Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cobrinha vs Rafael Mendes

These guys get in the 50/50 leg lock position, which is often used to try for inverted heel hooks. Since heel hooks are not legal in gi, they swept each other back and forth. Crazy!

Naga Prep

I took a long memorial weekend off, and there was no class sunday or monday. This gave me some time to help heal up some nagging injuries. It's annoying to hear people bitch about injuries. Rarely in the grappling arts are people 100% though, and how well you listen and take care of your body goes a long way to the quality of your lifestyle. I did get a light 4-5 mile run in on Monday, to try and remind my body that it's almost tourney time.

Tuesday nights class Hyde taught some chokes. He did one I like a lot which is from the top half guard. I have seen this before, but Hyde gave some great details. When someone has a good underhook, and you overhook (whizzer) it; you take your whizzer arm and grab the guys collar as deep as you can. You then take your other hand and come around his head to grab some gi material by his collar. The keys are to pinch your elbow down to tighten the grip, and then side shrimp to cinch the choke. A similar version is shown here.

It's just a couple days before Naga Milwaukee, and I'm pretty pumped. We organized a couple carloads of people to go down and got our hotels booked. I'm going in the 180-189 class, and I weigh about 192 right now, so weight should be too bad of an issue. I wish I was a little more disciplined this past month as I think the 170's division would be ideal for me, since I'm generally at a height, width, and strength disadvantage to most guys in the 180's based on my past experience.

I'm going to go to no-gi class today, and gi class tomorrow night before leaving for Milwaukee friday. My goal is to make the finals of my blue belt division, and to win the intermediate no-gi; and have as much fun as possible. I want to use good jiu-jitsu and limit my mistakes. I truly think that's what it's all about.

I leave you with the final intermediate no-gi match from the Toledo BJJ Open a couple weekends ago. This is me (camo shorts) and my teammate Mark battling for the gold. We argued for a while to see if we were actually going to fight or not. Eventually we did, and we both kind of screwed around a little bit, but had fun.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Toledo Open Recap

I went down to the Toledo Open this past saturday. I got up at 5:30am, brushed my teeth, packed my gear. I met up with my BJJ brothers Mark and Kiely at 6:30am at GRBJJ. I grabbed a Arby's breakfast sandwich right before, as my weight wasn't going to be an issue for this tournament.

MVT was kind enough to drive us, and we prepared for the 3 hour trip. We made really good time, with no stops and got there in about 2.5 hours. The event was held at Headliners in Toledo, which is a medium size club which seemed to cater to lesser known heavy metal bands. It was old and filthy, but had kind of an industrial feel. I have been in much worse clubs in my thrashing days back in the 90's.

We got there about 9am and there were about 8 cars in the parking lot. This was not a good sign, as I was hoping that we would get a good turnout. Luckily, a lot of guys just showed up late as the weigh in's went until 10am and the even didn't get started until 11am. We were weighed in by Chris Blanke, who is a BJJ black belt under Saulo Ribeiro who runs two schools; one in Detroit and one in Toledo. I know a couple of his students and have heard nothing but good things about him. He was a really nice guy, and stressed that we were all here to have fun.

Chris was in charge of the tournament, but brought in Dustin Ware from out school (team Jorge Gurgel) to run the operations. Dustin is a badass brown belt who runs his own school in Columbus. He also has been putting on very successful tournaments in Ohio for a while now. Props to Chris for reaching out for help (especially from a non Saulo guy) to make sure his tournament ran smooth! There were some great referee's there too, including BJJ black belt Sean Bansfield who has a school in Ann Arbor, and Dan Doerner who is a very talented Jorge Gurgel Brown Belt.

The event got started a little after 11am after a short rules meeting. They used IBJFF rules, for both gi and no-gi. They were fairly restrictive with no-gi moves, as heel hooks were not allowed at any level, and most leg locks were restricted except for the advanced division. This is in contrast to NAGA who allows pretty much all subs in no-gi sans spinal locks and a couple others.

My gi divsion was up first out of my group (blue belt 180-200). I was not very impressive in my performance, made a bunch of mistakes, and missed a few opportunites. I was planning on using this as a tune-up to NAGA Milwaukee next saturday, and I'm glad I got the work in.

The first match I went against some Saulo guy with a couple stripes. He was long and very strong. He pulled guard pretty much right away, which caught me off guard as he just kind of muscled me down. It may not have been pretty but it worked. He went right into a deep collar grip, and hid his other hand behind him in a stalling position. He was pulling me down pretty hard and doing a reasonable job controlling my posture. He was trying to work a cross collar choke for the first few minutes of the match, which I was confident he had zero chance of finishing. I tried to set up my standing guard pass, but I was getting frustrated with him hiding his stalling hand, which is the hand I usually grab for my favorite pass. Since this was going no where, I started pulling his lapel out; intending to trap his arm to work a pass to that side. He didn't like this too much, and changed up his strategy, moving his arm back. I unsuccesfully tried a couple stand ups, and after one such attempt, he tried to sweep me. I held base, but he threw up a triangle. I was in reasonable defensive position to pull out, but right as I got my head out he changed to armbar. He just barely had my elbow on his side of his knees to get me to tap from the lock. Boo. Not my best showing, and a pretty boring match to boot. This guy ended up winning his next match to win the division. Not surprising, as I always draw the top guy in the first round it seems.

My second match was against Marcos, who fought for some martial arts school south of Toledo. He was wearing a green belt, and I have no idea what discipline he earned that belt in. If memory serves me, he lost his first match really close and thrashed some 2-3 stripe blue belt in his second match to make it to the consolation finals with me. He was VERY strong and athletic, but had little technique. This was a fairly stagnant match as well, but there was more action then my first one. I went for a couple shots, which I couldn't finish and ended up pulling guard. He postured up like a wrestler trying to do ground and pound, and I used this opportunity to try and work an armbar. His arms were very strong and difficult to move, so I settled to try a type of flower sweep. He pulled his arm out of this, and we ended up in a scramble where I took half guard after a missed oma plata attempt. Half guard is one of my favorite positions, so I was reasonable happy here. He had pretty good top control, and I wasn't able to move to well to work an underhook. I still was able to work to my side (something I worked on for a year), and decided to go for a deep half guard by going underneath him and propping his leg on my shoulder. He kind of panicked here, and stood up. I should have switched to traditional x-guard, but I he was bouncing around so much I didn't want to let go of the figure four I had on his legs. I ended up sweeping him with a modified x-guard sweep (thanks Crampton!), but from deep half guard instead of x-guard. I got 2 points for the sweep.

I worked top half guard for a moment, but he was able to make some space and stood up. I pull half guard and he tried feverishly to escape, but I hold on and get the win for 3rd place.

I was proud of my teammates in gi. Mark ran into the sandbagging champ who had years of judo training, so was unable to place but fought hard. Kiely played a lot of open guard and ended up getting 3rd place in his gi division. Props to both! You make me proud to be a part of GRBJJ!

I went in no-gi intermediate and had only two other guys. One was Marcos, who I fought in my 3rd place match in gi, and the other was MVT, my teammate. I drew the short straw and got the first match against Marcos.

I pulled butterfly gwuard, but somehow was unable to sweep him. Usually I can sweep most everyone from this position if I can get the type of grip I had, but this guy was a beast and I couldn't push his legs out. I got some advice from Mr. Hyde at no-gi class last night, who told me I missed my opportunity when he swam in for the cross face, that I should have rolled him over to that side as he removed his base by swimming his arm in. In retrospect that makes perfect sense. Thanks Mr. Hyde and Chris who watched my match and came up with the much needed critique. I regained full guard after the missed sweep and controlled his posture pretty good. I was trying to work armbar/triangle but had trouble with keeping good grips as he had the strength advantage.

Marcos then locked up my arm underneath my body to try a pass. He just kind of sat there with it, and I wasn't threatened. I just sat there with 3 limps most of the 2nd half of the match, trying to work offense. Eventually I peeled my arm out. I wasn't able to score any points and the match ended 0-0 after 5 minutes and they decided to do a 2 minute OT as the ref couldn't decide a winner. In OT I tried to work a setup for a takedown. I got a good single off, but wasn't able to finish, electing to pull half guard instead. He again stood up in my half guard, just like in my gi match. I should have switched to x-guard, but he was bouncing around so much, I didn't want to let go of his leg, even for a second. Watching the video it would have been pretty easy to get. No one scored at the match finished. I was confident I would be the winner based on my takedown attempt. I did win the match, and Marcos' coaches freaked out. Like four of them stood up and started getting rowdy. They didn't think that a takedown attempt should be considered an advantage if it is "stuffed". I disagree and the ref actually went to Dustin Ware who agreed. Hats off to Marcos, who was very strong and athletic. If he went to a better grappling school, he could probably get very good.

I had to face my teammate Mark VT in the finals. I didn't really want to fight him and we argued for like 5 minutes if we were going to go. I wanted to just give him the 1st place, as I was tired anyways, but knew he wouldn't want that. We ended up fighting, which we both kind of screwed around. I ended up winning a close match by points, but Mark had me in trouble. It was an unlucky tourny for Mark, who didn't get to show his awesome BJJ. Kiely ended up taking 2nd in beginner no-gi. He tried to do intermediate, but they closed the brackets before he got his card in; so it wasn't his fault. He used a lot of open guard again. He got a couple guys with triangle and I think won one match by referee decision.

I'm very proud of my team and can't wait to rep GRBJJ at NAGA!

Friday, May 15, 2009


I have been on vacation this week, which has allowed me to focus even more on BJJ. Tomorrow I will be going with a couple guys to the Toledo Open. We will be leaving Grand Rapids at 6:30am, so I hope I'm not dragging ass all day. I'm looking forward to having some fun and hopefully showing some good jiu jitsu along the way. The weight classes are big and great for me, so cutting won't be an issue. I will be in the 180-200 class, and I'm weighing like 197 right now. I was walking around at 193-194 a couple weeks ago, so I'm heading in the wrong direction. I think I am going to go 189 for Naga on May 30 instead of 179. I don't know that it would benefit me to cut that much weight in just a couple weeks.

I was able to go to wrestling takedown class last saturday for the first time, which was awesome! Wrestling definitely works different muscles then BJJ. I would say BJJ is more lower core and hips and wrestling is more upper core hips and abs. We learned some setups for double leg takedowns and got some short but intense drilling in. I was pretty sore after, especially considering I went to a tough BJJ class that night. Thankfully Sunday class was cancelled do to mothers day.

This week has been fun. I was able to make one of C's morning classes, along with with all the regular evening classes. Because of my vacation, I'm able to get some naps in during the day, which has made me a little more fresh for class. This is probably how normal people feel who only train 2-3 days a week (I usually train 5-6 days and I'm old and fat).

I ordered a couple new gi's a few weeks back, and just got word that they will be shipping in about 2 weeks. The company is Shoyoroll, which is a brand developed by Vince "Bear" Quitugua who is a brown belt currently living in California. The brand started by Vince being a gi junkie, but never finding the "perfect" gi. He decided to make his own for himself and maybe a few friends. They took what they like from all the different gi brands and molded them into one new gi. He has had a couple versions out so far which have gotten rave reviews. These are their newest versions, and I'm hoping they will be as awesome as they look. I ordered both the white and black versions of the gi. The white version is pictured above.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009

Comp Class- 3 weeks till Naga

Comp class was a blast today! More people showed up today then I ever remember before. There were like 12 guys or so from what I can remember (i'm old).

Comp class is all rolling. We start on our feet and simulate a scored match. Because of the number of people, we only went 2 minute rounds. We had two people start out on the mat, and they stayed there for one whole circuit. They would each have a fresh guy come in and roll a 2 minute match with them.

I got lots of rolls in with a lot of good people. I was definitely a success. I need to work on my takedowns though. What used to be my strength is getting a bit rusty. One reason is my ear is all blown out. I have bad cauliflower on my left ear for a week or more. I've trained it literally 6 times, but keep being stupid and don't wear headgear (which i HATE) and it gets blown up again. Because it's huge and hurts, I am gun shy to get underneath a guy, worried about getting sprawled on a crossfaced. I will stop being a puss now, pardon my rant =)

Anyways, this was one of the most fun comp classes ever. C and Hyde were there rolling with everyone. C once again gave me some good advice from bottom turtle to stay moving and offensive.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

JG guard sweep

I got to class 30 minutes or so late today. Work is once again trying to cut into my BJJ time again. I don't like it. I missed a lot of the cardio, but did come in time to get to do bug in a rug (aka barrel rolls, log rolls, those things you did in football in high school, etc). We did those followed by circuit rolling in groups of three. We did this until the first hour of class was done. Since I came late, I was only half exhausted compared to the many people who looked like they wanted to puke.

Crazy Crampton showed us his J.G. Guard sweep. J.G. is Jorge Gurgel...and J.G. guard is open guard where you have a spider guard on only one armpit, laced around the guys arm. This is obviously named as Jorge is very good at this position. Actually Jorge is good from all positions, but that's another story. We worked with our partners on getting into this guard smoothly, starting in full guard. Chris showed a couple variations of how to enter the position.

We then worked on the main sweep from the J.G. Guard. You leave your laced spider guard leg in, and with the opposite arm you dive it in under his legs. You open your legs up like a book, putting all of the guys weight on top of you. You then just dump him over. The video below shows a similar sweep, although that more "regular" spider guard, rather then the J.G. guard where your leg would be wrapped around one of the guys arms and then your foot would wedge in his armpit.

We finished up with 20 minute or so of live rolling before the wrestlers took over the mat. There were like frickin' 50 wrestlers there that was crazy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bonus Gauntlet Video

When myself, Abby Bork, and Noah Sazy were promoted to new belts last week, we got to partake in a Jorge Gurgel tradition that originated in Brazil. This is known as walking the gauntlet. I had been part of a few of these before, but this was my first time on the receiving end. The video is self explanatory, and yes it hurts....but it's OK that it hurts. Just thinking about all the pain and sacrifice I had to endure to make it this far in the last year and a half, makes the pain and the slow walk WELL worth it. I pray some day I can take this walk again some day.

Not all schools do this, but many do. Some let you wear your gi top, some just have the higher belts throw you, some do nothing but toss you a new belt. This is how we do it, and I wouldn't have it any other way!


Tonight was a very fun class. When I got there, I noticed hardly ANYONE was there. I quickly found out that is because we got our MMA cage set up in the building next door! Everyone was crowded around and a bunch of the MMA guys were sparring about 39 times harder then normal because they were "in da cage".

Class managed to start on time with Crazy Chris taking the lead. We did HIIT sprints as the main cardio followed by about 2 minutes of holding the plank position. That was tough, and I saw guys falling all over the place. That makes the sweat shoot out of my skin.

Chris then had us get in groups of 3. I got paired up with "salty" Jorge and Dan-O. Jorge is a 4 stripe white belt and Dan-O is an assassin who happens to be wearing 2 stripes on his blue belt for the current moment as he shoots up the ladder to stardom. Each person took a turn being in the middle. We did 30 second rounds, where you had to score a point. If you didn't, you had to do 5 pushups. Every 30 seconds, the fresh guy would go in to the group. The "in" person had to go through 6 rounds of rotating fresh opponents. Then the next person in the group was in the middle and the cycle continued. Basically it's straight rolling for like 30 minutes with no more then a 30 second break. Chris changed up the positions every couple rounds. It's great cardio, and great situational rolling. I did OK considering my very game group mates. I scored some, tied some, and lost a couple.

Big Dawg showed us a few collar chokes from different positions for the technique portion of class. The first we learned was from knee on belly and was in the "baseball" grip. See the video below if you don't know what that is. We worked that for a while then he showed the baseball bat choke from guard (similar to what is shown below). Clint then showed a couple other tricky variations that he likes to use. Clint's more of a top player, but has SICK chokes from the guard, so it was a fun class.

Similar technique:

We finished with 30 minutes or so of rolling and I got to roll with Crazy Chris, Crazy Legs Wenstrom, Mike Spears, and Mark "Thesz" Van Tongeren who all have very different and unique games. I tried to work on tight guard passing and armdrags and sweeps from the bottom. I got essentially a "flying flower sweep" on Spears which was fun and probably the highlight of my rolls. As I was rolling with Chris, Clint sat by us and told me I was leaving way too much space which was definitely true and is a common problem of mine. It's just not completely natural to have my hips down to the ground like a BJJ snake. It will come. Rome wasn't built in a day. I'm in this for the long haul =)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

faixa azul: dia um

My first class as a blue belt was awesome! Charles and Mr. Hyde ran the class. We warmed up with some wonderful sport specific hip and core exersises that Chuckles put together. We played guard against the wall and changed from left side to right side to inverted and back again, constantly shifting our hips. We also did a number of sitting motions where we shifted our legs to different positions. It was fun and effective.

We did some basic oma plata stuff in class, and a transition from oma to armbar. Mr. Hyde showed a variety of position he sets these up. It was a good lesson from two awesome instructors.

We had a good amount of time for some live rolling, and I was lucky enough to roll with everyone one in the room, instructors included. I picked up some much overdue tweaking on my knee lead guard pass from Chuckles. I had been questioning where to put my grips when an underhook is not readily available. He showed me to grab both the same side lapels tight; and also to lean in towards the pass as I scoot my knee lead from his weiner area to his chest. I had been staying upright too much in an attempt to keep good posture and not get swept. I think this small tweak will make my guard passes more dangerous.

A brand new day

I'm finally back home from my work trip to French Lick, IN. The resort was
INCREDIBLE they put us up in, and if it wasn't literally in the middle of nowhere, I would recommend everyone to go. My wife and I got to go horse back riding and get massages in between the nice dinners and boozing.

I'm very excited for class tonight as I haven't been to one since last Tuesday. I need to step up the training for Naga Milwaukee. I was walking around at 195 for most of the time in the past couple months, but after my little "business" trip I'm now around 200. I'm planning to go 170-179 for Naga, so it's about time to get serious with the training and just as importantly, the diet.

Tonight will be my first official full class as a blue belt! I am very proud to be recognized by Clint Crabtree, and be awarded this rank promotion. I am 33 years old, and not the strongest, fastest, or most athletic guy at the gym by a long shot. But I LOVE this sport, and I LOVE my team. I have busted my ass to get to class 5-6 days per week most times for the last year and a half. I'm not the brightest, or quickest study; and I needed every minute of that time to progress my skills. I literally couldn't have done it without my incredible coaches: Clint "Big Dawg" Crabtree, Charles "Cthulhu, C, Chuckles, C-Brian" Smith, "Crazy" Chris Crampton, and Ryan "Mr." Hyde.

I also couldn't have done it without my friends and teammates. I'm not going to name names, because it's a long list, and I don't want to forget anyone, or leave anyout out....but you know who you are. You made me stay on task when I was screwing around. You pushed me to sprint harder. You corrected me when I made a mistake. You said "go, go, go" when I was just sitting there. You oma-plata'd me when I put my hand on the mat. You "thesz'd" me when I was looking the wrong direction. You crushed your shoulder into my chin so hard I thought I was going to have my jaw fall off. I have to thank everyone sincerely...white belts, blue belts, purple belts and Black belts (JG, Clint, Neto, Carlson Jr, Robson, Hermes, Tozi, etc). I have learned so much from every single one of you.

I'm ranting now, and it's only a blue belt. I have a LONG way to go to meet my ultimate goal. I want to be a Clint Crabtree black belt. That is MANY years in the future, so right now I just have to focus on my fundentals. The more fancy moves I learn, I realize that the simple basics are the most important thing. The fundementals of BJJ are there for a reason and are usually the most efficient way to get things done. I have to work a lot on my fundementals, as I make a lot of mistakes. I am in a great position being on the best team with the best instructors. I know my dreams can come true.

This all being said, I'm gonna go work my ass off tonight. Your belt only covers 2 inches of your ass, as Royce Gracie once said. I see the long journey ahead, and look forward to every single day of it.

Thank you everyone!