these things and it should happen. So wish me luck and please help to keep me accountable.