Saturday, 11 February 2017

On The Mat Day 802: Hiza Guruma

I'm currently revisiting an old technique that I used to enjoy doing. Sometimes you come across combination techniques that just seem to click with either your body type or physical ability. Collar drag/ankle pick and hiza guruma/osoto gari are mine. I'm quite decent at getting collar drag and hiza guruma but still need to work on the 2nd half of these combinations, namely ankle pick and o-soto gari.

I pushed a bit harder than usual yesterday and am feeling sore today. I still haven't started P90X. Work and the weather has kept me away from it. It's in the back of my mind all the time though and I need to start it soon because I want to compete this year and get into shape.

Today's rolling:

I'm very impressed with Hideya's progress. He is the first guy I spar with wearing the blue belt. His passing is getting very good and it helps that he is in excellent shape. I've no doubt that he could be a champion if he sticks at it.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

On The Mat Day 799: There Are No Easy Rolls

Way back when I was a white belt, I used to think that as I got a darker coloured belt, things would get easier. I would be able to defeat my opponent with minimal fuss and energy. It never really happens. Jiu-jitsu doesn't get easier the more you do it. Well, the techniques become easier to execute but the opponent also changes along with it. It's like running a marathon but somebody keeps moving the finish line.

Today's rolls: Lesson was using the tail of the opponent's gi to choke them. Fun times.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

On the Mat Day 797: Knee Pain is Back

Again a really cold day. This week is probably the coldest this year.

There were a lot of people came to class. The third roll in I twisted my bad knee. The opponent went for a lockdown and I should of addressed it sooner by moving down his body instead of staying where I was. It's sometimes hard to feel the lockdown though until it is fully locked in place, especially since I was wearing shoes. I really need to be more wary of this.
Here is the point where it happened:

My knee feels a little swollen or heavy. I think I better rest it for a week or two and get back to squatting. Although I had planned to start p90X in a week from now. I don't think the joint will ever fully be sturdy without an operation. I have to be more careful.

Things I need to work on:
Half-guard passing, specifically underhook with one leg trapped while facing into the opponent and sitting on my side
Re-counter to leg-over choke if they use their arm, maybe move to arm triangle (head & arm choke)
Using the tail of the top or belt from the opponent to pin the leg so I can pull my leg out of half worked well, I should research that.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

On the Mat Day 795: Deep Half Guard

This week we are working on opening closed guard. Opening closed guard never really gets any easier. I've always thought it better to stand up to break and pass. Although, this week was mainly focused on the Wilson Reis/Sao Paulo pass, which I like but tend to mess it up near the end. K-sensei gave me some advice, which was to switch my hips (switch to kesa-gatame) while still moving forward since I tend to take the pressure off at this point.

I've also been attempting deep half guard while sparring. It's a guard I used very rarely since blue belt. I often stall here and get into all sorts of trouble. In an attempt to get out of the plateau I am in right now, I am working on this guard in addition to butterfly and single X. These are guards I never really used, instead preferring spider guard or lasso guard with more room to play.

I'm a little beat up today after sparring twice with Shusei yesterday. He is heavy and very technical, looking like a silverback and crushing me into the mat. It's funny because while I am getting crushed in half-guard or side control, all I can think of is how this is good for me and making me tougher as his weight drives into my diaphragm. I hate that weight driving into and under my ribs like that but at the end of the day it builds my resistance to being crushed.


Friday, 13 January 2017

On the Mat Day 793: In Before the Snow

Again, I cycled to class today. We are still doing sitting guard and this is my 3rd time seeing it this week so I have a good retention of the techniques now. The weather was quite nice today but this weekend it will apparently snow. Hopefully the roads won't be too bad so I can drive to training on Sunday morning. However, it will be around 4 degrees Celsius so I may need to wrap up.

Today's rolling:

Tony Horton showing his funny face on my new TV
My TV arrived yesterday and I've been messing around with it, setting it up to work with my computer. It's also part of my setup for starting P90X in a couple of weeks. It's an LG 32llf5800 smart TV. The picture quality and everything is great only it has very few Apps in Japan. Netflix, yes, but no Amazon Prime or Hulu. For some reason I am unable to run video from my wifi even though it is connected to my router. Bummer. Still nice TV and it will be fun to workout to a bigger screen this year.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

On The Mat Day 792: Maybe Snow Soon

I cycled to the club this morning with the cold drizzle in my face but I felt sort of happy. For a moments it reminded me of the times I used to walk to school in England as a young boy. The British weather really toughens you up as a kid. Not many people attended today. Just the 4 of us and K-sensei showed us sitting guard variations.

Rolling today:

I've been rolling my neck with a tennis ball on top of a yoga block each night and I think it has helped because my neck feels less strained today. I just have to be careful.

Pull up bar in my hallway
I installed my pull up bar on the 2nd floor yesterday ready for P90X. It's directly outside my room for easy access. I just cut some pieces of wood, routered them to shape, varnished them and screwed them to the studs in the wall. It's very solid.

I've also been trying to slowly shift into eating healthy. After BJJ I went to the local shopping centre and ate what is probably my favourite post workout meal. Yakimo, tomatoes and Yakitori.
Post workout meal

Sunday, 8 January 2017

On The Mat Day 790: First Day on the Mats in 2017

Really cold and dark this morning getting up at 7 am. I almost didn't make it. My brain was telling me to stay in the nice warm futon. I got up eventually and changed into my thermal rashguard and leggings then got in the car and went.

I went over butterfly guard with some x-guard partnering with Yoshida-san. I've been working on this guard for a while. I picked up some interesting things from what he drills. I never really thought about it, but it is possible to belt drag, pant drag in addition to lapel drag and arm drag. I never really use the belt to control the opponent but I might try it in future. Having a four finger grip in the belt palm facing out with the elbow locked against the opponent's is particularly strong and allows me the ability to drag them with it to take the back.

Despite only drilling today I still felt stiff in the neck. To be honest, I'm quite sick of living with the pain. I used a tennis ball to take some of the stiffness out of it tonight and it feels a little better. I wish it would go back to the way it was but don't ever expect it to.

I've been preparing to start P90X again stating February. Why not now you ask? Well I've never had good progress starting in January. In the past I've had muscles lock up due to the cold, etc., so will wait until February and go through it. At the moment I'm just collecting my files together and have ordered a smart TV for my room so I can work out to a big screen. Gone have the days of doing workouts along with my tiny tablet. I'm looking forward to getting back in shape and will probably try to use the Primal Diet with P90X. Should be fun.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

On The Mat Day 788: Working Butterfly Guard into my Game

Today was some beautiful weather. It really felt like a cool warm autumn day rather than being on the doorstep to Christmas. I cycled to the club and was pleasantly surprised to see quite a lot of people had turned up. My neck actually felt good enough to roll more times than I usually do. This is despite lots of DIY and sanding while looking down at an angle yesterday so that my neck hurt terribly by the end of the day.

I have a routine now for fixing my posture and working out my neck. It involves stretch bands, lacrosse balls and a myofascial release roller. I think it's helping, particularly working on maintaining good posture seems to be key. I may post a routine for the neck once I get it refined.

See video below for today's rolling. I'm the handsome devil in the black Tatami gi.

After studying the video. Here are some things I need to do:
1. When in sitting guard, do not allow my back to be flattened to the mat. Work with a lapel and scoot away to the side if they pressure with the knee.
2. Since I want to learn butterfly guard I should work on smooth movement from closed guard to enter butterfly guard.
3. When in top side control I should do a step over to the back side instead of trying to flatten them out.
4. Work on better transition from mount cross choke to armbar. I was very slow with my legs. Lean more to the side for a lighter leg.
5. Be careful which arms I use to finish the calf crusher in the truck position.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

On The Mat Day 783: Sparring on Camera with my Instructor

I'm quite excited by the fact that I can now record my sparring as well as record techniques that we learn. My action camera is really helping me watch how I roll and look for bad areas. Monitoring your own techniques and movement is essential for improvement. I only wish I had recorded myself from the beginning. It would have been fun to see me sparring as a white belt.

I've time stamped the video below to show me and my instructor sparring. I've never been able to see this until now.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

On The Mat Day 782: Single X Guard Yoshida's Black Belt First Lesson

I haven't been to a class during the night in a long time. It felt weird driving to the dojo in the dark if not a little depressing since it is so cold right now. I much prefer to cycle to the gym under the sun, finish up and go have lunch somewhere nearby in the daytime.

Yoshida-san got his black belt and last night was his first lesson at black. As I requested, he taught single X-guard. This is a guard he is both very good at and has a lot of counters for. At the start, there was only myself and him, he took his black belt out of the package and asked me to tie it on him. It was sort of funny but a nice gesture by him to allow me to do that.

I also took along my action camera, an Akaso EK7000 4K camera (I can't afford a GoPro). I left the camera on the entire night during rolling after capturing the techniques he showed. I'm really happy I did because I think I can learn a lot from going back over the video of my rolling plus I can review the techniques. Take a look below at the camera quality. I'm surprised how much range and field of vision it has. It seems to be really good for capturing the entire room during sparring. The only negative is that the sound quality is crap. I may have to invest in a microphone when filming techniques.

Monday, 5 December 2016

On The Mat Day 781: Belt Promotions

I trained early Sunday morning and yes, it was god damn freezing in the morning. We are now entering the too-cold-to-train season of Nagoya where you cannot believe that it can get so cold because the summer was so damn hot.

That night we had an end of year party (Bounenkai) which is standard for Japan. Usually we have belt promotions at this time. Although, some do happen throughout the year. Case in point, I was promoted to brown during Summer last year. I think in total there were about 4~5 blue, 2 purple, 1 brown and 1 black. There were probably more but I was so hungry that all I could concentrate on was the Yaki-niku.

So, Yoshida-san is finally a black belt. I'm very happy for him. I suspected he would be promoted to black as its his 9th year and he took 3 months out and went to Brazil a few years back. I consider him one of the people at the club who makes me want to become more technical.

My images of him at white belt was of him sitting down on top of my foot in Jan/Feb time and breaking my foot while I went for a sloppy single leg wrapped takedown. That broken foot made me more determined to continue BJJ. I had in my mind that if I had broken my foot, I may as well go all the way and train forever. If I stopped training, that break was for nought. I also recall him catching me in my first twister, after which, I jumped up in wonder at "that pro-wrestling" move, as I though it felt at the time.

At blue belt,  his guard was damn near impossible to pass so much so that he gave a lot of trouble for my instructor to pass it at the time. I sat watching in wonder at that. I recall seeing him get looped choked cold during a single leg takedown attempt in a local tournament.

At purple he would use spider guard, x-guard, and deep half-guard a lot at this time. He seemed very technical to me. I think at this time he started the Sunday morning class that I attend to drill and brush up on techniques. I recall him 2nding me at a Marco Barbosa tournament and giving me very good advice so that I won the match.

At brown, he became very relaxed, no longer caring if people would pass his guard or tap him. He would just smile and keep on rolling. However, when he got serious, you knew about it. He could be very sneaky, catching you with a reversal from nowhere. His passing became very good at the start of brown belt I would say as he transitioned from only playing guard to also passing it well. 

At black, well, that remains to be seen...but I congratulate you on your black belt my friend.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

On The Mat Day 779: Jiu-jitsu is a Lifeline

I work as a freelance translator at home and things have been so busy recently that I find myself working a lot. I can feel the stress building inside like a kettle on the ready to boil over. This week has been crazy, with work coming in leaving me no time to rest. It's at times like this that I appreciate BJJ. I went to class this morning feeling lethargic and over-worked but left feeling refreshed with a buzzing high. I just couldn't live without it. It's my lifeline.

I sparred a few times. My neck is getting better every day. After about 3 rounds I stepped out and hit the squat rack. I'm up to 82.5kg now. Which is probably the most I've ever squatted in my life. I'm impressed by how well the 5x5 stronglift program works. I wish I could apply this to BJJ but I think it's not that simple.

On Saturday I went jogging in the park and felt my calf give out a bit while starting the run. I think I didn't warm up enough because half-way through I had to stop since my calf muscle just felt like it would rip out of my leg if I continued. It's getting cold, which means I really must focus on being warmed up before the run. I plan to give it a week to recover then continue my runs.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

On The Mat Day 776: Running, BJJ and Squats

Beard is coming along
I went jogging through the park again last night. It was pitch black and a bit eerie but I actually enjoy it and it makes me run faster. I'm still using the app - it's really keeping me motivated. Today I trained BJJ and since it was a holiday a lot more people turned up to train. Sparred with some people I haven't seen for a while. I'm currently messing around with leg locks because well...I'm brown belt and that comes with a bigger playing field of techniques I can use or get put on me. Calf slicers, toe holds, kneebars, bicep slicers and such.

After sparring a few rounds I went and busted out 5x5 on the squat rack. I'm at 80 kg now and really enjoying it. Each time I think that I will struggle with the new weight but somehow I still manage to surprise myself.

Tesla barefoot - good for squats
 I bought some new shoes, really cheap, from amazon for squatting, the Tesla Barefoot. Up until now I've been barefoot squatting but I got sick of my feet picking up dust around the squat rack (i.e. nobody uses it) and was also worried about sweat after rolling that may possibly make me slip.The shoes are a minimal type something like a thin soles Vibram without the toes. I did plan on using them for running but they feel too flimsy for that so will use them for squatting only.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

On the Mat Day 775: Running and Squatting

Being so disappointed with my stamina last week and impressed with how useful my 5x5 Stronglifts app has been I decided to use a running app on my android phone to help me go running and build stamina. Do more jiu-jitsu and rolling you say? Wish I could, but I am already maxed out at 3~4 times a week in the mornings and I can't roll often because of my neck. I'm not reducing my bjj to go running, I'm adding jogging to my normal routine.

I chose the 10k running app because it was the first one I came to and it looked sleek on the display.
I've only done 2 days so far but it has been easing me into running and I've had little muscle ache because of this. It starts off with 60 sec running and 90 sec walking for 8 rounds in succession. Eventually after 14 weeks it builds up to a 10k run. I ran last night in the park near my home. It was so dark with nobody about it felt a little spooky to be honest but I liked the feeling of being away from people (something that is hard to get in Japan with its 120k population - half that of the UK).

I'm also up to 80kg on squats now. I have that to do during my next session on Wednesday. I like squats, they make me feel strong and are a great supplement for BJJ. I've been taking creatine when squatting so am now about 75 kg from my normal 73 kg.

Today I trained for 4 hours. Starting at 8AM with drilling. Little bit of sparring with the white (soon to be blue) belts. All 3 are young in their 20s. I'm impressed by how good they are getting and at the same time happy for them. Jiu-jitsu is hard, especially at white belt. I then did Yoga from 10~11AM and was about to put my kit away to go home then said "Fuck it" and did the afternoon lesson from 11~12.30. I sparred for 2 rounds then left shattered. It made me very happy to see people I've not seem for a while and to spar with them.

My neck is a little stiff right now so I have to ice it. It's a constant pain in the arse and is on the verge of fully healing so its a crucial time when I have to be most careful.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

On The Mat Day 772: Low on Stamina

I sparred today, quite hard in fact. Some days it's nice to let the engine go as fast as it can. I can't do this all the time though or that would ruin my body. James's guard is getting harder to pass because he has been working on a counter for each position. I see it like a spider web in my mind of what he does for each pass attempt. I just have to find a counter for each. Today, I simply worked on denying collar grips and putting pressure down. I also tried countering the straight arm framing by stepping around and grabbing the neck collar and coming over to armbar. It would have worked but I lost my balance.

I completely gassed against Kawazoe. He's a young athletic MMA guy. I just wanted to stand up and see if I could take him down. Too hard for me to do right now. I should probably go back to judo soon. He caught me with uchimata from which I quickly did a technical stand up. With a couple of minutes on the clock I was low on stamina and he passed and caught me in an armbar. Without stamina it is hard to think of technique. Stamina is king followed by technique. If you have the technique but a body that can't do as it's told then you will fail. I probably need to run a while to build stamina which was originally my plan. It's getting so cold right now though.

Squatting today was 77.5kg. Very heavy for me but my legs feel very strong. I'm still worried about my knee getting caught at an odd angle when I spar. Neck feels better than I thought consider how hard I sparred today.

Just need to start filling that tank up with gas.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

On the Mat Day 768: Old Man's Game

As I've passed 40 years old I tend to find that I've slowed down and unless I do a hard cardio program for a few months like P90X then I cannot keep up with the young guys at BJJ. I see a lot of the younger men at the club depending on scrambles and quick movements but there is a lot of energy and athleticism required for that type of jiu-jitsu. I love watching it, don't get me wrong but I cannot sustain such a pace for long periods of time.

The more I think about the best old man's game, I tend to come back to certain aspects that are best suited to ensure that I don't get injured and I can continue to spar with younger guys at least for another couple of decades.
These are:

1. A guard based on anything that will keep them off my neck and their weight off me.
   Butterfly guard, X-guard, Knee-shield
   Lots of framing with straight arm and elbows to prevent passes

2. A passing game that is slow with lots of pressure and requires more use of correct body weight and less physical strength or speed.
  Over-under pass
  Stacking passes

3. Takedowns that cannot be countered easily with a throw, no head first takedowns like single/double leg, takedowns used to counter single/double legs and after grip breaks
    Sacrifice throws such as sumi-gaeshi and tomoe-nage
    Pulling down into butterfly sweep
    Collar drag and arm drag

For now, this seems to be the best way for me to do jiu-jitsu to prevent injury and prolong longevity in the sport.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

On the Mat Day 766: Stonglifts 5x5 Effect

So as you know, I've had a bad time with a meniscus tear which meant my knee was quite unstable in the coronal plane. To fix this, I started doing squats based on the stronglifts 5x5 platform. Well what would you know, it went and helped big time! I can now fully squat deep down so my hamstrings touch the back of my knees and calves (the Asian squat as typical performed by women when waiting for trains in Japan). Prior to squatting my knee would pop out of alignment and move into the tear which felt like a dislocation. However, the squats seem to have strengthen my leg muscles in only 3 weeks of training enough to hold the knee firmly in place. I still have a weird feeling when I sit in Seiza though. Another result of squatting has been that I just speed up hills on my bicycle, my legs moving like little pistons. I've come to realize that weight training is something that any grappler should be doing to build armour and prevent injury.

Today at class we had a new guy come in who is a blue belt from a different club but has moved to ours. Quite a strong 25 year old with experience in Shooto and MMA. Good balance, strong physique, nice control with no quick crazy movements. We had a good little spar but I think he was holding back on me since it was the 1st time at our club plus he knew I was recovering from injury. A nice addition to our training during the morning sessions.

I forwent Stronglifts today. My back muscle was tight as hell today when I woke up. I think the tightness of my hamstring is causing me to fold forward too much when squatting and I'm using my back muscles to stabilize, resulting in this pain. I need to stretch and foam roll over it tonight then get back on Stronglifts come Friday.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

On the Mat Day 760: Back to Wednesday Morning Training

I woke up really early this morning, felt really run down, then went back to sleep for about an hour to wake around 9 am. I told myself last night that I would go to class this morning and I did. K-sensei was teaching butterfly guard sweeps. This is something I feel I need to move on to. Butterfly guard is used a lot in MMA to restand or sweep but it's also a good guard for older guys who train straight BJJ because there is little force on the neck and the opponent cannot drive their weight down onto you so easily. I should start working on this guard soon.

In an effort to allow my neck to heal I did not spar and instead went to work on squatting. I started doing Stronglifts 5x5 a week ago to improve my overall strength and strengthen my leg muscles to give more stabilization to my knee. My left meniscus has a tear but there is no pain right now. It is quite weak if I hindu squat deep or sit in seiza and move side to side. However, I can slowly feel that squatting is improving my knee stability.

Currently I am only lifting 57.5 kg on squats. For some reason I messed up how much an olympic bar weights and believing it to be only 10 kg, I though that I was squating 47.5 kg. I'm such an idiot. It's been something like 10 years since I squatted so I am taking it slowly and increasing 2.5 kg each time. My goals are to get strong and injury free/resistant.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

On The Mat Day 753: More Thoughts on Deliberate Practice

I'm slowly getting through the book I've been reading and am gradually getting a picture about the best way to train. I'm sure everyone has asked themselves, how is that guy so good? Is it really just mat time or are there any quicker ways to advance with BJJ?

I ask myself this all the time.

Some more thoughts I've had while reading the book are as follows:

1. Drilling focused on a single aspect of training where my weakness lies will improve my BJJ immensely.
2. This type of drilling needs to be focused, not veer away from the set goal, to the point it becomes almost boring to me. It's no wonder judoka get good at throws because they practice them ad nauseam. BJJ tends to do jump around doing different things while drilling so you only get to do a few repetitions then move on.

3. Feedback from someone better than me is necessary.

With this in mind, during today's drilling all I did was one single technique for the entire hour. I'm not particularly good at passing and since I want to learn how Damian Maia passes, I chose to work on the sequence that goes tripod, isolate one leg, switch to dope mount and then full mount. After this I did some sparring with Yoshida to see how well it worked. There was one outlying problem that came up and it was that I could not switch my hips enough to get my leg to the dope mount finish. I asked him what he thought and he replied that I probably need more pressure with my head into his chin. I also felt my hips weren't heavy enough.

It's true that this training was not fun. That's the way it has to be to get better. I wanted so many times to try other things to make it more interesting but stayed focused on the one technique. I think this is how it has to be from now.

The days of going to train without a clear goal are gone.

Another concept I got from the book is that if you are doing techniques or movements automatically then you are not improving. It went on to give the example of driving a car. When learning to drive you are very focused on the task, which is a sign that you are improving. When you attain an adequate level to get your license and after a few years on the road your body takes over to the point where you can arrive at a destination and have no recollection of the journey there. No improvement took place during that drive.

I'm sure it would be wonderful to have a BJJ level that meant you hardly have to think about what you are doing during the entire roll to beat your opponent but this also means that no improvement is taking place. Your brain is not engaged. If I was to drill techniques that come automatic to me while sparring, I would be wasting my time.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

On the Mat Day 751: Deliberate Practice

I've noticed that sleeping with the correct pillow setup has made an improvement to the health of my neck. I got up this morning and it felt great. The muscles are still weak but it seems to be slowly improving. I just need to control myself and not go crazy when sparring. Case in point. After Sunday morning drilling, a few of the guys started sparring and a young white belt kept looking over at me and I knew he wanted to spar. Since there was nobody else to partner with him I obliged. Despite the fact that seconds before I had told myself that I had to not spar to let my neck heal some I went ahead and sparred. Sometimes I think I have no self-control. I hate it. Particularly, when it comes to food.

I went ahead and joined the Yoga class this week. I actually enjoy the discomfort. Yoga is a good compliment to BJJ.

Hamstrings about to explode..arrgh.

I've also been interested in something called Deliberate Practice after starting to read a book called "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin. I'm only a short way in but the footnotes seem to be:

1. There are no real geniuses or gifted people.
2. Most people are proficient but not amazing at their jobs, even though they may try to come across as being so. There is little difference in say the decision making ability of a new entrant to a company over his boss.
3. There is a practice method that creates efficiency to achieve better goals than average in sport, your job, a hobby (playing the guitar, etc.) - I've yet to reach this in the book

For many years I've been thinking about how to improve BJJ efficiently. I'm starting to come to some conclusions.
1. Drilling is just as important as any other aspect of training if not more
2. A training partner to give feedback is essential
3. Tools are excellent to analyze and improve your skill level (i.e. filming or watching videos, writing out notes or even simply talking about techniques)
4. You do not have to constantly exhaust yourself in training (boxers do not have to slug it out with sparring partners and likewise you do not have to spar constantly at every lesson until you are a bloody mess on the floor, although, it is good to do that now and again)
5. For over 40s, sleep, diet and recuperation are important. You have to listen to those aches in your body and rest accordingly.

I'm still looking into Deliberate Practice and hope to have some more input on this with tangible examples somewhere down the line. Stay tuned.