Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Art(s) vs. Science

In early 2014 I signed up for an on-line university course from Coursera on "Buddhist Meditation and the Modern World". It was meant to start in 2Q2014 but was subsequently delayed for almost twelve months.

I had a fine and rewarding experience taking another Coursera course on Android programming which lasted for most of 2014, and found the material extremely useful.

I've done other online courses on Exercise Physiology, Learning How To Learn, and on a variety of IT-related subjects. I'm in the middle of a course on Advanced Data Structures using Java at the moment.

I was excited about the course on Buddhist Meditation, and when it finally became available I jumped in with both feet. I've had a fairly modest meditation practice of my own for about five years now. Simple stuff, set a timer for 12 minutes, sit cross legged with eyes shut and try to concentrate on the flow of my breath without letting my mind wander, and when it does wander bring it back to the breath.

I expected he Buddhist Meditation course to be all about practice. Getting closer to Satori, enlightenment, whatever it is ... I can't name or describe it but somehow feel I know it anyway.

Godself, Alex Grey

Instead it seemed to be a bunch of recorded lectures or lecturers talking to the camera about Buddhist history, the various branches of Buddhism, books written and public advocates thereof, and arguments for and against. Opinions no doubt vary, but to me they had managed to describe a forest without mentioning a single living tree. Lots and lots and LOTS of facts, but not a single direction telling me how to get off the Wheel of Karma and stop it from crushing me beneath it, how to free myself from attachments and desire, etc. etc.

It seemed to me like the difference between being able to describe the Eightfold Path word for word, and sing it note for note ... and actually going beyond the words and living that path.

Others may have found the course fascinating and got exactly what they were looking for from it. I don't wish to denigrate them or the course staff. It just wasn't even close to what I was hoping to find.

I'm way more of a science geek than an artist. My Dad is a retired philosophy professor, but I'm not overly interested. Logic and mathematics form part of philosophy, but they are at least as much if not more involved with the sciences.

I like transformational art and music as much as anyone, but I'm a science guy, not an arts guy.

Maybe it's the academic thing - some academics (and teachers) do have a way of taking subjects which should be intrinsically fascinating and finding ways to present them which manage to leach all the fire and light out of them, leaving desiccated, skeletal remains of a subject that was full of life. Picking over such as a student is a tedious and soul-destroying activity. But a GOOD teacher who understands and loves his subject, and can inspire that love in his students ... these people deserve everything we can offer them and more.

I HATED history at school. It was horrible. Boring as stale dogshit, to quote Hunter S Thompson. But podcasters like Dan Carlin with Hardcore History and Daniele Bolelli with History on Fire can make it come alive, totally compelling and captivating.

Hardcore History's "Wrath of the Khans" is far and away the best piece of historical exposition I have ever heard. You are left in awe at the character and exploits of Genghis Khan and his relatives and descendants.

Not sure what my answer, or even my point, is with this rant. I'm following Sam Harris ("Waking Up") and Dan Harris ("10% Happier") now for my directions on meditation. And their advice isn't long or complex. You just have to execute. The practice is way more important than the handbooks or instructional videos.

 Avalokiteshvara, Naljor Creations


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Richard Norton seminar 21 November 2015

Held at George Adams' gym in West Pennant Hills.

Emphasis on fundamentals.

Basic guard pass

Grip both collars with R hand, turn the fist up, elbow in, "packing" the R shoulder. L hand is on the hip, gripping the material of the pants, driving down. Some of your bodyweight should be on the L hand. Holding the hip down prevents armbars and triangles.

L knee moves out to the side, and your bodyweight with it. This will make it difficult for him to sweep you to your R when you bring your R knee to the centre. Look UP, not at him, for proper posture. Sit back to break his ankle grip. Underhook his R leg, get the calf on your shoulder, L hand coming across to keep his leg held tight. Stack him up on his neck, L hand driving deep into his collar, R hand coming out to grip his belt behind him near his R hip. You may be able to forearm choke him here or at least  threaten him with it. Hips low, sprawl in him. Slide the L elbow on the far side of his neck and push his head back toward you with it. R hand covers his hip. Consolidate side control.

Double under pass

Break open the closed guard as before. Scoop both arms under his legs and get a tight gable grip as low as possible around the tops of his thighs / hips. Jump to your feet and stack him. Your L foot should be in line with his shoulders out to the L, your R knee in his back keeping him stacked. L hand in the collar for a forearm choke, R hand grabs his belt from behind. Drive your L knee into the side of his R hip and use your R foot to scoot around clockwise, keeping his hips pinned between the knee and the belt grip until you are ready to flatten him out and get side control as above.

Instead of using the knee to flatten him out, you can use the belt grip to run around to his L and roll him over his R shoulder to his knees. Then grab his collar with your L and roll him to the R over his shins and into your seated back control.

Knee through pass

Break open the close guard as before. Push his R knee to the floor with your L hand. Slide your R shin over his thigh, step your L leg out wide. Keep the grip on his L collar and stiff arm it to the floor near his L armpit. Ensure you keep your weight over to your L so you do not get swept to the R. Slide over the leg on your R hip, almost facing away.

Cross face him as you turn face down to shortbase side control. Pass his lapel from your R hand to the L hand under his L arm keeping him flat. Also grab under his L elbow with your R so he can't roll away.


Grab his R sleeve near the elbow with your L hand as you slide the knee and hip through, going to a switchbase side control. Your R knee must be under his R elbow and preferably his R shoulder, pulling up so his shoulder is off the ground. Keep your torso leaning forward, do not lean back. Weight on his ribs, use your feet to push in and chase him if necessary. Put your L knee near his R ear and keep pulling up on the arm as you switch to face down short base, killing the near side arm. Control the far elbow as before.

Standing pass

Collar grips with R as before Get a grip on his R sleeve with your L. Turn your l palm up, fist on his body under his forearm, and elbow jammed in his R hip. This stops him from circling his hand under your arm and breaking the grip. Stand up with your L leg, same side as his trapped hand. Look up and keep good posture. Once on both feet, get both knees behind his back and stand straight up, hips driving forward, looking up. Use your R hand to shake his leg grip off. Push his R knee to the floor and get a kneeslide position with your L shin across his L leg, using a step or windshield wiper move to get your R foot over his R leg. Drive your L fist, with the sleeve grip, to the floor near his L hip, between the two of you. Keep the grip until you have crossfaced, switched base and consolidated your shortbase side control, trapping his R arm between your bodies.

Going to mount from SC

From any of the moves above, you have side control on his R. After switching base, get your L knee between his R hip and foot, and hook his L thigh (fairly close to the hip) with your R heel as you move to mount, entrapping his legs. Prof. Norton says side control is his goto position rather than mount, but different strokes.

Back Sweep

From closed guard. Nothing remarkable here technically for me. Professor seemed happy when he watched me sweep. It is important to keep trying to disrupt his balance in multiple directions. You can back sweep with your feet on his hips.

A combatives version has you starting the sweep with feet in his hips, grasping the ankles. As he starts to fall, push him away hard with both feet. You should now have plenty of room to do a technical stand up to a good combat stance.

Front sweep

If you try the back sweep and he drops his weight forward, you can sweep him forward using your shins and insteps. Grab his sleeves and sweep him forward over your shoulder. Cross his arms with yours to stop him posting and steer him.  To be honest I had trouble with this and need to drill it.

With the feet on hips, sleeve grips, lift him up on your feet. Push with your R foot and tap his R thigh near his hip to spin him anti clockwise and put him down to your L. Keep the sleeve grips and hook his R knee with your L instep as he comes down, these will help you control him as you move to side control

Side Control Escape

He has a crossface and shortbase side control on your R pinning your hips between his R knee on your R hip  and R elbow on your L hip. Frame with your elbows in near your hips, keeping his weight down toward your hips rather than up on your chest, and mitigating the crossface pressure. Your R knee tracks his R hip.Take your L foot out to the L, like Pedro Sauer's kickstand, giving you extra leverage to bridge toward him. Bridge toward him and create space to get your R knee in and shin across his hips. The R foot hooks his R hip. If his R foot is out, hook it with your R heel. You are now in a pretty good position to set up hooking sweeps, etc.

If he is hiding his R foot under his butt, get the R instep hook in in front of his R thigh. Work to a hooks in guard, sweeps, etc. from here.

If he is really tight on your R hip with his R elbow, lift your hips and try to slide your hips under his elbow, then get the knee in.

If his R hand is blocking the R hip instead, the above escape will not work. If you turn away from him that may encourage him to move his R hand to the other side, which then allow you to do the above movements.

Side Control Escape to Omoplata

Get your R shin across his hips as before. This time bring your L knee over and pinch his R shoulder between your knees. Use your L hand and elbow to hold his R elbow and trap his R wrist near your L hip. Get your L foot over his shoulder and near his R ear, hooking his neck with your instep. Get your hips out and push his head away with your legs until you can triangle them with your R knee over your L instep. Change hands on his R arm so you can grab his legs or belt and stop him rolling out of the omoplata. Sit up, take your feet put to the right sitting on your R hip, grip his collar with your R (or various other grips) and finish the omoplata.

If he does roll out, let him go and just keep the grip on his R shoulder with your legs, sitting on it. From her move to side control.

Team Norton had several blue and purple belt promotions. The Prof is strong on etiquette, respect ,and titles (Coach, Professor, Master, etc.). Attitude and time on the mat are more important to him than performance.

A very nice man with great Jiu Jitsu. A privilege and an honour to meet such a famous and accomplished martial artist and actor.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

BJJ Brick podcast submission

The BJJBrick podcast requested submissions answering the question "What has Jiu Jitsu done for you?" for their 100th episode. I submitted an MP3 the transcript of which appears below. Not sure it totally answers the question, but ... what the hell.

Check them out - they have great episodes with David Meyer and Carlos Machado, among many others.

In the space of a single week in December 2013, I quit my last job, turned 59, and was awarded my black belt in Jiu Jitsu.

Just about everything else changed, but Jiu Jitsu remained substantially the same. I retired from work, but not from Jiu Jitsu or living life to the full.

I train three to five times a week, mostly at Langes MMA in Sydney, Australia, with regular visits to a few other gyms.

After training at Langes on a warm day, I can take a short drive to the beach for a run along the sand and a swim in the ocean. If I want. The way the global climate seems to be heading, swimming on sunny mid-winter days in Sydney is doable. I am fortunate to live a life so enjoyable.

Jiu Jitsu is a social activity. I have refereed hundreds of matches. I competed at the IBJJF Sydney Invitational earlier this year. I go to a competition and see dozens of people who are happy to see me, as I am to see them.

But what still excites me the most is waking up and thinking, yes, today I'm going to the academy to train. I regard the three instructors who have helped me the most - Anthony, Peter, and Darko - as good friends, and I have many others who try to sweep, choke and armbar me regularly.

My last seminar was with Gui Mendes. It paid off - I managed a berimbolo against a blue belt the last time I rolled. Gui and Rafa are mind-blowing to watch. But there are three quote celebrity unquote instructors who have impressed the most.

My introduction to Jiu Jitsu was at a John Will seminar. Over the years I have yet to come across a better coach. John doesn't just teach, he inspires. Go to a seminar with him if you can. You will come away with many new ideas to consider. About life as well as Jiu Jitsu.

Carlos Machado is a really nice man. He has remembered me at each visit to our gym. He teaches a narrative of related techniques that is state of the art, but requires little in the way of speed, strength or athleticism. Stuff anyone can do. He makes it all appear so effortless. And if you do it properly, it can be. I wish.

I applaud Steve Maxwell for his unique lifestyle and willingness to follow his own path. While best known for his strength and conditioning expertise, which equals that of anyone on the planet, that tends to overshadow how good his Jiu Jitsu is and how well he teaches it. Spend time with him if you ever get the chance, he is an amazing exemplar and very generous with his deep knowledge and his time. Especially if you want to be doing Jiu Jitsu into your sixties and beyond. I've tried yoga, but Steve's breathing and mobility drills, and Jiu Jitsu, give me all it did and more.

This art is infinite. Not just the breadth of techniques, which expands daily, but the technical layers, depth and possibilities inherent in each individual technique. There is no end to Jiu Jitsu.

My black belt. It happened at the annual big end of year grading at my academy. Mat packed to capacity, great atmosphere. Two of my classmates, Andrew and Dave, were also awarded their black belts. Like me, they'd done the hard yards over many years.

The same night, a guy called Ronnie, a blue belt, came up afterwards and congratulated me. He then told me that some of my teaching efforts at the school where I started Jiu Jitsu, Rick Spain's Kung Fu academy, were what inspired him to begin his own Jiu Jitsu journey.

Knowing that my enthusiasm for this art inspired him to tread a similar path is deeply satisfying. Other people have told me of my role in their conversion to the obsession that is Jiu Jitsu. That, more than anything else, is the best reward for chasing this dream.

Peace. Love. Jiu Jitsu.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

It's all about the sub

Yesterday, my Jiu Jitsu instructor, Anthony Lange, got five of us out in a type of shark tank drill.

  • Five guys are in, on the mat.
  • Everyone else forms a queue.
  • First five guys in the queue pick a guy on the mat and start grappling. Both are trying to get the tap.
  • When you tap someone, it is your choice whether you stay on the mat for another opponent, or you make the other guy stay in. 
  • If you are the one not staying in, you go to the back of the queue
  • When you reach the front of the queue, you take the place of the next person to leave the mat and grapple with their former partner, trying to get the tap.

Repeat until time runs out.

You could also leave the first five guys on the mat for the whole period so each of them wrestles multiple opponents for the entire period, no matter who taps who. This would be good competition training, especially for sub-only tournaments.

This drill probably isn't that uncommon. But I hadn't done it for a long time. Most of my rolling has just been rounds of various lengths but usually five minutes, where a lot can happen but there isn't really any pressure to finish. I have been working fairly heavily on various open guards and linking them together, especially hooks, X guard and single leg X guard, and sweeping my partner from there. Either that or trying to pass to side control; especially with lower belts I have often been allowing them to work escapes so they get to have some fun and practice some techniques rather than just getting smashed.

The positional sparring drills we do are generally in a guard, one guy trying to pass, the other trying to sweep or submit. This can be done with other positions as well, escape or submit ... or retain the position.

Upon reflection after this session, I realised I found the unfamiliar necessity to submit somewhat confronting. I had become so used to sweeping and positional control as the aims of my rolling, that I had been not been pursuing or getting submissions very often. I would rarely go for the back. If I achieved side control after a pass, I would often just sit there for a while and hold the position (often to get my breath - I am 60 years old and just about everyone I roll with is younger, often half my age or less). I didn't really fight to retain strong positions because, well, it's all about flowing with whatever the other guy does. It's just training, who taps who doesn't matter. Or so I told myself.

With the new drill, I had to get submissions. And I did - I got the back multiple times, several chokes from there, a head and arm choke jumping over from side control, an Americana, I dogged an armbar for a minute or so before switching to a kimura after the guy rolled, another spider web armbar, even got most of the way to a crucifix - from which I switched to the back when it became apparent I wasn't going to be able to finish it. I got at least twice as many submissions in the allotted time than I would have normally.

I may be deluding myself here a little, but maybe I've become reticent to put the temporary hurt of a submission on my training partners because I want them to like me. And maybe that's because I'm too worried about getting submitted myself, despite my alleged penchant for flowing with the go, because if I sub them they'll want to come back harder at me. Though really, it could just as easily go the other way and they could become fearful and tentative because they know I'm out to sub them. And I could become a Lord of the Mat.

OK, that may be a bit OTT - and besides, it's Kali, a female deity.

It is possible to be a more aggressive, submission-oriented grappler without putting my training partners at risk, and I feel I need to do this. If I take more risks (like going to mount instead of side control, giving up a strong guard to attempt a submission) I may get submitted more initially, but I'd like to think that being more prepared to go for submissions may put my partners more on the defensive, and more likely to make mistakes which may give me more opportunities for sweeps, passes ... or alternative submissions.

Jiu Jitsu. You have to constantly check and adjust your mindset to progress. It can be like peeling away layers of self-deception to reach the truth. Like the more esoteric forms of yoga. And what my first kung fu instructor, David Crook, might have termed "Polishing the Mirror".


Monday, August 31, 2015

John Will seminar 30 Aug 2015 - post clinch takedown strategy, Z guard, kneeride

Post Clinch Takedown Strategy

Setting up three takedowns from a single clinch

You are clinching with your opponent. R foot forward. Occupy the centreline with your hands and secure a neck tie with your R hand, and inside control on his R bicep with your L hand. You control the bicep so that he cannot grab your head like you grabbed his. Your forehead goes to the R side of his neck and shoulder to prevent the snapdown.
Your stance should remain substantially the same relative to him, R foot forward, whichever of the following setups you use.

Setting up the snatch single leg

Step circling back with your R foot, pulling his head, making him step forward with his L foot. Keep your R foot forward relative to him. You are aiming to pull him into the mirrored stance, you have your R foot forward, he his L foot forward, with his L foot within a foot's length of your R foot. This is the position to shoot for the single leg.
Change level. Drop down, keep the L hand on his bicep, R elbow dropping next to the hip so he cannot get an underhook. Bend at the knees rather than at the hips to change levels, keep the back straight and engage the posterior chain. Drive forward and try to "headbutt their heart through the back of their rib cage", also pushing with the L arm as you snatch up their L leg and catch it pinched between your thighs.
From here, a wrestler might take little choppy steps circling R, putting weight on the opponent's hip so he cannot hop to follow you and put him on his back. This works for wrestling, but not as well for Jiu Jitsu because you will end up in his guard.
For Jiu Jitsu, once you have secured the pinch grip with the legs on his L leg, get a Gable grip with your hands on that leg. Step your L leg back over the leg and hoist the lower leg up into your L armpit. Your R hand goes onto his L leg above the knee. Step circling back with your R foot and push down on his leg with your R hand to take him down. Drag his leg past your L hip and go to kneeride on his L. This is essentially passing his guard before he hits the ground.
It is essential to drive him back with the headbutt, as this will put his weight onto his back R foot and make his L leg light and easy to snatch up. Keep your forehead on his rib cage near his L armpit, don't allow it to go under his L arm (guillotine) or put your R ear on his chest (which makes it easy to push his head away and counter.
If you have to move a big guy with this headbutt, I suggest that, rather than trying to hit him with higher velocity (which can hurt your head and neck - I speak from practical experience), you hit him at the same speed as you would a smaller guy but drive him back harder and for longer with your legs. You will shift him.

Setting up the high C(rotch)

From the same neck tie and bicep clinch. This time you are stepping circling back with your L leg, making him step with his R foot. This time you want to put him in the matching stance, where you both have your R foot forward, your R foot close to his. You change levels, bring your R elbow near your R hip, as for the single leg, but this time his other foot is forward. Grab behind his R knee with your R hand and drop your R knee to the mat. By all means put your weight on him to reduce the impact of your knee on the ground. You may need a small step forward with you R foot before grabbing and dropping the knee.
From here, step your L foot forward and out to the L, so his feet and your L foot are roughly in line, and your L foot is far enough away to allow you to drive up and into him at a sideways angle. Put your L hand on top of your R hand behind his R knee, then move your R hand behind his L knee. Lean into him and drive up to your feet, basically using his body as a prop to help you get up. Block his L knee with your R hand, lift his R leg with your L hand, drive his hips to the R with your head, as you walk sideways to your R and dump him, once again passing the guard on your feet.
NB what we are doing above is a high C setup, but switching to a double leg takedown finish. A stricter wrestling high C involves gripping your arms around his R leg, closing in tight to get your centre under his and then lifting him off the floor vertically, then dumping him from there. This requires great technique and explosive strength and requires a greater level of precision than does the high C - double leg combo.

You could use this to set up a fireman's carry as well, though you'd need to secure a tight overhook on his L arm and clamp it down. Otherwise he may use the underhook to knock you over and flatten you out.

Setting up the double leg

We do not try to set up the double per se. Rather, it becomes available if our attempts to set up the single leg or high C come to naught because we cannot get him to move a foot to either the mirrored or matching stance. He just keeps both feet at a distance whatever way we drag him around.
We are still in the neck and bicep tie with the R foot forward. We now seek the "triangle of death"  (or was it triangle of doom?) Where our R foot and both of his form a roughly equilateral triangle. 

Now we
  • Level change, both elbows drop back to the hips
  • Step in with the R foot so our toes and his are in a straight line
  • Drive our R knee to the floor as we shoot on with our chest and grab behind both his knees with our hands
  • Bring the L foot out to the side so we can drive up into him at an angle
  • Finish the takedown as we did for the high C switch above
NB - there are many variations of the double leg. The one I describe requires a lot less explosiveness and athleticism than some.
Do not reach out with the arms. Keep good posture, bend at the knees not the hips, keep the posterior chain engaged and the head up. Bending over and dropping the head mean you will probably get guillotined.
So we have a strategy. We do not need to switch stances or employ complex footwork to set up. Get our clinch. Pull him to the R, get the mirrored stance, single leg. Pull him to the L, get the matching stance, high C. Can't get either, seek the triangle of death and shoot a double.

EDIT 26 Nov 2015 - Matt Klein kindly forwarded a video of John including much of this material and some extra details:

The video URL comes from a British guy, called Sam Mac. He later uploaded it to YouTube in HD:

Loaded here with Sam's kind permission. Thanks, Sam. :-)

Z Guard

One of about 4 different types of half guard.

On his R leg; on your R side. Your R lower leg is hooked over his, in deep. Your L knee is up near his R shoulder, keeping his weight off. Your L foot is kept near his R hip to avoid footlocks. Your head is moving toward his L hip. You have a dog paddle grip with both hands on his L arm - you don't need to grip hard or use cloth, you are just warding off attempts by him to grab your head and crossface. Don't rely on the cloth unless the technique requires it.
John also did this thing where his L elbow was up near his L knee, ready to dig it into my throat or chest if I tried to press in. He did briefly mention this but I'm not sure how many picked it up. Per Kit Dale and Nick Gregoriades' Porcupine principle, using hard parts of your anatomy against soft parts of theirs to keep them away.

Attack his R arm - arm drag

Take your L knee out to your L until the topic your shin is on his R bicep near the elbow. Grab his R tricep with your R hand, palm up. Grab over the top of his R tricep with your L hand so your L hand is over your R. Using the glute and not the quad, keeping the leg flexed, push the L knee over the top of his R arm and drag it across your body with your arms. Ideally he will now be on his knees with his R arm trapped between your and his bodies and your R leg. Secure a seat belt grip, if you can get it, or an S grip if you can't, R arm over his R shoulder, L arm under his L armpit.
Rather than climb onto his back, take your L foot back behind you and use it to move your hips away, bringing him with you so he rolls into his R side. Get a proper seat belt grip, L hook in and "staple" his head with yours when you can. The master/underhook side is up as it should be.
Proper seat belt grip: the hand underhooking the arm (in this case L) grabs the blade of the hand around the neck (R). From here, if he tries to peel off the hands he will attack the top hand (L), and when he does peel it off (let him!) The other hand is free to snap on the choke.

Attack the L arm - kimura

Elbow pull.
From the Z guard with the dog paddle grip, roll slightly to your L so your R knee comes out near his L hip. At the same time form a fist with your L and use it to pull his L elbow hard to your chest by "stabbing yourself in the heart" with the thumb side of your fist, trapping his elbow to your chest between thumb metacarpal and ulna - inner surface of the wrist. John did this hard enough to cause transient pain in my elbow. He should now find it impossible to bring his elbow to his hip, as your R knee is pushing his hip one way while your L hand is pulling the elbow the other. His L arm is effectively isolated. Your R hand is floating around near his L wrist and you should be able to lock up the kimura from here easily.

Pushup Sweep

First shown to John by Ciao Terra.

From Z guard, slide your L knee down to his R hip. Cross your feet (not ankles) to form a grip, L foot on top. He should feel a fair bit of pressure on his hip and thigh. Arch your back and move your head away, so you are out of the "corridor". Turn your hips so the front of your pelvis is inclined towards the ground. Keep turning until you are in a pushup position. Push back into him with your arms and walk backwards on your hands, knocking him over like a hip bump sweep. Do not release the grip with your feet until after you get knee ride. and fall to your L side to get the crossface with your L arm. Now you can work at getting your R leg out and consolidating your side control.
A smart opponent will bail and go to guard. You still end up on top.

Getting out of a bad half guard to Z guard or hooks in guard

Per a question from Matt Klein.
You have half guard on his R leg. He has secured both the crossface with his R arm and the far side underhook with his L. This is about as bad as it gets in half guard until he starts to pass.
Get both your feet on the inside of his R leg. use the inside bottom of your R foot to straighten out his R leg and hold it in place, more or less by stomping on it (not with impact, that would be illegal. Bring your L knee up and turn slightly so you can get his R leg onto your L hook.  Turn the L knee out to your L side so as to "stick" the hook so he cannot jump off it. Grab his pants at his L knee with your R hand, and grab the back of his gi with your L hand. You can now use both hands and the L hook to lift him up and get both hooks in or go to Z guard or any other guard you want.
From an earlier seminar: if you have half guard and your hand position is all wrong, you can:

  • fight like hell to get the hand position you want
  • change to a guard where the hand position is no longer a disadvantage, or even become an advantage for you
In this half guard, he basically has an overhook and crossface on you. If you can change your legs to hooks in guard and push him back so you can sit up without changing your hand position, you now have hooks in guard with an overhook and an underhook ... which is the perfect hand position for the butterfly/hooking sweep. 
The hand position which was really bad for the half guard has become the perfect hand position for hooks in guard. You didn't change you hands, you changed to a better guard for that hand position.
This video shows three versions of this that Eddie Bravo uses to move from half guard to hooks in. He calls this technique the Stomp. A bit different because it's no gi.


Setting up kneeride

The major problem with just jumping up from side control to kneeride is that there is a window of opportunity for your opponent to slip a knee between your bodies while you are jumping up.
From side control on his R, switch your base so you are facing his head. Keep your weight on him, rather than the floor. Pinch his hips between your R hip and R elbow, keep both your hips and elbow slightly off the ground so as much of your weight as possible is on him.
Step your L foot over your R leg near his head. Put your R fist on the mat near his L hip. Push up on your L foot and R fist, skimming your R shin over his chest and down his body towards his R hip. This leaves no room for him to get his knee in, plus the shim moving down his body will push his knee back down should he attempt to get it in.

Kimura from kneeride

If he pushes on your knee from under your kneeride, grab his wrist with your R hand and stiff arm it to the floor. Sprawl back to switchbase side control. All your weight should be on your R hand with your R arm vertical.
Here you do not have a good angle to attack his elbow and get the kimura. Instead, take your L foot out to the R of his head. Now you will be able to turn face down, and from this angle slide your L arm under his and grab your wrist. Get your L arm right under his elbow.
Once you have secured the arm, slide back so your R hip is on or near the floor. Step over his head with your L leg and use it to pull his head toward you with your lower leg. Move back so you can pull him slightly up on his R side, so the floor is not in the way of cranking on the submission. You may need to adjust your arm position relative to his elbow to make the kimura as effective as possible. Apply pressure and get the tap.
You can also secure the kimura, then walk over his head so your whole body is in his L side. Keep the L arm right under the elbow, use a small part of your R ribs to put all your weight on his L shoulder. His L arm cannot go completely horizontalunless he can round his spine and lift his shoulder. So you can get a tap from here.
This type of kimura seems to attack both shoulder and elbow. By "pulling" the elbow. Be careful and apply deliberately as it is much more effective than usual and thus easier to damage your partner's arm.
[To me the change of position and turn feels a little vulnerable to possibly being rolled over the top of him. I need to experiment with this - I think the vulnerability can probably be negated with correct body positioning]

Learning hacks

When learning a new technique, ask yourself the following questions:
What should each of my limbs (L arm, R arm, L leg, R leg, possibly head as well) be doing?
At what angles should I move, or should my limbs move?
What is the order in which the various parts of the technique should occur?
It is often worth experimenting the changing of the order of the parts of the technique - often this will make it inferior or unworkable, but sometimes you can find a more effective or unusual way of accomplishing the technique that your opponents may not expect. Or a different setup.
John discussed the possiblities involved in kickboxing when, instead of stepping into range, then throwing the kick, instead throwing the kick, while/then sliding or hopping towards the opponent. 
When learning from another person, it's often better to watch closely what they do, rather than listen to their instructions about how to do it. Often when someone has been doing something for a long time they may do crucial things as part of the process which are so ingrained that they no longer consciously realise they are doing them. John described how he hurt his back trying the pushup sweep the way Ciao Terra told him to do it, but learned to do it properly by watching what he did, and incorporating the unmentioned details of arching out of the corridor and turning the hips.
A number of rabbit holes for us white rabbits to explore appeared during this seminar, as usual.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Define Jiu Jitsu in a single sentence for non participants

Jiu Jitsu is four dimensional chess crossed with combat yoga.

For a challenge on the Old Man Jiu Jitsu Facebook page.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Encounter with a little dragon

I try to get down to Pennant Hills Park several times a week. It's a huge area of sporting fields and bushland, backing onto Lane Cove National Park which goes further still. The bush goes all the way to the Commenara Parkway at Thornleigh in the north, to the M2 at North Ryde in the south, to Lane Cove Road near West Pymble in the East ... and a ten minute walk from my house in the West.

There's a number of epic fire trails and single tracks, most of which I have explored, usually on foot but occasionally by mountain bike. There's hilly five and eight kilometer loops suitable for running, and I used to run them a fair bit back when I was working. Most of what running I do these days I do at North Curl Curl after Jiu Jitsu training on Wednesdays and Fridays. With four days a week of Jiu Jitsu as well, that's plenty of cardio.

Of late I've been going on long walks down to the park and doing breathing and mobility drills, bodyweight exercises and Kung Fu forms. If the eighteen netball courts aren't being used, that's usually where I go. There's a little secret spot I have on a bush track to nowhere nearby where I can sit in the sun on a rock and see only nature. I might stay there for some time and just ... breathe. If the courts are busy, there are other places in the park I can go to find a fortress of solitude.

I like to be alone with my thoughts when I practice my forms. After over sixteen years of Jiu Jitsu and non traditional training, I believe I understand the limitations of forms as a means of practice for self defence, but I find I really enjoy the precision, concentration, and effort to perform each form as well as possible.

I practise forms from Wing Chun, my main traditional art, as taught by Rick Spain, but also perform some I learned from David Crook, who teaches a synthesis of Wing Chun, Choy Li Fut, and Northern Sil Lum, with his own additions and emphases.

I'd got out of the habit of training high kicks, and most of the forms I practice regularly only contain front kicks and low side kicks. I've gone back to training my flexibility a bit more and running through a form which contains mid-level sidekicks and roundhouse kicks. I'd like to keep the abilities I once had, including these kicks. The increased flexibility and lower limb dexterity won't hurt my Jiu Jitsu, either. Plus ... high kicks are cool.

I still find parts of Chum Kil and Bil Jee, Wing Chun forms, challenging. Especially the front kick, side kick combos on one foot while keeping the hands strong and in the correct positions. I nail this probably ninety eight per cent of the time, but that extra two percent is alway on my mind and remains a challenge. The goal, I guess, is to complete the form without fear or anxiety with total faith in one's ability to perform all the movements with the correct form and feeling. Mushin. No mind.

Wing Chun is not regarded (at least not by non-exponents) as an internal style of martial arts, but I try to perform its forms as if they are. Not fast or explosive, but as relaxed as possible, flowing and with good form and structure.

The breath is very important. Full breaths into the lower lobes of the lungs, as most recently highlighted for me by Steve Maxwell, in an environment only incidentally related to qigong.

I'm a sceptic about qi and internal energy, but I still try to feel energy flow unobstructed through each movement and extend each as far as it should go without restriction. Flow, the buzzword of the oughties and ... tensies? is what I am trying to feel and achieve. As if I were surfing the waves of energy, dancing on the energy web.

Like taiji? Yes and no. I have a little taiji in my past, and in my opinion the stepping and movement in taiji is looser, longer and wider than it is in Wing Chun. Wing Chun requires a tighter and more precise stance and structure, where taiji moves back and forth like a wave, Wing Chun works by stepping back, forwards, and sideways, with the spine mostly staying in vertical alignment, vertebrae stacked in the appropriate posture for transmission and reception of power. Like a spring. A spring only tenses and resists when an outside force is applied or removed.

I personally can't feel this if I'm fast and explosive. I've generally done my forms slower than most others ... but David Crook always said the my forms were very much my strong point, and Rick Spain always had me lead forms demonstrations. I must be on the right track.

After a nice walk down to the courts, breathing ladders and forms, I usually feel extraordinarily calm and at peace, I look around, listen to the cockatoos and currawongs, and sometimes something like this stick will catch my eye. I imagined it as a big lizard or a small dragon, watching me as I watched it, linking me to some imaginary plane where sticks turn into dragons and I, at some level, am a magician.

As above, so below.

I have an active imagination. A good friend told me to "Never lose it" on Facebook. Not a chance.

Friday, July 31, 2015

"Secret Session" at Langes MMA with Gui Mendes

Friday, 31st July 2015

The seminar followed a sequence:
  • Pull de la Riva guard
  • He pushes the front leg down and steps over in an attempt to pass
  • You counter with reverse de la Riva and recover de la Riva
  • Sweep him onto his hip and berimbolo to the back
  • Correct use of the seat belt grip from the back to secure the cross collar grips
  • Change up from the cross collar choke to triangle from the back and finish

Pull de la Riva guard

Gui prefers to pull guard and control the ankle because it restricts your opponent's ability to move from side to side. Restricting side to side movement makes passing the guard much harder.

Grab his R sleeve with your L and his collar with your R. R foot goes to the hip as you sit, wrap your L leg around his R in a de la Riva hook, and grab his R ankle with your L hand. Grab the ankle not the pants, so that you do not have to lock the grip on constantly and burn it out.

Your R hand should grab his R collar (cross grip).

Edit: It may make sense to start the guard pull with the R grip on his L collar (parallel grip to stop him getting your back while standing) and then switch to the R/cross collar during or immediately after the guard pull.

R foot goes to his hip, knee, or bicep.

He will attempt to pass by pushing your R leg down and stepping over it, perhaps then moving to a cross knee pass.

Counter the leg push and step over

Your grips on his ankle and collar do not change.

Your R hook now goes behind his L thigh for the reverse de la Riva hook. Ball up and roll backwards onto your shoulders, using the R hook to in effect throw him over your R shoulder.

Edit: Use everything you can to knock him over - ball up and use your back, the momentum of the roll, quads, everything you can in your anterior chain. (Next morning) I have a slightly pulled muscle in my thigh or hip flexor which I feel resulted from trying to do this with too much hip flexor and thigh and not enough of the rest.

He should at least post on the floor with both hands. Spin back and re-establish the regular de la Riva guard. Your R foot can go to his L bicep, or ...

Sweep his onto his R hip

Re-establish your de la Riva guard as above, but now roll back to your left, escape your hips to the R, put your R foot on his R hip and knock him over onto his butt and R hip.

Edit: The transitions should be explosive. The rest, not so much.

Berimbolo to the back

Invert from here ....

This video goes into the details of the berimbolo as the Mendes brothers perform it far better than I could in words. The only major difference to what we did at the seminar is that he grabs the belt rather than the collar (and the video features Rafa, not Gui). But the differences otherwise are pretty minimal. And you can see how close the collar is to the belt at the beginning of the technique.

Main points I got from today is to pull down hard on the collar to keep him close, do not release the grips except when you need to near the end, try and keep your chest close to him when you finish the roll, and after you have changed your grip from his R to his L ankle, to keep that grip and jam your L hook into the back of his L leg so he can neither turn back toward you or get away. Then you can establish your seat belt grip and back control.

Seat belt grip from the back

Gui likes to grab the open hand of the arm around the neck with the hand that goes under the arm on top. So, if you have the seat belt grip with your L arm over his L shoulder and your R arm under his R armpit, you should grip the blade of your L hand with your R. He will try to pry off the top hand, your R, with his hands, and when he does the L hand is free to choke, either rear naked or grabbing the collar.

Gui will use that grip to get his L thumb inside the guy's R lapel, so that when he peels off the R hand your L hand can zip straight up his R lapel to his neck, ready to choke.

Cross collar choke, switch to the triangle to the back

You have the grips for the cross collar choke from the back. Assume The L hand is over the shoulder with the thumb in the R collar, the R arm under his R armpit gripping his L collar. Stay tight. You could choke from here.

Put your L foot on his hip. Then use it to overhook his L arm. Post your L hand on the floor. Put your R foot on the floor and escape your hips to your R, grab your L ankle with your R hand and slide the crook of your R knee up to his neck and pull the L foot up near his R armpit. Triangle off the L foot with the back of your R knee and hide your R foot next to his R hip.

Finish by grabbing his R elbow and lying back, pulling the elbow as if performing an armbar to crank his shoulder. You can also do a wristlock on his R hand, or reach for his R leg and pull back for a legbar.

This video is not exactly the same technique but is quite similar and shows the elbow pull finish:

Drills and exercises

Gui encouraged us to do plenty of drilling in guard retention, e.g. trying to retain and recover a particular guard for a minute at a time while your partner tries to pass. Just retain the guard, no sweeps or submissions. Gradually increase the time.

Confidence with your guard will make you strong and confident at Jiu jitsu.

We also did a drill where you have your partner's back with the seat belt grip. No hooks. He rolls, hip escapes, etc, and tries to get out for a minute while you try to keep him there. You can use hooks behind his thighs but not in front. After a minute, swap places with your partner. Do several rounds.

Gui also encouraged us to practice moving around, side to side, etc. in as low a stance as possible, butt next to our heels, so as to leave no space for passing and to practice balance.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Resources for Lifetime Jiu Jitsu Training, Flow Rolling etc.

I put this together for my Wing Chun instructor and BJJ Brown Belt, Rick Spain, as an adjunct to efforts he made to make the stand up sparring in his academy more productive in terms of skill development, and less likely to result in injuries, current and prospective students being scared off, and so forth.

Methods of Rolling

  • Blindfolded or with eyes closed
  • Roll with a sip of water retained in your mouth - great for developing effective nasal and diaphragmmatic breathing patterns
  • Roll with one hand in your belt - arm goes inside the belt and hand grabs the two ends
  • Roll with both hands inside the belt
  • Roll with senior coaching junior - stopping the action when junior makes a mistake or misses an opportunity
  • Roll with senior practising on junior - stopping reversing repeating the action when senior wants to work on a technique or correct a mistake
  • Situational rolling, starting in a specific position with a specific objective, e.g. start in De La Riva guard, the passer trying to pass the guard, the guard guy trying to get the back

In all of this, remember it is a drill. Not a deathmatch. There are no prizes and no one is keeping score.

Try to use it as a cooperative drill more often than not. If you are bigger or better than your sparmate, let them get out occasionally, or work towards a sweep or submission. Work primarily on defense.

A few rounds in full competition mode every now and then are necessary for cardio and to keep your defense tight. But probably no more than 10% of your sparring and certainly less than half ... ramp it it up a bit if you are preparing for a comp, but ... too hard all the time leads only to injury and overtraining.

It is about learning, not winning and losing. If anything, err on the side of not going hard enough rather than going too hard.

Article by Steve Maxwell  - Jiu Jitsu and the Mature Athlete

Mainly about Jiu Jitsu, but applicable to other martial arts. Basically train smart so you CAN do it after age 60, 70,80, ... rather than being too banged up to do anything physical effectively when you reach 40.

Keep it playful - by Rener and Ryron Gracie

The Art of Sparring - same two guys

5 Rules to Roll Till 95 - same guys

How to learn slow rolling in BJJ - a progression to get you into a form of slow rolling which means you can literally wrestle and learn for hours without getting exhausted or injured. If you watch nothing else, watch this.

Rolling with the Opposite Sex - By Ryron and Eve Gracie. This is LONG and gets a bit nicey-nice to the threshold of embarrassment in parts, but does have some good insights into the male/female dynamic on the mat, including quite a few issues I hadn't considered before. Mainly for instructors, but all can benefit.

The Spirit of Jiu Jitsu. This is just an awesomely cool Jiu Jitsu documentary. It appears it was made pretty soon after Nic Gregoriades went to Peru and drank Ayahuasca (which is legal! No freak outs please) so it is a bit out there ... in a good way. There is good info on flow rolling and good footage of it being demonstrated. Inspirational.

This is off topic, but ... this is an excellent doco on the history and development of Jiu Jitsu in Southern California. Really great.

This is not a video. This is advice from Kurt Osiander.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Old Wing Chun articles

The 2007 dates on these articles were that date they were published on this particular site, not when I wrote them. They probably date back to the early 2000's.

Some of them, to me, seem to stack up fairly well. Others are a case of "what was I thinking?".


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Carlos Machado Seminar - 7th May 2015

The seminar was held at Langes MMA, North Manly.


Escapes happen either before the position is locked in, or after.

Side control survival position

You are underneath his side control. He is on your right. His L arm is under your head. You should bring your feet up toward your butt and lift your heels off the ground. Grab around the top of his L arm with both hands so the blade of your L forearm will dig into his throat and cause him to choke himself if he gives you too much downward pressure. Your R elbow digs into his L hip a bit as well. Per Kit Dale / Nic Gregoriades' "Porcupine" concept.

Running Man Escape

He is on your right side and back trying to consolidate a side control. You are on your L side facing away from him. For the purpose of practice, both his arms are behind you.

Your R hand is under the L side of your jaw protecting your neck against his attempt to grab your collar with his L. Your R elbow is tucked in tight, R knee is drawn up, L foot in front of R foot otherwise your legs will get tangled in the next move.

Crunch your L elbow and L thigh together, them bump, pushing your L knee away from him, pushing with your R foot. Bring your R foot over the top with a big step and turn face down, going to your knees. Your R hand should be in a good position to grab a wrist or other part of his anatomy to keep him under control.
Running Man Escape.

Dealing with the arm, getting the underhook

Same starting position as above, but now his R arm is in front of your body, perhaps looking to control your L elbow so you cannot go to your knees. You are going to underhook his R arm with your R arm, but you need to drop the side of your head to the floor to stop his L hand grabbing your collar before you can take your R hand away from your jaw.

So, drop your L ear to the floor as you grab his R arm with your L. Move his R arm away with your L so you can get your R arm under his. You can now bump as before but also use the R underhook and shoulder to push him up over your head to clear more space for your running escape. The movement with your R arm to shuck him overhead is like looking at your watch or the Bon Sao from Wing Chun.

Do not be afraid to use multiple bumps to improve your position and corrode his before finishing your escape. You should be able to come to your knees holding onto his R arm.

You can also push on his R hand with your L in a sort of "chopping" motion to move his weight off you even more effectively. Be careful not to hurt your training partner's arm.

If he is pressuring too tight for you to get the underhook, just roll onto your back a bit, creating enough space to sneak your R elbow through to get the underhook. Then get back on your side and continue with the escape.

If he has you flat

Assume the survival position mentioned above. Push/pull his head or whatever you can grab (more below)to create enough space to get on your L side facing away from him, feeding your R arm through to achieve one of the facing away positions described above. Proceed with the running escape from here.

If he is passing your guard

As he comes around  to your R, turn on your R side to face him and assume the "Machado Bruce Lee" position - R hand near your R cheek to stop the crossface, L hand down near the knot of your belt with the elbow tight to your L side. He will then fall into side control with your arms in perfect position to claim the underhook on his R arm.
Machado Bruce Lee - because the arm position is quite similar to that of Bruce Lee's "small phasic bent knee stance" from the Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

From here, on your R side, use the underhook and your L knee to bump him overhead, multiple times if necessary, until you have enough space to post on his hip and move your hips away to go to your knees, or reestablish your guard. You can also bump with the other knee or both knees. Sometimes you think you have a great position after one or two bumps, but an extra bump will make it even better.

If he wizzers to counter the Machado Bruce Lee

If he tries to counter your underhook with a wizzer (by overhooking your underhook, hide your L hand by putting it near your L hip. Clamp down on his arm with yours, use your R knee to move his weight up over your head, roll onto your back taking him over the top of you so you finish on top. You need to hide your L hand so that it doesn't end up trapped under him when you roll him onto his back. Hiding the hand also help keep the underhook tight so he can't pull his arm out, and also helps prevent the Darce choke.

[Carlos didn't mention this, but Peter King told me that when Carlos was demonstrating the previous move with the underhook he grabbed Pete's gi on his back really tightly - which prevented any wizzer attempt. I don't think you can keep this grip and do the escape properly, but it will stop the wizzer]

Pulling half guard

Once you get the underhook as above, you have the option of "hiding" your R handon the inside of his R knee and grabbing his pants. Now if you bump him with your top knee, you may be able to lift his weight off his R knee, lift his R leg with your R hand, and wrap your legs around it to pull half guard.

Sweeps from half guard

You use the "bump" with the top L knee here as before to move him up and over your head, but if you combine it by by scissoring the bottom R leg down at the same time for a "scissor bump", the effect will be even more pronounced. Several scissor bumps will get him in a great position to grab his L foot for either the "Old School" sweep (knocking him over to your R), or the "Twist Back" (rolling him over the top of you to your L).

old school

twist back  (not exactly the same but pretty close)

There is of course a whole gamut of other techniques from here - electric chair, stoner control / vaporizer, dogfight, drowning wizard, etc. etc.

Attacking the Turtle

He is turtled. You have side/back control on his R side.

Grab his R ankle with your L hand, his R knee with your R hand. Drive your head between his torso and thigh, in deep. Get a Gable grip around his R knee, pull in tight, drive into him with your L shoulder. Use any push back to set up the next move. Move your feet toward his and roll him over the top of you onto his back.

If he posts to stop the roll you may be able to grab his far knee and push him over onto his L hip.
If he spreads out with his hands and L foot so you cannot roll him, keep spinning under him and pop out between his legs behind him, keeping control of his R leg.

Stopping the guard pass with the cross grip

He is passing around to your R. Get a grip on his R sleeve with your L hand. Meeting his arm using a backfist movement with your open hand, then turning it over to get the grip, seems to work well. Use a stiff L arm stay on you R side, and keep pushing his R hand down between his legs. This makes it very hard for him to put his weight on you.

From here, pin his R hand to the may, crunch and get your R elbow on the ground. Post on that elbow and move your hips away so you can either go to your knees or reestablish your guard.

There is also a reversal from here where you spin your head underneath him, grab his belt and roll him over you.

Pull and push

If he gets in close grab an arm or something with both hands, pull in hard then push away. Follow with several small hip escapes to create space to reestablish your guard. Depending on his reactions you may also be able to push him onto his back or over your head.

Scrambler's recipe

As he passes your guard to your R, get the cross grip on his R sleeve with your L hand.
From here, you can go to your knees or reestablish guard, or ...

If the opportunity arises, you can pass the R sleeve to your R hand as you underhook his R arm with your L. From here, the whole Machado Bruce Lee set of options are available, underhook escapes, pull half guard, etc.

If he jumps or spins to the other side so he is behind you, you are in position to work your Running Man escapes.

If he gets in close, pull and push.

If he gives you space, grab the cross grip again.

And you can keep switching between these options, depending on what he does.

Boss grip

The Boss grip is a same side grip on his lapel, e.g. grabbing his R lapel with your L hand.

He is in your closed guard. Push him away with your legs, then pull him back and get the Boss grip on his R collar with your L hand, and grip his L sleeve with your R hand. Push away again, release the grip with your ankles but keep squeezing his waist with your knees, and get both feet on his hips. Push with your legs now to move your hips away from him and sit up.

You can keep pushing and pulling him back and forth, which will help set up the next moves.

Modified Basic Sweep

Following the moves above, if he finishes with his head even slightly ahead of his hips, you can sweep him. Crunch and fall onto your R shoulder, at the same time dropping your R foot to the mat outside his L knee. Push his R hip back with the ball of the L foot and push his L knee across to your right, so that the legs still scissor like the regular basic sweep, pull with the R arm and push with the L boss grip, knocking him over to your R.

If done properly his pelvis should turn around its vertical axis. (Vertical if he was standing, that is)
You can also put your R foot on the front of his L knee and stomp it directly back - but the properly executed sweep will still involve the rotation of the pelvis as described above.

Push forward and knock him over

If you are unable to pull him forward off his base and his spine remains vertical, keep the boss grip, but instead post on your R hand (crunch on your R side, come up on your R elbow and then your hand), put your R foot under your butt and use the posting R hand to push forward, rolling over the R shin, coming up onto the L foot and standing up, and using the boss grip to knock him over to one side. His head position will decide which side is best to push him towards, though often using a backfist type motion to push him over to your L is less anticipated than the other side. You would need to watch out for armbars here ... though these too are maybe harder for him to grab if you push him to your L rather than to the R.


None of these techniques require speed, strength, flexibility or athleticism. They are not complicated. Pretty much anyone could do the movements. They are simple, almost to the point where you can't believe you never thought of them before. This is in my opinion the essence of Jiu Jitsu.

The seminar was extremely information dense and went about 45 minutes over time. I may have missed a few important points. Please contact me and let me know if you think I missed anything.

Ronnie Wong, Master Carlos Machado and myself