I walked in to the gym the other day to see that I had no training partners. I expected this, because the majority of the guys were at a tournament. I kind of like these alone days because I can work on my kicking and punching technique. I can feel how my hips are turning and what I need to do to increase my accuracy and power, all the while watching that I am using the best technique to preserve what is left of the cartilage in my knees and hips.
As I am warming up a guy walked in to the gym and asked if he could join the pro team. One of the perks of my gym is that the pros train for a percentage of their winnings. If they are on the pro team, they MUST compete regularly, and they MUST attend regular practice. Practice times are set everyday at 11am to 1pm. Because fighters, for the most part, don't have a lot of money, this set up is a good deal for them. They get to take advantage of the training, but they don't have to pay for it until after they fight.
The catch is that they have to "try out" for the team. In other words they have to show that they are serious about training i.e. they need to have decent cardo, and need to have some technique. If they don't have basic technique they will be asked to join the gym and take some of the technique classes to get themselves up to speed before they are invited to train with the pros.
Back to the story... So, me being the only one in the gym, and being a senior student, I was asked to come over and work with the new guy so he could prove his skills. I don't like doing this. The guy is looking for a spot on the team, he has come in to a new place where he knows he will be challenged to impress the other pros. I am just some shlub who came in to kick the bag for a while. I know that this guy is going to come after me, and I really didn't come in to the gym to get roughed up today... BUT, I say sure and walk over to the mats so he can show us his stuff.
The kid is at least 15 years or better younger than me, and he out weighs me by at least 20 lbs. Wow, I think to myself, this is going to suck.
They start to warm him up in our usual way, just to be nice I do the warm up with him. We run around the mat a few times, do some shuffle steps, bear crawls, then do some movement drills up and down the mat. Forward rolls, backward rolls, shrimp escapes that kind of thing. That takes about 10 minutes then we do some sports specific calisthenics. Burpies with a sprawl, sit outs, and the BJJ basic stand up. Not tough stuff, but I notice that when we get done with the 15 minute warm up that the guy is starting to suck wind.
We take a short water break and decide to start him off with some kickboxing. He agrees to three three minute rounds, one minute rest periods. He looks me up and down kind of snickers, and we touch gloves to start the first round.
Right from the start, the guy did exactly as I expected he would. He wanted to put on a show by trying to rough me up. But I could also tell that this guy had not had a lot of stand up training. He threw wild overhand rights that left him way off balance. To make up for his loss of balance , he would throw an off balance, again wild, left hook that would leave him open the other way. He was wading in throwing bolos trying to intimidate me, knock me out, or look good in a street fight, I don't know which. I did what I always do when I am trying to keep my head attached to my shoulders against a guy who doesn't know what he is doing. I used the jab, the front teep, and circular movement away from his power. So I move to my right throw one or two quick jabs to his face and move again. If he ever gets close or is able to square up on me I nail him with the teep and keep circling. I start to get comfortable with his style and I start letting him throw his big punches again, I avoid or block them and I start working my leg kicking game.
Now, I admit that I got a little mean here. It was pretty obvious after I hit him with the first or second leg kick that he was not used to receiving them. I didn't like how he was trying to hurt me with the big punches so I wanted to remove some of their pep... I kicked his legs hard. I started working his legs inside and out, landing any chance I could. What was really effective was landing the left teep knocking him back then dropping the big right leg kick as he shifted his weight back on to his front foot to recover balance. At the end of the first round he was limping.
The second round was much like the first, except I started to open up a little bit with my hands, throwing crosses and left hooks. He still wanted to land the big punches so I kept drilling his legs. I also tried to work in the left leg liver kick, but he had an OK defense, keeping his elbows tucked in to his sides to protect his liver.
At the end of the second the guy was visibly tired, sucking wind and obviously frustrated. He was favoring his front leg pretty obviously now. I started to feel bad for him. He said he wanted to continue on in to the third round so we touched gloves for the last three minute stanza.
As I said, I started to feel bad for him a little bit, and that was my mistake. He caught me right off with a big right hand that made me see stars. That pissed me off. I was treating his head nicely, and he came off and clocked me. I suppose you could make an argument that it was payback for all of the damage I did to his legs... I might even agree with you on that point in hindsight... At the time, I wanted to show him who was boss...
I had not bothered with head kicks, because... well after the first and second rounds I knew he would have a hard time with them, and I felt bad for him. But I was mad now. He was well primed for the head kick, because I had been bashing his legs pretty steadily for the last six minutes or so. I was also keeping to the Dutch kickboxing rules of throwing the leg opposite of the hand you just threw (left hook is followed up with right kick, right cross is followed up with left switch kick, etc.). I don't typically throw my head kicks like that. I typically kick to the head with my right leg, and it almost always follows the right cross. I throw a jab cross combo and follow it up with the right kick to the melon. I land flush, and to my surprise, I stagger him. I don't follow up on the attack, and the time keeper calls time. The round wasn't finished, but we don't want it getting out that we knock you out during your trial, and, even worse, we don't want this guy suing the school later on for injuries received. We don't know who this joker is, and he might be the litigious type.
Typically at this point in the tryout, we would move to the ground phase and roll around with them to gauge their ground skill. After a bit of rest, our hero says that he can go on, and that he would like to show us his ground skill. We ask him if he is sure, and if he has recovered, because he took a pretty good shot. He said that he was fine and that he wanted to continue. The coach said OK, let's roll for 5 minutes and see how you feel.
I get down on my knees and get ready for this guy to spaz out on the ground. He was a spaz standing up, and there is no reason why I should think he isn't a spaz on the ground. Just before we start, he says that he is happy he gets to roll with me, because he is a much better grappler than a stand up fighter. I smiled and silently hoped the guy wasn't some NCAA Div I wrestler that would hulk smash me in to the ground.
Since I have been working out at this gym, the head BJJ instructor has really been having me focus on the basic control positions, and transferring between those positions. I have gotten very good at holding side control, mount, and north south positions. I have found that when I hold those positions perfectly submissions seem to fall in to my lap as the guy attempts to escape. So I have found that I have be come a "top" BJJ stylist, in that I work my submission game from top positions, and not from the guard or half guard positions. When I am forced to put someone in to my guard, or half guard, my game is to look for sweeps so that I can attain the top position and work my submission game. Rolling with a "top" is difficult because he is going to force you to work your escapes from the bottom and he will be looking to wear you out while he rests and waits for the submission to come. It can be very frustrating, especially if you are a spaz; because you waste a lot of energy spazing out underneath as the top simply holds you down and maintains position.
The timekeeper calls time and we start our roll. He immediately grabs behind my neck, and tries to slam my face in to the mat. I don't have a problem with this, I simply reach forward wrap up his far leg and push forward while pulling his leg. He is way off balance, so I easily complete the sweep and lock down side control.
Turtle Single Leg Escape from Side Mount by TechniquePrevails
These guys show the sweep as an escape from side control, but you can see that the sweep starts from the turtle.
That is when the fun begins. The dude is strong and he starts to spaz out in a way that I have rarely seen. Unfortunately for him, I have side control locked in and he is going nowhere. I just let him spaz for about a minuite until he wares himself out to the point where he stops moving for a second. I transition to north south and almost immediately hit the north south, or Munson, choke. He taps.
Here is a cool instructional video on the north south choke.
Time is not up, so we start again. Again he snaps my neck down and I go for the same sweep as before. Again, I get it without much trouble. Again he spazes out like it is the new thing that all of the kids are doing. Again, I wait until he tires out and stops moving. This time I transition to a knee ride position intending to go for mount, BUT he pushes on my knee with his elbow wide open. I hook the elbow, pivot over his body and sink the armbar. He taps.
Wander Braga shows this in the gi, and I was doing it no-gi, but the technique is the same.
Time still hasn't expired, so we start again. He gets smart this time around and pulls guard, but he telegraphs it so I move forward to prevent it. I end up with one leg pined underneath mine and one leg on my shoulder. This position sets up one of the most uncomfortable sweeps there is. You lean forward and grab his head all the while keeping his leg pinned to the ground and his other leg on your shoulder. The stretch is too much for most guys to take and they will actually start to turn to allow you to pass. This guy just taps. I almost didn't let him go it was so surprising... It was the first time anyone had ever tapped to a guard pass.
As I was moving the the middle of the mat to go again, time was called. The guy starts dropping f-bombs and saying that he didn't get a fair try out. We asked him why he thought so, and he said that we threw our best guy at him, and that he should get to try out with the other regular pros. I told him that I wasn't a pro. I was just one of the guys in the gym. This made the coach laugh, because... well I am not really just another guy in the gym.
The guy gets ready to leave, after getting a gym schedule and a price list. He looks over at me and says, that he thought that I would be someone he could easily take. Actually, he said that he thought I looked like a "bitch." I told him that next time he should not underestimate any opponent. He looked like he was going to say something back, but he didn't... He might have thought the better of it because he just got his ass handed to him for the last hour or so.
I gather my stuff up and get ready to leave soon after. The coach stops me at the door and says that most of the time I am a nice guy and a good teacher for the other guys, but I can be a real mean son of a bitch when I want to be. We both laughed and I went home for my weekend.
I thought that would be the end of this little lesson on not underestimating your opponents, but the universe, or Karma, or the Jesus, or the Great Spaghetti Monster had other plans.
I walked in to my Monday morning class to find that the only other guy that was attending the class with me was a lower ranked guy who I typically smash through. He tries hard, but he is new and makes new guy mistakes. His only advantage on me is that he speaks Portuguese, and can communicate effectively with the head BJJ instructor in his native tongue. We went through our normal class, focusing on attacks from mount. I got some good details on holding the mount and forcing the bottom guy to transition one way or the other.
It was then time to roll, and I was feeling like this guy has nothing for me, so I should just focus on my technique and attempt to use what was taught in class today. We slap hands and fist bump and we start our little match. Right out of the gate, just like the spaz, he snaps a hand to my neck and tries to put my face in to the mat. I go to turtle position only to find that the guy I should be destroying has moved off to the side and has his arm around my neck in perfect position for a clock choke. He kicks his legs out and snaps on the choke just as he has been taught. The choke is tight, and I am forced to tap. He goes nuts with celebration and the instructor falls on the floor he is laughing so hard at my mistake.
The clock choke that made me tap.
The moral of this story is that first, don't underestimate your opponent because you think he looks like a "bitch." It might turn out that he has 20 years of Martial Arts experience and is a purple belt that trains his ground game everyday. And if you are a guy who has 20 years of Martial Arts experience, and is a purple belt that trains his game everyday, you should treat every opponent just as you would treat rolling with the highest level black belt...